Crime

Just married, now dead. Here’s the tragedy of the woman burned alive in O’Fallon.

Lt. Kerry Andrews speaks about homicide charges

O'Fallon, Illinois, police Lt. Kerry Andrews spoke at a press conference about the charges brought against Andrew McKissick in the death of Sherry Billups. McKissick is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and battery.
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O'Fallon, Illinois, police Lt. Kerry Andrews spoke at a press conference about the charges brought against Andrew McKissick in the death of Sherry Billups. McKissick is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and battery.

Sherry Matthews learned about the horrific end to her daughter’s life from the mother of the man who has since been charged with her murder.

“I was laying in my bed when his mom called me and asked if I heard from Andrew or Lil’ Sherry. I told her I had not,” Matthews said.

The woman on the phone then told Matthews her daughter had been set on fire.

“She said she was so sorry. ...”

Matthews sent a nephew to the scene to confirm the truth of the horrible news she’d just received. He called back soon after, urging her to come quickly.

“It’s bad, Auntie,” he told her.

According to police, Sherry Billups, 35, was doused with a “diesel fuel supplement” then set on fire. When officers arrived, she was outside the 2015 Kia Optima covered in flames. She died near the Family Sports Park in O’Fallon, just blocks away from her home in the 600 block of West Madison Street.

“I saw all of those police cars and all that yellow tape. I started to flip out,” Matthews said. “My nephew told me she was dead.”

She said she told a police officer “’No! No! Please let me see my baby.’ They told me ‘no, you don’t want to see her like that.’”

Andrew McKissick, Billups’ husband, was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated arson on Wednesday. He’d been captured Monday night in Memphis, Tennessee, and was being held there on $2 million bond as of Thursday, awaiting extradition to Illinois.

“He killed my baby,” Matthews said through tears. “I’m just devastated. I am in so much pain. That’s my angel.”

Neighbors of Sherry Billups, the O'Fallon woman who was burned to death on Monday, gathered at the Family Sports Park for a vigil to honor her.

“He had the prize”

Billups and McKissick had been sweethearts in an Alorton elementary school, but each moved onto other relationships. The reunited recently and were married barely a month ago.

McKissick brought a criminal past to their relationship, according to St. Clair County Circuit Court records. He’d been charged with unlawful restraint in 2010, aggravated battery causing harm to a police officer in 2007 and aggravated battery with a firearm in 2002.

He had just recently been paroled.

“When they first got reacquainted he had just gotten out of jail and was wearing a leg monitor. She would go over there and hang out with him,” Matthews said. “She picked him. He had the prize.”

The newlyweds had just spent a long weekend in Corpus Christi, Houston and New Orleans, taking time to visit in Texas with Matthews’ brother.

But McKissick “had a problem with people looking at” his wife, Matthews said, and Billups was tired of the constant accusations that she was cheating.

“He was a very insecure, jealous-hearted guy,” Matthews said. “She wasn’t doing anything. She was a joy to be around.”

Cortez Douglas worked with Billups at the post office in Collinsville. He recalled the time, on his birthday, when Billups gave him $10 for lunch and refused his attempts to pay her back.

“She was a real nice person,” he said. “She always tried to help somebody. She was my friend.”

Southern Illinois cops are investigating after a woman was killed and found dead after being burned to death in O’Fallon near the Family Sports Park. Officers are searching for a suspect in the fatal homicide.

“I just knew”

Douglas knew his friend’s relationship already was on rocky footing.

The last time he spoke to Billups was on Saturday, April 20, after she texted him from her Texas getaway to say she needed to talk. He called her immediately and said he could hear McKissick in the background, speaking in agitated tones and accusing her once again of cheating on him.

“She wasn’t sounding like her normal self,” Douglas said. “I tried to talk to him. I told him nothing was happening (with any man). I told him to chill out and enjoy the weekend.”

Billups and McKissick began the long drive back to Illinois in the black Kia Optima at about 8:30 Sunday evening. They arrived in O’Fallon at 7 a.m. Monday, just ahead of Billups’ shift at the post office.

She never made it to work.

Word of a fatal car fire had spread through O’Fallon Monday morning. Even before police publicly identified Billups as the victim, Douglas already knew.

“I knew it was her because of the conversations we had within the last few weeks about him. I just knew. I put things together,” Douglas said.

“This is like something you see on television. You don’t expect it to be this close. “

Lil’ Sherry

Billups’ life began in Alorton where she was raised. She found a good job as a letter carrier at the Collinsville Post Office and a new home in O’Fallon.

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Sherry Billups, known to family and friends as “Lil’ Sherry,” and her mother, “Big Sherry” Matthews.

Friends and family called her “Lil’ Sherry” since she and her mother, “Big Sherry,” shared the same first name. They remember her for her striking good looks, her willingness to help others, and a sweetness that belied her “feisty spirit.”

“When Lil’ Sherry walked into a room all heads turned to look at her. She was a beautiful young lady,” Matthews said.“Everyone always talked about how much we look alike. They said she was my twin.”

Billups loved to travel, sing and dance, Matthews said. She also loved the man who now stands accused of taking her life.

I never would have thought he would do anything like that. He always said he loved Sherry and I know Sherry loved him,” Matthews said.

“He put a light out”

Anita Owens, Billups’ cousin, said the family remains shocked and saddened, but the instinct to seek revenge comes and goes.

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Sherry Billups had two sons, 15-year-old Jaleel Williams (above) and 12-year-old Jaylyn Williams.

“I want justice for Lil’ Sherry,” she said. “Everybody loved her. She never had an enemy. … She loved her boys dearly. I am sure as she was taking her last breath, she was saying her boy’s names.”

Matthews has lived this story before. Her sister, Genelle Howard, was murdered by a jealous boyfriend.

“She was leaving him to go back to her husband and he stabbed her so many times the coroner stopped counting,” she said. “This is like deja vu.”

Billups leaves behind two sons, Jaleel Williams, 15, and Jaylyn Williams, 12, “and they were her world,” said Matthews, who has established accounts in their names at Regions Banks.

Those interested in making donations to the accounts may do so at any location.

Matthews expressed her gratitude to O’Fallon police and fire department, to the bystanders who attempted to help her daughter, and to the outpouring of support her family has received from the community.

A memorial service for Billups will be held Friday, May 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Officer Funeral Home in East St. Louis.

“(McKissick) robbed my grandchildren of their mother after he told them he would never put his hands on their mother and would never hurt her,” Matthews said. “He put a light out. You don’t dim or put out somebody’s light out because you’re jealous.”

Carolyn P. Smith has worked for the Belleville News-Democrat for 18 years and currently covers breaking news in the Metro-East. She graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri at Columbia and says news is in her DNA.


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