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37 years ago she was found murdered near her Christmas tree. No one has been arrested.

A blue and white turtle sweater concealed the imprint left by the iron cord that had still been wrapped and knotted around Springfield’s neck when she was found Christmas morning by her ex-husband.

That Christmas in 1980 had already been shaping up to be different.

A few months earlier, Cheryl and Scott Springfield’s divorce had been finalized.

Cheryl Springfield had moved in with her ex-husband’s younger sister, Cindy Springfield, in the house on Whittier Street that her ex-husband and Cindy Springfield had grown up in. Scott and Cindy Springfield’s parents still owned the house in south Fort Worth but had vacated it after their own breakup.

37 years ago she was found murdered near her Christmas tree 1
Cheryl Tunnell Springfield

37 years ago she was found murdered near her Christmas tree 2
Cheryl Tunnell Springfield pictured with sister Janice Tunnell Webster and Mother Pat Tunnell

Because it would be their toddler son’s first Christmas without his parents together, the couple had made plans for Scott to come over about 6 a.m. Christmas morning. That way he’d be there when 2-year-old Scott Alan awoke and could watch the boy open gifts.

They had finalized their plans in a brief phone call shortly after midnight on Christmas morning.

Hours later, lugging a Big Wheel he’d bought for his son, Scott walked the roughly five blocks to his ex-wife’s. He had a key — it was his parent’s house after all — and turned it in the lock.

He can’t be sure the door was even locked when he turned the key.

Opening the door, Scott heard cries from his son carrying down the hallway from the room he shared with his mother. In the home’s cluttered living room, he saw what appeared to be a naked sleeping woman feet from the Christmas tree.

“Who’s the drunk girl laying on the floor?” he says he wondered.

He assumed it was one of the two teen girls who had recently moved in with his sister and Cheryl. He walked on, down the hallway, where he found little Scott Alan sitting up, crying in bed but no sign of his ex-wife.

His gut told him something was wrong.

He returned to the living room and confirmed what he feared was true. It was Cheryl lying in the living room and there was a reason she hadn’t responded to their young son’s cries.

“I got close enough to her to realize there was something wrapped around her throat. I know I touched it and then I thought … ‘don’t touch nothing,’ ” Scott Springfield said.

‘He was kind of obnoxious’

Detectives would investigate a number of potential suspects, taking a special interest in Kelly, a former boyfriend of Cindy Springfield, Scott’s sister.

Kelly had been released from prison five months earlier for a string of burglaries.

Since his release, he’d started calling Cindy again, who was now living with Cheryl, her former sister-in-law.

“I can’t remember them ever meeting,” Cindy said in a recent interview. “…They just didn’t get along at all over the phone. He was kind of obnoxious. If I wasn’t there, he’d keep calling.”

After Cheryl’s murder, Scott was among those who began to wonder if Kelly could be involved.

37 years ago she was found murdered near her Christmas tree 3
Some family members suspect Barry Dean Kelly killed Cheryl Springfield. Kelly, serving a life sentence for another murder, reached out to Fort Worth police earlier this year, claiming to have information that could solve the case.

“Have you ever met somebody you just know there’s nothing good about them?” Scott asked. “There’s nothing honest about them. If you have anything to do with him, it’s not going to turn out good? That’s just what I got from him.”

Cindy didn’t believe it. After all, Kelly would never hurt someone who meant so much to her.

“My mind was, Barry wouldn’t do this to me,” Cindy said. “He just wouldn’t.”

Through the years, police investigated Kelly.

“There were things done attempting to either include or exclude Kelly being a suspect in the offense,” said Jeremy Rhoden, a homicide detective. “Everything that’s been done thus far, doesn’t do that — doesn’t include or exclude Kelly.”

A month after Cheryl’s death, however, Kelly would be jailed for a bizarre crime spree.

Old Star-Telegram clips tell the tale of how Kelly broke into a North Richland Hills home, stole three purses and kidnapped at knife-point a 21-year-old Indianapolis woman who had been visiting relatives at the home.

In the backyard of a house down the street, Kelly pushed the woman down but ended up running off after being spooked by the woman’s screams and a car motor in the distance.

He was arrested two days later but escaped during questioning after grabbing an ashtray from a table and smashing it into the head of a detective.

Two days after that, he’d be arrested again, this time in Cedar Hill where he was involved in a wreck on a motorcycle that he’d allegedly stolen.

Kelly would go away to prison again. After being paroled in November 1986, Cindy was among the first people he would find.

In February 1987, the two would marry, a marriage that dissolved after 10 months.

Cindy says Kelly never hit her but his behavior “was always just a little scary.”

There was the time, she says, he tattooed his initials “B.K.” on her hand — a sort of branding she didn’t want.

“There was nothing I could do about it,” Cindy said. “It was at gunpoint; the gun was right there.”

The final straw, she says, is when he gave her Hepatitis. She left him but says he kept trying to see her, eventually kidnapping her outside a store on Seminary Drive in October 1987, and terrorizing her for hours.

Police would arrest Kelly the next day and charge him with aggravated kidnapping.

63-year-old woman murdered

He’d still be in jail when Fort Worth police would accuse him in a different crime — the murder of a 63-year-old widow named Melva Teems.

Teems was last seen on the evening of Oct. 5, 1987, at the northwest Fort Worth home she shared with her daughter, Mary Copeland.

Copeland was headed out that evening to a lounge. Teems, who was going on a church trip the next day, was preparing to take her routine evening walk.

When Copeland returned to the home in the 2000 block of Castleberry Cut-Off Road shortly after midnight, her mother and her mother’s pickup were gone.

Inside the normally tidy house, things were askew. Teems’ bed was messy; the mattress pushed off-center. A drawer, which usually held Teems’ .22-caliber handgun, was open and the gun gone. Teems’ purse, where she usually kept her wedding rings, was also missing.

Teems’ pickup would later be found behind the old Panther Hall on the city’s east side.

A week and a half later, on Oct. 17, 1987, Fort Worth officers found Teems’ body near a dry creek bed off a dirt road northwest of Interstate 35W and North Loop 820.

A strip of material, evidently ripped from her own T-shirt, was still knotted around her neck. It was the same kind of knot that had been tied in the iron cord used to strangle Springfield almost seven years earlier.

As with Cheryl’s case, Kelly had a connection to Teems. Continue reading this article on the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Editors note: Cheryl was my next door neighbors daughter, we grew up together. I remember that horrific Christmas morning just like it were yesterday. Please share this story, Cheryl and her family deserve justice!  



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