The Murder of Sandra Howard
I love hearing about cases that have been solved after many years, or decades. However, the problem with these cases is that the older they are, the more difficult it is to get all of the information and make sure that information is correct. Such is the case in the death of Sandra Howard in 1975. So, the question lies for me whether to tell the story at all without all of the facts. This is a case though that I have seen on crime shows over the years and while many murders are heartbreaking and senseless, this one seems more so for many reasons. It is one of those cases in which a simple sentence reminds you exactly what case it was. In this case it is the story that Sandra Howard was a newlywed and every month on their anniversary she and her new husband, David, shared a piece of wedding cake. They made it nearly five months but on this particular anniversary, David was going to be out of town. He took some cake with him and while they would not be together when they ate it, they did plan to have it at the same time.
On the morning of April 21, 1975 David Howard was taken to the airport for his trip by his in-laws from his San Jose California home. Sandra was a student teacher and when he left David had no way of knowing it would be the last time he would see his twenty-two year old bride. Sandra did not make it to work that day and it was her parents who would find her body in her apartment that evening. They found their daughter bound and tied on her bed with a cake knife sticking out of her chest.
David was quickly eliminated as a suspect as it was proven he was out of town. I am sure that there were still rumors and speculation as to if he was involved in any way, even in 1975. Thankfully for David it appears that no one who knew him truly believed he was involved, which was most important. But still, it would be over thirty years before the case would be solved.
Despite the fact that Sandra had obviously been raped and semen was present, DNA testing was decades in the future. Sandra's hands had been bound behind her back with a man's necktie while another necktie was placed tightly around her neck. In today's world DNA could have likely even been found on the neckties and I cannot honestly say if they were preserved over time, but investigators had collected the semen.
In November of 2005 investigators were working on cold cases, including the case of Sandra Howard. They sent the semen sample that had been collected to a lab to be tested for DNA. It took over a year but in December of 2006 the results came back matching to a man named Edwards Dees. Investigators did not have to look far to find Dees. He was in prison and had been since apparently not long after Sandra's murder. He was serving a life sentence from four cases of rape and sexual assault unrelated to Sandra. Investigators went to work building a case to prove that Dees had been in the San Jose area on April 21, 1975. In January of 2008 Edward Dees was officially charged in the murder of Sandra Howard.
Here is where more of the information becomes a bit sketchy. It seems that Dees initially pleaded not guilty, which is common in nearly every case. I can only assume that while investigators were obviously working on the case they were not pushing it through fast, knowing that Dees was not going to be out on the streets anyway. It appears that the prosecutors got permission from the judge to not only enter evidence from the crimes that Dees had been previously been convicted but of other sexual assaults that he had been accused. It was said there were thirteen women prepared to testify against Dees at his trial.
In February of 2011 Edward Dees pleaded no contest in the murder of Sandra Howard. The lack of a trial prevented more details coming out, not to mention the fact that in most pleas there are never appeals that will also spell out the story. Articles surrounding his plea deal stated that he was to be sentenced the following month and by using guidelines from 1975 he was looking at seven years to life. Keep in mind the death penalty was not an option, something Sandra's family would have liked to have seen. I could not find an article to state exactly what Dees received nor does the California Department of Corrections say much more than the inmate is there, and where, but one website states that he was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. I suspect there was little fanfare about his sentence since according to the prosecutor it really mattered little what Dees' received as he would likely die in prison regardless. His sentence in essence was to close a case and bring what investigators felt closure for them and Sandra's family.