By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Looking back, Ernie Ferguson can see the deception. It's all there in the photographs, as thick and smooth as the makeup on the con man's face. But when Ferguson met the model now called Storme Shannon Aerison, he wanted to believe. He wanted the blonde in the red dress, black gloves and high heels to be a cover girl. He wanted to photograph a glossy swimsuit calendar, shoot a round of golf in Puerto Rico, pocket a six-figure paycheck and cruise through town in a stretch limousine. He wanted to believe, he says.
They all did.
But now that this person in the photos, this black man posing as a white woman posing as a supermodel, faces jail time in El Paso County on charges of fraud and theft, there's not much that Ferguson can do now but laugh. "Oh, he's good," the photographer says. "I'll give him that. The guy could sell crucifixes to a synagogue. And I'll tell you something else: He has a great pair of legs."
The Early Years: Rap Sheets and Pom-Poms
Charles James Daugherty was born on June 1, 1964. For most of his childhood, according to his father, Charles was a "perfectly normal" kid who played baseball and hung around with the guys. But in high school, things changed. The boy who had been an athlete became a male cheerleader. Then on Halloween when Charles was eighteen, Leo Daugherty Jr. told a reporter, his son "put a dress on."
By the time he was twenty, Storme (to pick just one of Charles Daugherty's eight known aliases) was not only posing as a woman, but he was turning into a real con man. Pretending to be a female Air Force Academy student, he stole a $15,000 car from a Colorado Springs dealership. He was sentenced to four years' probation and mandatory counseling -- but that didn't prevent Storme from slipping on a wig again, borrowing the names of beauty-pageant winners and sashaying into the headlines.
In 1989, billing himself as Shannon Ireland Trump -- niece of billionaire Donald Trump -- Storme joined the all-woman cheerleading squad of the now-defunct Colorado Springs Spirit football team and managed to shake his pom-poms for months before squad leaders discovered the truth. "She was not what we could consider a very feminine, pretty cheerleader, but she scored high enough," Betsy Acree, the squad coordinator, said at the time. "I have nothing bad to say about the girl except she wasn't a girl."
A year later, in September 1990, Storme scored again. This time, using the name Cheyen Weatherly, he registered at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs as a seventeen-year-old junior. The new student explained that she'd been studying under a private tutor in Greece and supplied the school with bogus applications, report cards (listing all A's and B's), letters from her mother and even a doctor's physical-exam report. Despite their initial skepticism, school officials let the 26-year-old man enroll in classes until complete records could arrive.
For eight school days, Storme strolled across campus in a brown wig, tinted blue contact lenses and an assortment of women's business suits, blazers, skirts and high heels. He spoke in a soft breathy voice, sang soprano in the choir and flirted with football players, several of whom flirted back. At five foot nine and 160 pounds, Storme even made the all-girl cheerleading squad and performed at a Cougars pep assembly, short skirt and all. "We needed someone big," one cheerleader explained. "He was the base [of the cheerleading pyramid]."
As a coed, Storme was described as "really friendly" and "just like a normal girl," although one student noted that she "had more different kinds of pantyhose than I have in my closet." Others became suspicious when dark stubble poked through Storme's foundation during afternoon classes. School administrators finally called the cops after the addresses and phone numbers in the new student's file turned out to be false. Storme was pulled from a morning class and arrested in the hallway.
Facing two years in prison for third-degree forgery and criminal impersonation, Storme said he meant no harm and didn't think he was guilty of being an imposter because "being a woman is all I've ever known." He'd enrolled at Coronado High simply to get the diploma he'd never received, he explained; he had worked only one day in his life -- as a dishwasher -- and was tired of his friends supporting him. He wanted to attend college and study psychology. "I'm basically a shy person," he told reporters. "I'm slightly overwhelmed by all of this. I wish I had just been allowed to leave school peacefully."
But it didn't happen that way. Storme's saga attracted a swarm of national newspaper writers, tabloid reporters and TV crews to Colorado Springs, which recoiled under the spotlight. At one point, after an Iowa talk-show host wondered on the air what women in Colorado Springs must look like, Storme penciled a note to the judge apologizing for the frenzy: "I did not expect it and I thought it made you mad. Honestly, I didn't tell them I'd be here."
A few days after his arrest, however, Storme did tell talk-show host Sally Jesse Raphael that between the ages of five and twenty, he'd been sexually molested by family, friends, babysitters and teachers. During that broadcast from New York City, he also claimed he'd been treated for multiple-personality disorder and at one point had five people inside him. It was the dominant female persona of "Shannon," which had come to the surface in order to cope with the abuse, whom he considered to be his true self. "Charles hasn't been around since 1985," he said.