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Resting Places / Chapter Eight: Five days in March

Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in  1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993.

COURTESY OF YOKO KATO Sherry Morton and Cedric Seabrooks in 1992, months before they were murdered in Northampton on Jan. 11, 1993. Purchase photo reprints »


On March 3, 1993, not two months after the murders, a Northampton court held a 2 p.m. hearing on the terms of Sean Seabrooks’ bail. Jeannie Banas attended and that evening called her mother, Yoko Kato, to tell her that the knife used to kill Sherry and Cedric had been left in her face, near her eye.

The next day, Yoko was overcome by panic. At work, listening to talk radio, she heard a program that featured a psychic. She had been to see a psychic once, the month before, because she wanted a glimpse into what happens after death. The words “multiple stab wounds” haunted her. She worried that because Sherry and Cedric had been so abused, they might not be in heaven. She kept picturing Sherry and Cedric lying together by the end of the bed.

That first visit to a psychic had been on a Saturday morning in early February. Yoko told her seamstress she’d be out for a while and walked a few blocks to the Hotel Northampton to attend a psychic fair.

She had heard about mediums who claim they can contact the dead. Sherry had gone so quickly, without a goodbye. Yoko wanted to know how she was. She wanted someone to tell her Sherry wasn’t in pain.

Inside the hotel’s ballroom, 15 psychic readers were sitting at tables with clients. Yoko was sent to a reader in her early 40s. She had short hair and lived in Easthampton.

The reader asked her to shuffle a deck of Tarot cards. Yoko found them hard to manage with her small hands. The reader shuffled the cards a bit more and asked her to cut the deck. Then she placed the cards on the table and pulled one out that bore an image of a sword and bloodstains. Yoko’s heart started racing.

The woman said there had been a tragedy. She explained that the card signified blood. Yoko wondered if the woman recognized her from photographs in the newspaper. The reader said she saw darkness and a baby. She kept repeating: There has been a tragedy.

Yoko told her she had just lost her daughter and grandson. The psychic fell silent, studying the cards. She looked up and told Yoko that the baby didn’t have asthma any longer. Yoko couldn’t recall mentioning Cedric’s asthma in any interview. She asked, “How are they doing?” She couldn’t bring herself to ask about the cuts on Sherry’s face.

It’s too soon to tell, the psychic said. The killings are too recent. But it was clear, she told Yoko, that Sherry and Cedric were not yet in heaven.

On the way home that afternoon, Yoko stopped at Spring Grove and looked at the frozen flowers beside Sherry and Cedric’s grave. The flowers were holding their color. She told Sherry about her visit with the psychic.

A month later, Yoko heard another psychic, this one from Springfield, interviewed on a radio show. It was late afternoon. She waited long enough to give the woman time to drive home after her radio appearance, then called her to ask for an appointment.

The first opening was six weeks off. Yoko was disappointed but scheduled a time. A few minutes later, the woman called her back. Come down tonight and I’ll see you, she said.

It was snowing, so Yoko called her husband, Rad Nutting, at his auto shop and asked him to drive her the 20 miles to Springfield. She just wanted someone to tell her Sherry and Cedric were not suffering, she told him. They arrived at the psychic’s house around 7.

The psychic and her husband were sitting downstairs waiting for her, with that day’s Springfield newspaper open to a page with a story about the murders.

Yoko climbed stairs to a curtained room lit by candles. A large painting of an Indian chief hung on one wall. There was a smell that Yoko couldn’t identify. The woman followed Yoko in and asked her to sit on a couch. She sat in a chair opposite Yoko, across a coffee table, and turned on a tape recorder.

The psychic asked Yoko why she had come. The woman closed her eyes as Yoko explained, and said nothing.

When she opened her eyes, she told Yoko that 2,000 years ago in Europe, in a past life, Sherry had killed Sean. The murders were Sean’s revenge, a rightful revenge, and what had happened inside Sherry’s apartment had been her own fault.

Yoko felt her mouth go dry. She listened, hoping at least to hear that in heaven Sherry’s face was not disfigured.

Cedric’s death was part of the punishment, the psychic told Yoko. Children who live short lives are messengers, dispatched to instruct people about the wrongs they have committed. Another child in the family would also die early, the woman said. Yoko thought of Jeannie and Paul and their plans to begin a family.

Yoko had brought Cedric’s winter coat and the pearl barrette that Sherry had been wearing the night she died. The psychic asked for the barrette.

Yoko dug for it in her bag and handed it across the coffee table. The psychic threw it aside with a shout. She told Yoko it bore signs of violence. She picked it up and threw it again. Then she asked to see Cedric’s coat —a small one adorned with an Oakland Raiders logo. After moving her hands over it, the woman told Yoko that heat emanated from it, showing that Cedric had been much loved. But she added that he was not yet in heaven — and was no longer with Sherry.

The psychic wasn’t finished. Sherry wasn’t in heaven because Yoko was visiting the cemetery too much. Don’t go back for at least six months, she said. Then, the reading over, she handed Yoko a tape recording of their session.

It was snowing even more heavily now. Yoko broke down in the car when recounting the visit. When they got home, Rad listened to the tape. Then Yoko dropped it on the floor and ground her heel into it. At 10:15 p.m., she called her mother in Japan.

The next morning, she drove to Spring Grove and walked through the new snow to where Sherry and Cedric lay together and told them she’d made a mistake. She told them the psychic had instructed her not to visit again until September. But they were family, she said, and nothing could keep them apart.




DATE: 3-5-93

CLIENT PROGRESS & ISSUES: Yoko is attempting to deal with revelations of graphic material made during the bail hearing & subsequent media coverage. This has left her highly vulnerable & distressed. Y. sought guidance from a professional psychic, who under the guise of “helping,” blamed Y’s daughter and grandson for own deaths & told Y. her mourning rituals would “keep them from passing on” and cause them pain. ... Y. was able to express her anger at the psychic & to discuss more reliable sources of guidance & support.


