Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 26, 2011

Police seek information in 22-year-old murder case of Bluefield woman

PRINCETON — One Sunday morning more than 22 years ago, a convenience store clerk was shot and killed at a local store. Few clues were available then, and today investigators are still seeking fresh information that could lead them to who murdered 39-year-old Sandra Worrell of Bluefield.

The case started at 7 a.m. on Jan 29, 1989 when Trooper K.J. Foreman of the West Virginia State Police detachment near Princeton responded to a call at the Little General Store on Oakvale Road. Worrell, a mother of two children, had been shot and killed. She was found behind the store's counter.

Since that time, the case has been the thoroughly revisited and checked, said the trooper now reviewing the cold case, Sgt. W.A. Pendleton. He opened the thick case file. Even today, the exact motive behind the crime is unknown.

“There's a couple of different motives we're not 100 percent clear on,” Pendleton said. “It could have been a robbery, it could have been retaliation. No one is sure at this point until we can identify a clear suspect in this case.”

One possibility is that the murder was the result of a robbery gone bad. The store, which is now gone, was close to Interstate 77, he said. It could also have been a crime of passion that was made to look like a robbery.

Even now, Pendleton declined to describe what sort of firearm may have been used or reveal the amount of money that was stolen. Both facts may be needed later if a suspect is identified.

 Since that day more than 20 years ago, investigators have revisited the case. Foreman, who was then a young trooper, is now deputy superintendent of the West Virginia State Police, Pendleton said.

“Looking at the report and speaking with him, he worked tirelessly, him and the other troopers on the case. And I believe Sgt. Mike Spradlin looked at the case. Sheriff (Don) Meadows was around at the time and he worked on it tirelessly along with Trooper Foreman.”

Numerous leads were checked when the search for Sandra Worrell's killer began, but the case needs fresh information in order to move forward, he said.

“We're looking for something fresh and new,” Pendleton explained. “We just want to let it be known that something of this magnitude, the death of someone, just does not get tossed aside.”

When a cold case gets yet another look and investigators are searching for fresh leads, the Internet can help get the word out to people who need to hear it. Stories like the ones published in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph can be read by former residents who are now living out of state, Pendleton said.

“It's very accessible through the Internet,” he added. “Up and down the East Coast, people who keep up with Princeton and Bluefield news can read it online, and they might say, 'You know, maybe it's time I said something.'”

The store where Worrell worked has been torn down and much of the landscape around Oakvale Road near Princeton has changed, but whoever took her life may not have changed very much, Pendleton pointed out. “Twenty years is not a very long time. The person who killed Worrell could have conceivably been in his or her twenties. They could still be young today,” he said.

Anyone with information can call the West Virginia State Police anonymously at 304-425-2102 and speak with Pendleton or any of the other troopers.

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