Turning seven may not be memorable for most, but for Kristie Sanders Chandler, it was the day that changed her life forever.
Kristie, just minutes into her seventh birthday party, looked around for her older sister Monica. Though she had planned the party for Kristie, Monica never showed up that day, which family members say sounded a red alarm.
Kristie never saw her big sister again.
“I had the party but I knew something was bad wrong for Monica to miss it,” Doris Sanders, Monica’s mother told Dateline NBC.
Monica was last seen on August 20, 1988, the night before Kristie’s birthday. She was out with friends at a local dance club.
Monica’s family contacted police immediately after she missed the party. Nine days later, Monica’s body was discovered in a nearby forest. She had been sexually assaulted and shot three times in the chest.
“She was such a sweet and kind-hearted person,” Kristie Sanders Chandler told Dateline NBC. “She loved to take me on her moped and we would just spend time together.”
On the night of her murder, Monica was seen leaving a dance club with a man who lived “a couple blocks from us,” according to Kristie.
At the time of the murder, multiple suspects were arrested, according to retired Miller County Sheriff H.L. Phillips, one of the first people to investigate Monica’s case.
“We made an arrest, then we made two, then we actually made three arrests,” Phillips told Dateline NBC.
The first suspect, the man last seen with Monica, was eventually tried for first-degree murder in August 1990, but was acquitted by a jury.
Monica’s family did everything in their power to find answers about Monica’s brutal murder. Her mother Doris switched gears from searching for her daughter, to searching for her killer.
“There were three main subjects and my mom even went and knocked on their doors, looking for information about Monica’s death,” said Kristie.
Despite 27 years of investigation and family efforts, Monica’s murder remains unsolved.
“Every day of my life, I think of Monica and what she would be like now,” said Doris Sanders. “Monica’s killer is still around somewhere.”
The investigation into Monica Sanders’ murder remains open. Although now retired, former Sheriff Phillips is hopeful it will one day be solved.
“I know something will come out of this case in the near future,” Phillips told Dateline NBC.
But for family members, the pain is still as raw as it was on that day meant for an innocent birthday party.
Kristie choked up as she remembered her sister.
“We would just like someone to come forward with what they know,” said Kristie. “It’s been 27 years and it’s time for justice. I hope and pray that someone comes forward with what they know. Our family has suffered dearly.”
Because Monica was known for her love of children, a city park was dedicated in her name. The children who play there now are the same age as Kristie was when Monica disappeared so many years ago.
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call the Miller County Sheriff’s Department at 870-774-3001.