With her bubbly charm on the dance floor, you'd never know that Cheryl Burke has a dark secret. The Dancing With The Stars fan favorite, has dropped a bombshell that she was molested as a young girl.
Gerry Depaula was the man convicted of the crime nearly 20 years ago. He was sent to prison after a 6-year-old Cheryl Burke testified against him in court.
In the quiet, affluent town of Atherton, just south of San Francisco, where Burke grew up. Depaula was a well-liked retired mailman who befriended Burke's parents. Soon, he was babysitting Burke and doing odd jobs around the house. That's when Burke says the sexual abuse began. Burke recounts the details in her new book, Dancing Lessons.
When Depaula was arrested, little Burke became a key witness for the prosecution.
Steve Chase was Depaula's court-appointed attorney. He says Depaula was so beloved, even the judge referred to him as "Uncle Gerry". Chase said he knew his case was doomed when he saw the cute kindergartner walk into court, clutching a stuffed dog.
"She walked into the courtroom very nicely dressed. Adorable little girl clutching this dog and I just thought, oh, why me?" said Chase.
He says he was struck by the bravery shown by 6-year-old Cheryl.
"She's facing the person that she's accusing and she's facing a roomful of strangers and talking about things that are very uncomfortable for a child to talk about," says Chase.
Her testimony was devastating for the defense. Depaula was sentenced to 24 years in prison for molesting Burke and three other young girls. Depaula is now 90-years-old and has been released. To this day, he remains a registered sex offender.
Attorney Chase says Cheryl's book may have been a way for her to finally open up about her ordeal.
"Maybe her intent was to help others who found themselves molested, and to know that somebody who has been successful in life had that happen to them," says Chase.