MEDFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a shocking case that dominated headlines in 1986 – a Long Island high school cheerleader paying to have her abusive father killed.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Cheryl Pierson – who now goes by Cheryl Cuccio – is now finally speaking out about why she felt murder was her only choice.
“Cheryl Pierson — that is a name I try to forget at much as possible,” Cuccio said.
Pierson dropped her former surname three decades ago, after she had James Pierson, her father, killed.
“I didn’t realize at that time that murder was so final,” Cuccio said. “I just wanted the problem to stop and go away.”
Now a 47-year-old mother, Cuccio is talking publicly about the horrors that prompted her as a 16-year-old cheerleader to recruit a boy in homeroom for murder. He carried out the deed with a rifle in her Selden driveway.
“I wish I hadn’t asked him, but I was desperate,” Cuccio said.
She was hiding a then-unspeakable secret.
“It wasn’t that he was killed for his money. It wasn’t that he was killed because we didn’t like him,” said her husband, Rob Cuccio, who was her high school sweetheart who paid the triggerman. “It was because he was beating and raping his daughter on an almost every-night basis.”
Cheryl and Rob Cuccio’s new memoir, “Incest, Murder and a Miracle,” describes her father’s sick control over her body and life while her mother lay dying.
“It would be before we went to the hospital see her on her deathbed. It would be when we got home from seeing her,” Cheryl Cuccio said. “It was just such torment.”
She feared her father also had his sights set on her 8-year-old sister.
Cheryl Cuccio pleaded guilty as a juvenile and served only three months.
When CBS2’s Gusoff covered the case 30 years ago, it had the public divided – when, if ever, is murder justified And while many understood a teen with no way out of a desperate situation, some didn’t believe her.
“Why would you lie about something like that? Why would you want to tell people that happened you?” Cheryl Cuccio said. “That is the most shameful, disgusting, dirty thing that you can ever say.”
She addressed what is referred to as a “miracle” in the title of the memoir.
“Rob saved me — my whole like. He protected me and gave me the strength and I wasn’t able to speak up for myself as a kid,” Cheryl Cuccio said. “He’s now alive, and we’re still together and that is the miracle.”
Rob Cuccio is alive after a suffering heart attack and being prematurely pronounced dead. Cheryl Cuccio finally found the courage to speak up, begging medics to keep working on him until his pulse returned.
They hope their story now helps others find a voice.
“It’s not something that just goes away, but incest does not define you,” she said. “We need to speak up for each other, because it still happens out there.”
This chapter, they said, will be devoted to reaching victims.
Sean Pica, the teen who committed the murder for hire, served 16 years in prison.