Davidson police are making a new plea for help finding evidence to solve an 18-month-old murder case. North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers are offering a $1,000 reward as police continue investigating the mysterious death of 41-year-old Sarah Long in July 2014.
Long, who had worked as a buyer for Lowe’s Corp., in Mooresville, was found dead of a gunshot in her townhouse off I-77 Exit 30. Police initially thought it was a suicide, but later called it a homicide.
I followed this case closely at DavidsonNews.net, and I’ve continued checking in on the investigation.
Major unanswered questions include who might have been with Long on the night of her death and how she wound up dead with a gun in her left hand, even though she was right handed.
Police have gathered a variety of physical and electronic evidence, including cell phone records and computer gear. And they’ve interviewed neighbors, friends and family.
But so far, they’ve been unable to solve the crime.
Long was found dead July 23, 2014, at her condo on 611 Old Meeting Way, off Davidson Gateway Drive in Davidson’s Exit 30 area. It’s a relatively quiet neighborhood of apartments and townhouses, and when I inquired that day, police said there was no reason for concern. Neighbors I talked to weren’t so sure.
But then in August, police and crime scene investigators from Charlotte returned to the condo for days, prompting a new wave of rumors among neighbors. Though police had not yet discussed her death, neighbors said the woman died of a gunshot, possibly several days before she was found.
Finally, on Aug. 20, 2014, Davidson Police issued a statement saying Long had been shot, and asking for the public’s help. The statement said: “Further investigation of the scene developed circumstances that appear suspicious, therefore the Davidson Police Department is continuing its investigation into this matter.”
They’ve been gathering evidence ever since, and the case has taken several twists. Here’s a recap, taken from articles I wrote for DavidsonNews.net:
Search warrants and a medical examiner’s report said Long was found with a single gunshot wound just above her left ear, and a .357 Taurus revolver in her left hand.
But she was right handed.
That and other details puzzled police. One search warrant said no blood was found on Long’s left hand, which lay across her chest with the weapon.
Neighbors had told police in the days after her death that they saw Long with a “tall, unidentified man” the night of her death. With the phone records and searches of a wireless router and other electronic devices, police hoped they could identify him. But that hasn’t happened.
By October 2014, Davidson police were getting help from the state Bureau of Investigation and the FBI as they tried to crack the case. At that time, police said they had “suspects” they would not identify, and were pressing their investigation.
ESTATE BATTLE BEGINS
Around that time, I learned that shortly after her death, the two men closest to Long – her boyfriend and her estranged husband – had begun battling in court over who should inherit her estate.
The estate included investments, her townhouse, and other assets that people close to the family said were worth around $980,000 in total. Court documents showed the two men later reached an agreement to share the estate, over the objections of other family members.
William Drew Becker, Long’s boyfriend at the time of her death and the man who reported her missing, filed a will with the court, which Sarah Long had signed in May 2014. It named him as sole beneficiary of any assets that didn’t already have beneficiaries named.
Becker said in a court filing that “unbeknownst to him,” Sarah Long also had made him the beneficiary of other investment accounts and assets she held.
Christopher Reeves, Long’s estranged husband, opened the estate proceedings, claiming he was entitled to a share of Long’s estate. Under NC law, a spouse is entitled to 15 percent of an estate even if it’s not specified in a will.
At Reeves’ request, a judge put a hold on the estate until the court could sort out his claim. Because of the dispute, Reeves asked the court to appoint a third-party administrator, Charlotte lawyer Michael Allen, to oversee the estate.
Meanwhile, Long’s father, Larry Long of Kentucky, tried to halt the proceedings. He filed a request for a temporary injunction and restraining order against Becker. But a judge dismissed his request.
As the three men – Larry Long, Becker and Reeves – filed documents in court in the summer of 2014, they made a variety of allegations against one another.
Larry Long argued in his injunction request that the will was signed under duress, and that Becker was a target of the police investigation.
In a response, Becker replied that the target wasn’t him, it was Reeves, and therefore Reeves might not be entitled to a share of her estate. Becker also alleged that Reeves had abused his wife, citing writings in a journal she left behind and one assault he claims to have seen, according to an affidavit.
Another statement came from John Long, Sarah Long’s brother. He said his sister had inherited a large sum from their mother. He expressed concern that she had agreed to leave the money to Becker, saying, “Sarah was very protective of the money. … She did not spend the money and did not give her husband access to it.”
John Long said he believes it would have been “out of character” to leave the money to Becker.
Another longtime friend told me she intended the money to be used to support her brother, Rusty, who is physically and mentally challenged.
Becker argued that Sarah Long was not in distress, although she had lost her job at Lowe’s a year earlier. He said she had been employed part-time and was working on an online master’s degree.
Then in the fall of 2014, Reeves and Becker suddenly went from adversaries to allies, reaching an agreement to share the estate.
With the settlement, which remains confidential, Reeves asked the court to lift a standstill order, and a judge agreed. In December 2014, Reeves filed a statement with the court acknowledging that the agreement settled his claims on the estate.
At the time Becker could not be reached for comment and his lawyer told me he was going away for the holiday and was not available. I never heard from him.
Reeves did not want to comment directly, but his lawyer, Shawn Copeland of Davidson, said in a statement in December 2014: “This has been a tragic and very difficult time for Mr. Reeves and the rest of Sarah’s family, and he hopes that the ongoing investigation by authorities will resolve the unanswered questions surrounding her untimely death.”
The estate battle and the mysterious circumstances of Long’s death made the case fodder for tabloid and TV headlines. In 2014, the case gained national attention, from CBS News to the NY Daily News to CNN’s Nancy Grace.
As I wrote at the time, “In many respects, it has a made-for-TV movie feel.”
Police have told me several times over the past year and a half they thought they would solve the case soon. But that hasn’t happened.
So they’re appealing again for help.
DAVIDSON POLICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Here’s the Davidson Police announcement today (Jan. 28, 2016):
Davidson Police Department Seeks Information into Homicide of Sarah Catherine Long
DAVIDSON, N.C. – The Davidson Police Department is conducting an ongoing homicide investigation of Sarah Catherine Long, a Davidson resident who was discovered deceased in her home at 611 Old Meeting Way in Davidson on Wednesday, July 23, 2014.
She was found in dead in her home from a single gunshot wound. After further investigation, detectives have determined that Ms. Long’s death was a homicide.
The Davidson Police Department seeks the assistance from the public regarding this homicide. The North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can provide information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) involved with this murder.
If you have any information, please call Davidson Police Lieutenant Steve Ingram at 704-940-9612.