Fuquay-Varina police start from scratch on 2011 cold-case murder

Wake County News

FUQUAY-VARINA, N.C. (WNCN) – Years have passed since Gladys Holland lost her daughter. Police now are starting from scratch to investigate the cold case. 

By all accounts, Sandra Thomas went to a neighborhood party. The house where the party occurred is now a vacant lot and is a 10-minute walk from where the 41-year-old was found dead in March 2011. 

“I’d be watching up the road and I can just see her saying, ‘Hey, Ms. Gladys.’ You know, throwing up her hand coming down the road,” Holland said. “I think I stayed in shock for a while. Not only that day, but for a week or so. It just shocked me. I still can’t believe it.”

Police said Thomas was stabbed, beaten, and then hit with her car and dragged down the road. She survived for a period of time. Someone heard her cries for help, but when they went outside, they didn’t hear anything.

She struggled to pull herself out of a ditch and pulled off her already ripped clothing. But, sadly, she couldn’t save her own life.

Thomas was found hours later, dead, face down in the mud, police said.

Fuquay-Varina detective Cindy Perna has now taken over the case. She commented on the state of mind of the killer.

“They were emotional about it. They were passionate about it. They were angry with her,” she said.

Perna said she’s thoroughly reviewing the case file and is following new leads.  

“To actually be hands-on and going through the files, reading the reports, reviewing all the interviews, the supplements, the tips that came in, the leads that were pursued — I just felt like we could be doing more,” Perna said.

Police do not believe sexual assault or robbery was a motive. 

New technology could help with the renewed investigation. Paint chips are currently being analyzed at the North Carolina State Crime Lab. It could take up to six months to get those results back.

Perna hopes it will break the case. Originally, older technology did not lead to a significant finding after it was used to analyze paint chips found on Sandra’s clothing.

“We were not successful in developing a specific vehicle from those paint chips. However, as persons of interest are presented, we are comparing their paint chips to those found on her person to determine if they are a match,” said Perna.

Holland said, as far as she knows, there was no indication anyone would want to hurt her daughter.

“No, because she had many friends and everybody loved her. I mean everybody loved her,” Gladys said.

But, no one loved as much as her mother her son, who was 10 years old at the time of her death.

“But, for me, God as my witness, there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. Not a day,” she said.

Perna believes she will close the case and give Holland the answers she desperately wants and deserves.

“I will not give up. I will not stop until I know every lead is exhausted or I’ve put somebody in jail for this,” said Perna.

That’s enough for Gladys to keep looking forward and holding on to faith.

“I’ve got a lot of hope and I know in my mind this case is going to be solved. I know it is,” said Gladys. 

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