FBI agent followed suspect 10 years in murder case


The former wife of an FBI agent investigating a 1974 murder case of a Radcliff teenage girl says her husband gave the case a lot of thought and effort, following a suspect for about 10 years, unable to link the person of interest to the killing of Cheryl Lynn Strother.

Mary Becker said her late ex-husband, Tom Becker, followed a soldier, who once was stationed at Fort Knox, all the way to Texas where he was assigned. She said he found blood on the front seat of the soldier’s vehicle.

“That was before DNA, of course,” she said.

Becker said she and her sons never heard him say the suspect’s name, but said he had told two of their sons the suspect was the father of children Cheryl Lynn at one time baby sat for.

“He did say that to the boys they said,” Mary Becker said. “He worked on the case all the way up until 1984.”

Strother, 17, was last seen alive July 24, 1974 leaving a summer school class at North Hardin High School. She was found tied to a tree at To­ba­cco Leaf Lake on Fort Knox property. She had been stabbed 47 times, her brother, Ken Strother said.

Mary Becker said a squirrel hunter found her body and said she had been tied to a tree by shoe laces from her own shoes.

She said the case wore on her as well.

Although she and Tom Becker divorced in 1976, she said when Strother’s stepfather would call her husband inquiring about the case, often she would answer and heard the agony and hurt he was feeling in his voice.

“It bothered me more to hear Mr. Arthur Milks when he would call and ask for Tom,” she said. “He wasn’t always there to take the call.” Milks died in 2017.

In addition to being the lead FBI agent in the Strother case, less than six months later he was assigned to lead the investigation into the Jan. 13, 1975, killing of Peggy Rhodes, 57, the wife of prominent local car dealer Paul “Dusty” Rhodes, Mary Becker said.

Tom Becker died May 8, 2010, following his retirement to Eugene, Oregon.

Melissa McGrew of Elizabethtown, a third cousin of Cheryl Lynn Strother, said she may hire a private investigator to look into the killing. There never has been an arrest associated with Strother’s death.

“I feel adamant about her,” she said recently. “I only knew her for five years, but she made such an impact on me. I love her.”

McGrew said she often has driven in the area where Strother’s body was found and said she can feel her cousin’s presence there.

“It’s like she’s telling me to not give up,” she said. “I will not give up.”

Anyone with information about the case should contact the FBI at 502-263-6000.

Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at 270-505-1757 or jdalessio@thenewsenterprise.com.

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