Family searches for answers 25 years after brutal murder

(WMC-TV) - A deadly secret lurks in the shadows of picturesque Monette, Arkansas - a secret the tiny hamlet of 1,200 has been holding onto for 25 years.

Since that day, family members have been desperate for information that could solve the brutal murder of Sandra Alberda.

"My father passed away four years ago, and of course he went to his grave being tormented by this," said Alberta's sister, Gena.

Tormented by the torture inflicted on his daughter, a hairdresser who worked in Blytheville.

"She was shot four times with a small caliber pistol, in the back of the head and in the back," said John Varner, Chief Investigator with the Craighead County Sheriff's Department. "She had multiple stab wounds to the lower part of the abdomen and chest area, I believe a total of 59 stab wounds."

Varner had just joined the force when the murder happened. According to Varner, the Arkansas State Crime Lab determined it was .25 caliber hand gun - a small gun. The knife used in the murder was a small pocket knife. It left cuts deep enough to injure, but shallow enough there was no bruising.

"It was extreme overkill," Varner said. "More like a personal vendetta against this person. They wanted her to suffer."

The killer tried to cover up the crime by setting fire to the house in two spots. Alberda's body was discovered in her parent's bedroom.

Monette had never seen this kind of brutality, and the Alberda family believes first responders didn't know how to deal with the carnage.

"They took her body out before investigators got there," Gena Alberda said. "They were shoveling stuff out the window when we got there, and none of that should have been done."

The family believes crucial evidence may have been lost, even though the lead investigator at the time cast a wide net.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about this case or wonder about it, I've prayed about it I talked about it. I've interviewed over 700 people," Chief Investigator T.R. Howell said.

More than 700 people in a town of 1,200, but all leads were dead ends.

"We thought it would be solved that night," said Rick Alberda, Sandra's brother. "And then the next day, and the next day and the next week, month, years, until here we are today."

Within the past decade. new technology made retesting the evidence easier, but investigators say there are still no solid leads. Sandy Alberda's family feels certain she knew her killer.

"She was familiar with her attacker, because it was such an overkill," Varner said. "It wasn't just a random girl picked out of small town in northeast Arkansas. I feel she knew the person that attacked her."

Today, the house where Sandy was attacked is gone, and only an empty grave remains - not too far from where she is buried next to her father. As they visit the grave, the Alberda family hopes to soon have answers that will allow Sandy to rest in peace, and give them peace of mind.

"If anybody's out there who knows anything, we could use some help," they said.

Sandra Alberda was murdered September 30th, 1986 in Monette, Arkansas. The last person known to see her alive was her best friend, who died years later. With little to no DNA to go on, investigators hope someone sees this story and can help.

Call the Craighead County Sheriff's Department if you have information that could help investigators.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.