That evening, Yoko walked from her shop to a psychotherapy session with Cat Chapin, staying from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Though she’d destroyed the tape, she couldn’t erase the psychic’s predictions about Jeannie’s first child. Cat worked to undo the damage.

Cat wrote in her notes that Yoko was struggling to understand why someone could be so hurtful. She reminded her that she was already painfully aware of how treacherous people can be. “When the universe has allowed something that bad to happen to Sherry and Cedric, your daughter and grandson, what terrible thing is impossible to believe?” she asked. “It’s hard to have faith in anything good.”

A day after her session with Cat, while watching a TV movie at home, Yoko heard a baby crying and threw up.

On March 9, she created her first shrine for Sherry and Cedric.

MONDAY: Making a personal religion.


Resting Places / Chapter Seven: One mother's flight to safety  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - “How has the week gone?” It was Cat Chapin’s opening question to Yoko Kato, as the therapist sat in a rocker decorated with a halo of ivy leaves painted gold. They met Tuesdays and Thursdays for weeks, then months, across Northampton’s seasons. The question to Yoko was vague by design. It allowed Yoko to begin with good or …

Resting Places / Chapter Six: Night of threats foretold 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Sean Seabrooks began harassing Yoko Kato with phone calls shortly after he started dating her daughter Sherry. Yoko would answer and he’d say nothing. Calls came day and night, to her home and to her dress shop. A Northampton detective traced some of the calls to the shipping department of Merriam-Webster in Springfield, where Sean worked. Others came …

Resting Places / Chapter Five: Bundles of sympathy

Friday, January 11, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Every day the mailman delivered bundles of letters to Yoko’s dressmaking shop, each installment bound in a rubber band. The first week brought hundreds. The owner of a lingerie shop a few blocks away sent a card saying she and her partner were praying Yoko could find strength to live one day at a time, aware of the …

Resting Places / Chapter Four: Lives in a carton

Friday, January 11, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A week after Sherry and Cedric’s funeral, Yoko Kato drove to Northampton and opened her dressmaking shop. It was Jan. 19, the day after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Sherry had asked her to watch Cedric, so Yoko had no appointments with customers. She removed the “closed” sign that her lawyer had put up for her …

Resting Places | Chapter Three: Baptism at the vault

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON Waiting for the funeral, Jeannie and Yoko slept together on the big velour couches in Yoko’s living room, with the lights on. Jeannie was afraid to go to sleep. She wondered how her mother would get through calling hours at the Pease Funeral Home on Elm Street. Jeannie was at the funeral home when Sherry and Cedric’s bodies arrived, …

Resting Places / Chapter Two: The path of patient No. 40110

Thursday, January 10, 2013

NORTHAMPTON Soon after the killings, Yoko went in search of counseling. She drove to her doctor’s office in Florence and waited for a psychotherapist in a room lit by skylights and floor lamps and decorated with a colorful quilt. Behind a counter, staff clattered away at keyboards. When she was called in, Yoko found herself pouring it all out – …

Resting Places / Chapter One: Dreaming it to be ... one woman's road through loss

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

EDITOR'S NOTE: Twenty years ago this evening, a young woman, Sherry Morton, and her 18-month-old son Cedric were murdered by the boy’s father inside their Northampton apartment. Today, the Gazette presents the first chapter of “Resting Places,” an account of how one relative, Yoko Kato, faced the challenge of living without her daughter and grandson and in time helped bring …

Resting Places / Chapter Nine: Weaving her religion

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A few weeks after the killings, Yoko Kato took up a ritual her family practiced in Japan. She created a shrine to her daughter and grandson in the breakfast room of her home and began to speak to them every morning. She shared the day’s first foods with them in the Shinto Buddhist manner, coffee for Sherry and …

Resting Places / Chapter Ten: Thoughts that need stopping

Friday, January 18, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - During a pretrial hearing in the murder cases against Sean Seabrooks, the prosecutor screened TV news footage outside Meadowbrook Apartments the morning after the killings. Sherry and Cedric’s bodies had just been taken out. Hearing the reporter’s voice again, Yoko Kato broke into a sweat, then ran shaking from the courtroom, sick to her stomach. Out in the …

Resting Places / Chapter Eleven: The gift of making a difference  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - A week after the killings, women dressed in aprons and carrying pots and pans gathered at 7:30 a.m. on the Coolidge Bridge to decry family violence. It was the first demonstration of the Women’s Action Coalition-Western Massachusetts. The second came four days later, when a dozen members gathered downtown, with Yoko Kato present, to hold signs and distribute …

Resting Places / Chapter Twelve: A father’s testimony

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Three weeks after the deaths, Sean Seabrooks had arrived at Hampshire Superior Court in shackles to enter a plea of innocent to two counts of murder. When the prosecutor described the number of wounds Sherry Morton and her son Cedric suffered, he began to cry. A judge ordered an examination into whether he was competent to stand trial. …

Resting Places / Chapter Thirteen: Pieces you can’t put back together

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NORTHAMPTON - Yoko Kato could still picture the life her grandson Cedric had lived. In her newest memories he was standing on the couch by the front windows of her dress shop downtown. He would bounce across the cushions like a man on the moon, just tall enough to look over the back of the couch and out onto Main …

Resting Places / Chapter Fourteen: Facing up to forever

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NORTHAMPTON The deer stepped out of the woods and advanced slowly through rows of gravestones. Lights were coming on in the houses that border Spring Grove, but in the deepening dusk, the deer moved almost unseen. On the edge of the cemetery, a woman in a small green house finished her supper of asparagus on toast and looked out the …

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