HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)–Saturday July 25, 1998 was a day that Rita Williams and her daughter Andrea Michelle Taylor–or Arnie, as loved ones called her–had planned to spend together.
Arnie is described as outgoing, with a bubbly personality, known for being the life of the party. She also recognized the importance of education, and the 31-year-old was working on finishing her college degree so she could follow in mom’s teaching footsteps.
“Arnie was just a people person, a family person,” her mother Rita Williams recollected with CBS 6.
Shortly after six that July Saturday morning, one of Taylor’s neighbors heard screams and called 911.
Henrico police raced to 2718 Byron Street in Glenwood Farms.
Police found Taylor’s body, on a sidewalk behind her apartment. Detective Joe Schihl said the front door was open and a bathroom screen was cut, with a pair of pliers laying on the ground not far away.
Detective Schihl said that inside of the Williams’ home were signs of a deadly struggle.
“There is a sequence of blood trails in each room from the bedroom all the way through the hallway and into the front room,” he said.
Their theory is that the intruder startled Taylor awake and she confronted him in the hallway.
She was stabbed repeatedly as she desperately tried to get away, eventually getting outside and collapsing a few steps from her back door.
Investigators noted that Arnie was seen in the Mechanicsville Waymart about six hours before her death.
Likely her killer was the only person who came into contact with her after that.
The killer vanished, leaving behind many questions, but only a few clues. Nearly 15 years have passed without an arrest.
“It was determined that there are some unknown pieces of evidence in the house including some latent prints that haven’t been identified,” said Detective Schihl.
“You never get over it, you never get over it; it’s something you take with you until you leave,” said Rita. “No one can describe a mother’s pain…that for me is the worst pain a mother can have.”
But while the case may have gone cold, the passion to bring Taylor’s killer to justice still burns and fuels investigators. In recent months they’ve taken a fresh look at the case and will soon submit evidence to be analyzed with new technology.
“I think DNA evidence is almost our best hope again,” Jennifer Shouse-Pearman said, a patrol officer working the day Taylor was killed. Now she works in forensics.
“There was evidence in this case submitted as recently as 2002 but even since 2002 the technology has changed,” Shouse-Pearman said. “Back in 2002 they didn’t have touch DNA capabilities like now, so although there may not have been blood on the knife, if an offender was holding the knife then maybe we can get that offender’s DNA off of the handle. We couldn’t do that in 1998 or in 2002,now it’s commonplace.”
Schihl and Shouse-Pearman know their work on this case gives Taylor’s family hope.
“I hope it gives them a sense of their loved one isn’t forgotten,” Shouse-Pearman said.
Detectives say that no lead is too small.
“There are people with the passage of time who will remember or hear something that will jog their memory, so that’s what we hope, to generate that kind of information,” Detective Schihl said.
“You have to face it,” said Williams. “We had to face a loss, you have to face your crime”
Until that day, Williams, her daughter Tiffany, and their family continue to lean on each other for strength and look to the memories of their own special angel.
“Yes, she’s our angel looking down on us; she’s making sure we’re safe,” she said.