Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon Cheryl Wheeler Duncan still in the heart of Pensacola

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Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon Cheryl Wheeler Duncan

Cheryl Wheeler-Dixon (August 18, 1960 – February 12, 2020) was an American stunt woman, stunt double, and stunt driver in the US movie industry. She was credited as Cheryl Wheeler-Duncan, Cheryl Wheeler, Cheryl M. Wheeler, and Sheryl Wheeler. She was stunt double for Rene Russo, Kathleen Turner, and Goldie Hawn, among others. She had two daughters, and with her husband, Lindsey Duncan, owned Genesis Today, Inc., a nutritional supplement company in Austin, Texas and a multi-level marketing offshoot called Genesis Pure. Cheryl Wheeler-Sanders (Dixon) and her husband, Robert Reed Sanders, were shot and killed in an apparent shoot-out with her ex-husband, Lindsey Duncan, in Yellow Springs, Ohio on February 12, 2020.

Cheryl Wheeler began studying Yoshukai Karate at fifteen years of age in Pensacola, Florida, with instructor Gerry Blanck. She began kickboxing when her instructor began training an amateur team, but her championship matches were considered professional, as she was paid for the work. Wheeler-Dixon also studied Judo, Aikido, and grappling and trained for a while with kickboxer and actor Don Wilson. She was a three-time WKA World Kickboxing Champion with a record of 17-1-1 and a 2nd degree black belt in Yoshukai Karate.

Wheeler-Dixon began work in the film industry in 1987 and maintained an extensive filmography of stunt work in such films as Back to the Future Part II, Bird on a Wire, Die Hard 2, Lethal Weapon 3 and sequel Lethal Weapon 4, Demolition Man, The Thomas Crown Affair and Charlie’s Angels. She provided martial arts training to Rene Russo for the Lethal Weapon film series. Wheeler-Duncan was inducted into Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame as 1996 Woman of the Year.[12] With Chris Casamassa, she appeared on the cover and in a feature article in Black Belt Magazine in July 1997 Wheeler-Dixon received a Stunt Award for “Best Stunt Sequence” in the 2000 film Charlie’s Angels.

Wheeler-Dixon was injured during the filming of Back to the Future II when she shattered her face and right wrist in a fall and required reconstructive surgery. In April 2010, she was featured on the cover and wrote an article for Healthy Living Magazine. She also worked as a “stuntnastics” instructor and stunt performer at The Stunt Ranch in Austin, Texas.

In 2016, Cheryl’s ex-husband, Robert “Lindsey” Duncan, filed a lawsuit against Sanders and her third husband Robert “Reed” Sanders, alleging Breach of Contract, Defamation, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Theft Liability Act requesting “monetary relief over $200,000 but not more than $1,000,000.

Cheryl Wheeler-Sanders (Dixon) and her husband Robert Reed Sanders were both killed in what is described as an “ambush” and “shootout” with her ex-husband Robert Lindsey Duncan on his property in Yellow Springs, Ohio on February 12, 2020. Cheryl and her husband drove from their home in Leicester, North Carolina, purportedly to confront Mr. Duncan about a college trust fund concerning their daughters. According to the Greene County, Ohio Sheriff, the Sanderses set up wireless video cameras on a tree stump across the street from Duncan’s property to monitor the activity there. On the morning of February 12, 2020, as Mr. Duncan and his wife, Molly, were returning home, they pulled into their driveway and were confronted by Robert Sanders. Mr. Sanders approached the vehicle, pointed a gun at Mrs. Duncan, and then turned the weapon toward Mr. Duncan. Mr. Duncan, who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, shot and killed Mr. Sanders. Cheryl Sanders, who was monitoring the live stream of the events on her cell phone from the wireless cameras, then pulled up to the driveway in her vehicle and pointed her weapon toward Mrs. Duncan. Mr. Duncan shot Mrs. Sanders, killing her. In a press conference given by the Greene County Sheriff, no charges were filed as the case was determined to be “justifiable homicide”.

In 1985, I made a transition from martial arts and kickboxing to a full time career as a stuntwoman. In 1982, I had moved from Pensacola, Florida to Los Angeles, California for several reasons. One, my sanctioning body, the WKA (World Karate Association) based out of Westminster, CA was working hard to promote me as a fighter. They were getting me matches on the west coast and it was better if I was geographically closer to the action. Secondly, Gerry Blanck, my long time sensei, coach and sparring partner moved out to Los Angeles after being contacted by an agent to try and break in to the movie business. He encouraged me to come out as well, pointing out that there were few women in martial art action films, and there was great opportunity. I loved Los Angeles and settled on the west side of town, teaching karate and working as a personal trainer at a popular health club in the Pacific Palisades called La Sante, while taking acting lessons at night and training daily.

