Fourteen years and counting...
by Robert A. Waters
Sometime between Aug. 12 and 15, 1997, 73-year-old Pluma Bell Sanford was murdered in her home near Fort Walton Beach, Florida. A widow, Sanford was a creature of habit. She attended the Sanctuary of Praise Assembly of God Church every time the doors opened. Each Wednesday and Thursday she volunteered at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. She loved to tend her garden and go for walks in her neghborhood.
In short, Sanford didn't fit the profile of many murder victims. Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Keith Matz told the media that “there wasn’t anything she was doing to provoke any of this, as far as we know.”
Yet someone came into her home, bound her hands and feet with her own stockings, savagely beat her, and strangled her to death. Investigators collected a DNA sample from an unknown male and said the elderly woman may have been raped.
The sheriff's department has obtained DNA from convicted offenders in the area as well as friends and neighbors of the victim. Samples were also placed in the FBI's CODIS database (Combined DNA Index System). So far, there has been no match.
Sanford was featured as the six of spades on the third edition of Florida's Cold Case Playing Cards. Detectives hope that an inmate in the state's prison system might see her picture and provide information about her murder.
This is the kind of case the death penalty is made for. Someday Pluma Bell Sanford's killer will slip up and get caught. Here's hoping he ends up on the short end of a long needle.