ALCOA (WATE) - Why would someone viciously rape and stab an 80-year-old Alcoa woman in her home?
It's a question police have not been able to answer since Ermaline Croft was found murdered in her Garfield Street home in December 1990.
Croft was the mother of five children, active in her church and the community. She was a widow who had lived alone for the last few years of her life.
People in that quiet, suburban community called her "Granny" because she was a grandmother figure to everyone in the neighborhood.
No one expected to find her murdered in such a gruesome way.
"She was not your typical 80 year old, that's for sure. She drove. She was always helping someone, taking someone someplace, or doing something for them," says her neighbor, Anna Brewer.
It was Brewer who opened the door to the crime scene 20 years ago. Croft had not been heard from in a few days and her children called asking someone to check on her.
"I still always think about it. I always think about it," Brewer said.
"The crime scene photos are pretty horrific. It was a pretty gruesome type murder. She was stabbed repeatedly by several objects. They raped and sodomized her," says Detective Kris Sanders with the Alcoa Police Department.
Detective Sanders believes the crime was done by someone who hated her and clearly wanted to watch her suffer.
For example, one of several sharp objects used to attack Croft was a fork from her kitchen drawer.
"I would characterize it as a very intimate killing. It was someone who was familiar with her, who knew her. If it was a stranger killing, it would not have been so gruesome," Detective Sanders said.
No one who knew Croft has been the same since then. "Living so close, it's a constant reminder. I always think about it," Brewer said.
Investigators have taped interviews with dozens of friends and relatives, but they say those have gone nowhere.
"You still wonder, are they still around? Who are they? Where are they?" Brewer said.
Most of Croft's five children are alive and in their 70's now. For years, they did interviews hoping investigators would find their mother's killer. Now they say it's too emotionally difficult to revisit those details all these years later.
If you have information on the murder of Ermaline Croft, call the Alcoa Police Department at 865-380-4964.
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