I met lots of entertainment industry people working out at La Sante, and quickly had an opportunity to read for a part in a film called The Nightstalker (1986), doing a big fight scene with the lead actor Charles Napier. I auditioned and got the part. I had a blast working on the film and met a handful of stuntmen on set who were crucial to the fight scene. At the end of the day, the stuntmen I worked with enthusiastically encouraged me to work in the stunt industry full time, reassuring me that my world title in kickboxing, along with my natural athletic talents, would help me succeed in the industry.

I decided to take the plunge and enter the stunt business full time! I found that I had a natural talent for the stunt industry and the ability to adapt to any job. Physical challenges stimulated me, and I found that I welcomed the stress and adrenaline rush. In 1986, I was cast to stunt double lead actress Brooke Shields in a big budget action film called Brenda Starr (1989). While the film didn’t do well at the box office, it gave me the opportunity to work with dozens of talented stunt people who remembered me and started calling me to work for them. From there, the opportunities never stopped…

At 5’9” tall and 125 pounds, I got the opportunity to double most of the tall A-list actresses, from Kathleen Turner and Darryl Hannah to Sharon Stone. I went on to establish a career doubling leading ladies such as Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Garner, Rene Russo, Bridget Fonda, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ellen Barkin, Kelly Lynch, Kelly Preston, and more. I was at the top of my game, and had a reputation as an exceptional stuntwoman with talent behind the wheel of a car.

In 1989, I was called to stunt double Darlene Vogel on Back to the Future Part II (1989). I was involved in a hoverboard sequence involving Michael J. Fox, Tom Wilson, and the “bad guys,” which included my actress Darlene Vogel. The job was a total blast! We spent our days chasing Michael J. Fox (and his stunt double) on piano wire supported hoverboards throughout this elaborate futuristic outdoor set.

The grand finale involved the bad guys (us) spinning out of control over a large pond, and crashing through a giant courthouse window. The grand finale was filmed separately and much time and planning had gone into the preparation of the stunt. There were four of us crashing through the window, and a cherry picker had pulled us back from the impact point approximately 50 or 60 feet. We were picked up at the hip, and our overhead wires were attached to a single arbor. When the cherry picker released us, we all swung towards the giant window with two white pillars on either side of it.

As we traveled towards the window, we started listing to the left. I was on the far left to begin with, so when we started listing to the left, I realized that I was going to hit the left pillar. Cabled, with no control and nowhere to go, I simply brought my knees and feet up and tried to soften the blow of the pillar when I hit it. As I slammed into the pillar, stopping all my forward momentum, I hoped and prayed that the special effects man with his finger on the release button saw what happened to me!

Unfortunately, all 4 of us were on the same release button, and as the other stunt people swung into the giant, candy-glass paned window, the special effects man didn’t see that I had hit the pillar and released all of us at the same time. Unfortunately, I was dangling next to the pillar outside, 20 feet above the concrete! As I dropped, my life flashed before my eyes. I just knew I was too high up to survive the fall…

Miraculously, I woke up, still on the set and strapped to a board that immobilized my neck, back and legs. The talented on-set paramedics had revived me. I suffered a severe concussion and broke several bones in my face and right arm. My facial plate and brow bone were broken, as well as my right hand and wrist. The canvas flying harness custom made for Michael J. Fox saved me from breaking my back and/or hips. I was hospitalized for several weeks, and over the course of a year, endured four reconstructive surgeries to my face and arm. The following year I endured one more surgery to my jaw, an excruciating 8 hour surgery that ended with me having my jaw wired shut for 6 long weeks.

In 1991, at the end of all my surgeries and hospital visits, I was a mental, physical and emotional wreck. Months of drugs and pain killers, along with surgical anesthesia and other meds, had sapped my strength and wrecked my immune system. I was fatigued, sickly and tired all the time. Although I had started working again in the stunt industry, I was not in top form or anywhere near my pre-accident strong self!

Cheryl Wheeler was also known as Cheryl Wheeler Duncan and Cheryl Wheeler Sanders.

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