MONETTE, AR (KAIT) – One Region 8 family is living in a nightmare, and have been for more than 25 years. One September night, the body of Sandra Alberda was found in her parent's home with multiple stab and gunshot wounds. According to the Craighead County Sheriff's Office, Sandra was stabbed more than 40 times with a small blade, believed to be a pocket knife. Investigators said she was shot with a .25 caliber handgun.
"This one wasn't a random killing. This one was somebody who definitely had intentions on killing Miss Alberda," said Chief Investigator John Varner with the Craighead County Sheriff's Office. "There were houses around it. It was on one of the main streets of Monette. As I say, it first appeared that it was a house fire and once the firemen got there and extinguished the fire, then they found the victim in the bedroom."
Varner said, to this day, more than 700 people have been interviewed and questioned in the Alberda case. It's one of the oldest cold cases in Region 8. Varner said the case file remains on his desk in his small office in Jonesboro.
On September 29, 1986, Gena Alberda was sitting at home when she got that terrible phone call. She said a friend on the other end told her that her parent's home was on fire. Gena, knowing her parents were away, said she immediately got dressed and headed to 210 N. Nance Street in Monette.
"We were all in just disbelief. We were all just shattered. We were totally taken by surprise," said Gena.
Gena said she learned of her sister's death, but it wasn't until the next day when she learned how she died. Gena said her brother and father broke the news.
In June of this year, as the Alberda family gathered in the Craighead County Courthouse in Lake City, Gena recalled the events immediately after the fire and when she learned her baby sister had been murdered.
"It was about 5:30 one morning. I actually heard an ambulance that kind of woke me up, and it wasn't 15 minutes until someone called me. They said 'Gena, your mom and dad's house is on fire, get down there,'" said Gena. "My dad and my brother had came in after they had been to the police station and told us. We did have suspicions (as to murder). People were acting strange when we would go over to the house. They didn't want us to go in or be around it."
"I knew Sandy's car was there, but I thought, certainly I was praying, that she wasn't in there," said Gena.
Gena said Sandra was a hair stylist in Blytheville. Gena said she didn't think her baby sister had any enemies. Gena said she has an idea of who killed her sister, but no evidence to prove her suspicion.
"It's like trying to fit the pieces of a puzzle, but they don't ever fit. We don't have all the evidence and it doesn't make sense. It should have never happened," said Gena.
Evidence is the same road block police have hit. Varner said investigators need much more information to make an arrest in the Alberda case, considering the arson to cover up the crime and how long ago it happened.
"Even if you just think it's a small lead, it could possibly help. Twenty five years have gone by, almost 26 and a lot of things have changed in the investigative world. Anything that could possibly help, we would like the information. We would like to put this to rest so we could get some closure," said Gena.
Family Makes Plea
Ricky Alberda thought the case would have been solved by now. At the time, he thought police would have been able to make an arrest.
"Then the days kept rolling on and you'd go by the courthouse and there would be people there. (Police) They'd be interviewing them, but nobody ever held accountable for it," said Ricky.
Ricky, with a shaky voice, said his sister would never pick a fight with anyone. He couldn't explain why someone would murder Sandra. He said the case has brought the family closer together.
"We never called each other (until) after that," said Ricky. "I have two sisters and a brother and a mother. My dad passed away a short time ago, but we talk a lot and we talk about this case."
"It's a deep hurt that I can't explain here because it's just inside, it's emptiness, helplessness and you'll never get it back," said Ricky. "You think about it all the time. What could you do? Did you do everything? Did you do enough?"
If you have any information that could help police make an arrest in this case, contact the Craighead County Sheriff's Office at 870-933-4551.
"I believe that there's people who know what took place over there, because this incident happened sometime after midnight on September 29th, so I think someone in the area possibly has information about a suspect," said Varner.