The daughter of a woman left dead in a shallow roadside grave more than 30 years ago is back in the area, helping police unlock this cold case and find a killer.
Sequoyah County Sheriff's Office are now heating up the cold case involving the 1978 homicide of Sandra Carter Davis.
The investigation, already leading investigators to a person of interest, according to Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart.
“We have a person of interest that was developed in 1978,” Lockhart said. “He was basically the prime suspect. But for one reason or another, he slipped through the area and he's still free.”
"You know it haunts me," Davis' daughter, Kristi Soileau, said. "Her murder. Her fear. I want to know who did it. I want to be able to talk to them. I want to look them in the face and just say, 'You know that was my mom.'"
Davis was last seen at Ray's Bar in Sallisaw, on June 2, 1978. Her body was found in a shallow grave south of town the following November.
"I was three," Soileau said, fighting back tears. "I had just turned three and that's when she was taken. They found her on Thanksgiving Day."
Soileau said she was told growing up that her mother died of natural causes. It wasn't until she turned 11, and saw a newspaper clipping about her mother's death in a scrapbook, that she found out the truth.
According to reports from 1978, two hunters discovered Davis' body in an open field near the base of Wild Horse Mountain. Lockhart said evidence collected at the scene in 1978 pointed to the victim being stabbed to death.
"We think she was probably stabbed," Lockhart said. "There was evidence written in the case file and in the medical examiners report. Some of her ribs were broken."
Now, investigators are digging through old files, looking at what happened and what was collected more than 30 years ago, hoping to hold her killer responsible. Several people were interviewed after Davis' body was found in 1978, Lockhart said. However, no arrests were made.
"Being able to go back to the family and say, 'Your loved one that disappeared or that died 30 years ago, 40 years ago, we now know exactly what happened and who did it and were going to go get him' I mean I can't imagine how wonderful that would make the family feel to know that finally justice is being done for them and their loved one," Lynn Lisk, a law professor at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith said.
"It's pretty promising," Lockhart said, in reference to closing the case. "I don't know if we will be able to get there because 35 years later witnesses have died. Evidence was destroyed. But, you know, I think it's promising."
"Not only do I want to know who, I want to know how and why," Soileau said. "I want to know everything. I want to know what happened to her from the time she went missing to her death. It looks like before it's all said and done I might actually get to know that."
Lockhart said tevidence collected back in 1978 is now being sent off for DNA testing.
"It's going to take a while," Lockhart said. "It's not an overnight case. When you have a homicide your most crucial time is the first 48 hours. So when you're talking 35 years later, it's going to take some time."
"I honestly can't believe that after 35 years we could possibly have answers," Soileau said. "Thank you, Jesus. You've answered my prayers."
Lockhart said the Sequoyah County Sheriff's Office asked for the case file from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, who used to handle all of the homicides, after a family member called and asked that the case be reopened.
Anyone with any information about the case is asked to call the sheriff's department at (918) 775-1214.