Family of cold case murder victim sets up reward 26 years later

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sandersMonica Sanders of Fouke, Ark., was 20 years old when she was found dead in the secluded woods of Mercer Bayou in Texarkana. She had been raped, beaten and shot three times in the chest. Teeth had been knocked out of her mouth, but her clothes were neatly folded beside her body.

That was August of 1988. Her killer, or killers, have never been brought to justice.

“I’ve been sharing her picture on Facebook, and what happened to her, hoping to bring attention to her case, and praying that someone will see it that knows something,” said her sister, Kristie Sanders Chandler.

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Monica went to a popular dance club in Texarkana, Ark., the night she disappeared. She was seen leaving with a man who was later put on trial for first degree murder. He was found innocent of the crime in August of 1990.

“It (her death) happened on my seventh birthday,” Chandler said. “That’s how my mom knew something was wrong. Monica had planned me a party and she never showed up. She would have never missed my birthday. It’s hard to talk about, but we want this solved and we want justice done so we try to stay strong,” Chandler said.

Today, Chandler has a Facebook page to help spread the word about her sister in hopes that people will come forward with information. The Facebook group is called Prayers-Justice for Monica Sanders and may be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/257064827817191/

When the murder happened 26 years ago, H.L. Phillips was the Miller County Sheriff, Jim Hudson was the prosecuting attorney, Joe Wray was the assistant prosecutor and Hayes McWhirter was the Miller County Police investigator.

When asked why he thinks the case remains unsolved after all these years, the former sheriff gave a matter-of-fact response.

“It was solved. It was a multiple-offender case. The other suspects are known. The case remains open. Hopefully, with additional evidence they will be charged,” Phillips said.

Chandler said there rumors abound about missing evidence in her sister’s case and about people being threatened if they forward with evidence. “I don’t know for a fact but I do know there’s something not right about it,” she said.

One thing is certain. DNA evidence was not widely used in murder trials when suspects were rounded up after Monica’s death. DNA was still in its infancy in the courtroom and not yet considered by the scientific community to be an accurate form of forensic science like fingerprints.

But that was then.

Today, of course, DNA testing is considered the cornerstone of all evidence and is widely accepted to be 99.9 if not 100 percent accurate. Chandler said she hopes the case is re-opened and that DNA evidence is used to prosecute those responsible for her sister’s brutal murder.

“Monica was so pretty. She loved the color purple and riding horses. She used to always take me to her best friend’s house across the street and we would watch scary movies. She was always riding me on her moped,” Chandler said.

The family hopes to begin fundraisers in the fall and has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to give as rewards for information leading to the prosecution of those involved in Monica’s death. The site is: http://www.gofundme.com/dldq88 and anyone wishing to donate to that site is encouraged to do so. Anyone with information about Monica’s death is encouraged to contact the police.

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