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Sally Ann Chesebro

Cold Case File:
Season 3; Episode 25
 Innocent Prey/The Punishment

In 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 persmission, 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.

Dec. 27, 1971
Battle Creek
Calhoun County
Michigan, USA
Mar. 9, 1978
Battle Creek
Calhoun County
Michigan, USA

Headstone was Picked out By Sally's
Step-Sister Robin (McNees) Ellis and 
Robin's Husband David L Ellis.
Headstone was Picked out
By Sally's (Blood) Sister 

Nancy(Chesebro) Spaulding.

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