Stuffed in the trunk of her car with two bullets in her head, Kimberly Cherry prayed. Then she fought for her life.
On Thursday, more than two years removed from her kidnapping and near murder, the Charlotte woman stood beside Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather after being named as a recipient of the “Above and Beyond Citizen Award.”
“In this line of work, there are times when we are faced with the real and horrific things that a person is capable of doing to another human being,” Merriweather said.
“But we find meaning in this work because we have the privilege of witnessing survivors display a strength and grace that overshadows the horrors of what they endured.”
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In August 2016, Cherry and her boyfriend, Michael Gretsinger, were ambushed inside her north Charlotte apartment by Tim Crumitie, a former minister with a violent past with whom Cherry had an on-again, off-again relationship.
While Gretsinger crouched with his hands raised, Crumitie shot him in the head, prosecutors say. He died nine days later in a Charlotte hospital.
Crumitie tied Cherry’s hands behind her back and drove her in her car to his Rowan County home. Hours later, he drove her back — to a construction site near her apartment.
He pulled Cherry out of the car. They walked a short distance in the darkness. Then Crumitie told her to turn around.
Cherry would later tell a jury that she thought Crumitie was about to free her. Instead he shot her in the back of the head, prosecutors said. When she fell to the ground, he aimed and fired again. This time, Merriweather said, the bullet struck Cherry in the temple.
In what paramedics would later describe as a “miracle,” Merriweather said, neither bullet reached her brain. Cherry played dead as Crumitie put her in the trunk, Merriweather said. He then drove the car to her apartment complex and parked it.
In an interview with the Observer after receiving her award, Cherry said she waited in the dark until she was convinced her would-be killer had left for good.
“I asked God, ‘What I should do?’” Cherry recalled. Then she said she began pushing against the inside of the trunk in hopes of getting through to the backseat.
“That didn’t work,” Cherry said. “So I asked God, ‘What I should do next?’”
This time, Cherry said she found the trunk’s emergency lock release, then scrambled to a neighbor’s apartment.
A recording of the subsequent 911 call captures Cherry’s fading voice as she identified the shooter. “His name is Tim,” she said.
Nine months later, Cherry remains uncertain enough about her safety to have asked the media covering Thursday’s public ceremony not to show her face.
“If they tell you they love you, make sure they do, that they’re not just telling you that to keep you hostage,” she said.
The district attorney’s office honored others during the Thursday ceremony, including:
▪ Mecklenburg teenager Frank Carter III, who despite facing threats at school, agreed to testify against a classmate who ambushed and badly beat him in a school bathroom.
▪ Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Detective Joe Dollar, who made sure the sole eyewitness to a murder made it to court to testify despite the efforts of the witness’ mother — who was also the girlfriend of the accused killer — to spirit her out of the county.
▪ Thomas Shields, a veteran sergeant with the Mecklenburg Sheriff’s Office who monitors inmate phone calls at the county jail for evidence of criminal activity. Merriweather said Shields was nominated because his work is often the difference between a conviction and a not guilty verdict.
While each honoree received generous applause, the audience got to its feet just once — for Kim Cherry.
The ovation began after an obviously emotional Merriweather told Cherry that his office was grateful “for the miracle” that kept her alive, and for the strength she found to “secure justice for Mr. Gretsinger and protect the entire community.”
With the cameras pointed elsewhere, Merriweather then pulled Cherry into a hug as the applause rose around them.