Aunt pushes for answers in Halloween 2012 murder of niece Sara McPherson, who was fatally shot hours after trick-or-treating with her children in Tennessee

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By Andrea Cavallier

Sara Gillespie McPherson spent Halloween 2012 trick-or-treating with her two children in their Mt. Juliet, Tennessee neighborhood. Hours later, the 35-year-old was murdered.

Sara grew up in Rupert, Idaho. She graduated from Minidoka High School in 1995 and earned a degree in accounting two years later.

She met William McPherson in Boise, Idaho, and they were married on October 31, 2001. They moved to William’s hometown of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, and had two children, Jack and Rebekah.

Family members told Dateline that Sara and William were in the middle of the divorce process the night of their 11th anniversary. They were separated and living in different houses. But that Halloween night, they decided to meet up to take their children, who were ages 11 and 7, trick-or-treating.

Hours later, around 1:15 a.m. on November 1, a patrolman with the Mt. Juliet Police Department, noticed a 2002 Mitsubishi Diamante parked at a U-Store-It facility with its lights on. Sara was dead in the driver’s seat. She had been fatally shot, police said, adding that it most likely happened around 10 p.m. on Halloween night.

Sergeant Thomas Shelton did not originally work on Sara’s case, but a few years later, decided to take it over. He told Dateline that from the beginning, law enforcement did not believe Sara’s killing was random and that they believe she went to the facility to meet someone. That “someone” has not been identified by the police.

Sgt. Shelton said a suspect has not been named in Sara’s case.

“This is a cold case, but an active one. And we’re hoping to have some answers soon,” Sgt. Shelton said. “We want to be able to give hope and relief to Sara’s family.”

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Sara’s aunt, Gayla Moog, who lives in Moses Lake, Washington, said they were close when Sara was young, and spent many summers together in Idaho.

Gayla said one word came to mind when asked to describe her niece.

“Bubbly. And she had this great, big, beautiful smile. And long, flowing red hair that fit her personality just right,” Gayla told Dateline. “She never let anything, or anyone get her down.”

Gayla said Sara always put on a smile no matter what.

After Sara’s death, her family tried to keep in contact with her children, Jack and Rebekah.

Gayla told Dateline that Sara’s parents, Gerald and LoRye Gillespie, were told by the police that her Sara’s husband, William, and the children, moved in with

William’s mother in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, and that he offered them a current phone number. But Gayla said that when LoRye called, the person who picked up said it was the wrong number.

Gayla told Dateline Sara’s parents have been living a nightmare for years and she would like to see closure for the entire family. Several years before losing Sara, Gerald and LoRye’s oldest son was killed in a car crash.

“We’re all just very frustrated and would like some closure,” Gayla said. “Some people call me pushy, but I’m not going to stop until I get answers. I’m always looking for answers.”

Gayla told Dateline she posts about Sara often on Facebook, especially on Halloween, hoping to keep her story alive.

“She touched so many lives. Every time I post on Facebook, a friend or even someone she met briefly will comment and write about how much she meant to them.

She’s just so missed.”

One of Sara’s friends, Leanne Dean, commented on the page “Remembering Sara McPherson,” “I miss her so much. We would eat lunch together sometimes. I saw her the night before she was murdered and she was happy to take [her] kids trick-or-treating. She was a sweet and caring woman who is forever missed. #justiceforsara.”

Another friend, James Scruggs, commented, “I passed by the storage lot this morning and had to hold back my tears.... then I remembered Sara's smile, and how her and I always got to laugh when working together. Sara, you may be gone, but you are not forgotten.”

If you have any information about the murder of Sara Gillespie McPherson, call Sgt. Thomas Shelton at the Mt. Juliet Tennessee Police Department at (615) 754-3918 or (615) 754-TIPS.