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Children of missing ‘nuns’ seek help finding remains

Posted: 9:26 AM, Feb 10, 2014
Updated: 2014-07-18 12:27:18-04

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — The now-adult children of a Brooklyn serial killer are asking PIX11 for help in finding the remains of their missing mothers.

The women vanished in the 1960’s and 1970’s from a four-story house on Brooklyn Avenue, run by self-styled “Bishop” Devernon “Doc” LeGrand. He was convicted of stomping to death and dismembering three young women in 1977. Up to 23 people vanished from the household over two decades and were never seen again.

“I wanted to find out the truth about my mother,” 49-year old Cheyama LeGrand said to PIX11 News,  in an exclusive interview that will air Monday night at 10 P.M. Cheyama’s mother was Bernice Williams, and Cheyama recounted she was only about four-years-old when her mom disappeared from her life. “She always laughed,” LeGrand recalled.  “She was just a happy woman.”

Cheyama has limited memories of her mother, but she remembers one time when the young mom dressed Cheyama and her older sister in nice dresses. “I can remember the dress so clear,” she said.“Mine was red. Hers was blue.”

Cheyama also recalls her mother sharing fruit cocktail cups with the two little girls in the kitchen at 222 Brooklyn Avenue, where the “bishop” ran a four-story house with up to 70 men, women and children living there at one time.

In March 1977, Doc LeGrand — then 52-years-old — was convicted of beating to death teen sisters, Yvonne and Gladys Rivera, and burning their bodies in a tub at his upstate farm.  LeGrand was also convicted in the 1970 murder of Ernestine Timmons, who had born six children for him and was forced to dress as a nun and beg in the subways.  LeGrand’s scam was earning him $250,000 a year in the mid-1970’s.  He used to drop off the phony nuns in Little Italy and in busy, transit hubs five or six days a week. One source told PIX11 if the women didn’t bring home at least $100 a day, they would be beaten.  Last week, PIX 11 profiled the case of another, missing nun — Elizabeth Brown — who was only 14-year-old when Doc LeGrand seduced her with angel dust and alcohol at the Adventurer’s Inn Amusement Park in College Point, Queens.

The family of Ernestine Timmons has also reached out to PIX 11, seeking help in finding her remains. Hundreds of bones were dredged from Lake Briscoe upstate in early 1976.  This was before DNA technology. Prosecutors relying on the work of an anthropologist helped to identify bones that likely came from the remains of the teens, Yvonne and Gladys Rivera.  Some jewelry that belonged to Yvonne Rivera was also found in Lake Briscoe.

There were no bones linked to Timmons, who was 30 when she was killed. Prosecutors won a conviction, because one of LeGrand’s wives testified she witnessed some of the activity surrounding Timmons’ death, and an accomplice gave the jury details, as well.

On Monday night at 10 PM, PIX11 will air our extensive interview with Cheyama. She will recount the secret she learned when she was 12. She will also reveal how she confronted her father in prison, to ask about the fate of her missing mother.  Devernon LeGrand died in state prison in 2006, when he was 82-years-old.