January of 2004, a man went on trial for the murder of his
stepdaughter. David Walton and Bonnie Van Dam
both went on trial for the murder of Sally Ann Chesebro, though Bonnie
was found not guilty. Part of the sadness
of this story is that the murder took place in 1978 and it took almost
25 years for the trials to take place.
Sally Ann Chesebro was only six years old when she died. In March of
1978, Bonnie called 911 to report that her
daughter had drowned in the bathtub. When paramedics arrived, they
tried to perform CPR on Sally and were not
successful. An investigation and questions were to follow after her
mother and stepfather claim she had simply
drowned in the tub on accident. An autopsy was performed and with no
foul play being indicated, the cause of
Sally's death was ruled indeterminable and closed as a tragic accident.
It would take 14 years before Nancy Spaulding, Sally's sister, would
come forward to reveal the truth about the
death of her sister. Nancy would finally say that Sally was murdered
and that the tub incident was no accident.
Nancy recalled how on the day her sister died, she and her sister had
been using nail polish to paint their nails,
after being permission, though being told to wait for Bonnie to wake
up. According to Nancy, it was a long time for children to wait and
Bonnie had no concept of how long it was, so she thought since they had
permission, they could just go ahead and use the polish before Bonnie
woke up. Their parents found out and
were angry, Sally took all of the blame and then began her punishment.
In the household, a common form of punishment was to put the children
in ice cold bath water and make them
stay there for long periods of time. Nancy was made to fill the tub
with ice cold water and then to get in. Nancy later found Sally lying
face down in the tub.
Even with the testimony and eyewitness account of her sister all those
years later and the reopening of the
case, years would go by without any progress. Bonnie and David each
blame the other and there is no evidence other
than what Nancy was claiming. Also giving testimony about the case was
a former sister-in-law of David who
had lived with the family for about six months prior to Sally's death.
In 2002, Calhoun County formed a cold case unit and Sally Ann Chesebro
was to be their first case. Due to the
reopening and investigation of the case, the charges were file against
Bonnie and David. The information that
I have found says that Bonnie got off on a technicality and did no
prison time. Bonnie testified against David, who
was by then her ex-husband, in the trial.
David Walton was convicted of second degree murder in January of 2004
and was sentenced to life in prison.
Nancy has written a book
about the death of her sister, it is called "The Walls Of Jericho", it
is available for purchase online.
I want to thank Nancy
for e-mailing me with some corrections that needed to be made to
this story. I have made
those corrections and
would like to encourage everyone to check out