Woman's unsolved death haunts family, friends

Police promises of solution unfulfilled 8 months after killing

July 09, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

When a 35-year-old mother was savagely stabbed to death in her Elkridge home last November, teams of detectives worked the case as Police Chief Wayne Livesay pledged to solve it.

Eight months later, they've made no arrests.

"We're still aggressively pursuing this investigation," Livesay said recently. "I'm as confident as I was eight months ago that we'll solve it. I have a lot of confidence in our investigators."

Family and friends of Sara J. Williamson Raras grieve over the death and are having difficulty putting the unsolved crime behind them. Raras' sister, Nancy Lewis, no longer feels safe walking down the streets of Montgomery, Ala., her home. She finds herself looking over her shoulder and has even hired security experts to bolster her home's alarm system.

"This has been the toughest thing I've ever had to face, ever in my life," Lewis said in a telephone interview. "My sister was such an important part of our family."

Raras, a statistician with the National Security Agency, was known as a friendly woman who would do anything for a friend or her then 1-year-old son.

To friends and relatives, her violent death belies her good nature.

Authorities were summoned to Raras' home Nov. 15 by a worried friend. There, they found Raras, viciously stabbed in the family room in the home in the 6000 block of Meadowfield Court.

In the hours after the killing, police focused on Raras' estranged husband, who was battling his wife in divorce proceedings over custody of their child, who spent that weekend with his father.

Police won't comment on the case, and Lorenzo Raras declined to be interviewed.

Other family members are talking about their desire for justice and how the crime has changed their lives. Most friends declined to be identified, worried that what they say might upset the killer.

They are sad that the killer is roaming free and "laughing," as one friend said.

After Raras' death, friends formed a loose network that peppers police with weekly phone calls, asking questions that are rarely answered by investigators.

The friends have also complained that police have given them unrealistic timetables for solving the crime. "They kept saying, `In a few months,' " one friend said, "and nothing happened."

Lewis said she had the same problem. Police wouldn't answer her questions or return her calls. She just wanted to hear that Howard County detectives were still working on the case.

Several weeks ago, Sgt. David Shickner, who heads the violent crime squad, began calling her with reports, Lewis said, and promised to keep in touch.

But regular phone calls are little consolation to Lewis, her husband and her two daughters, who have all endured countless sleepless nights. A few months ago, her 8-year-old daughter even returned from school with a long, sad letter about her aunt's death.

"She said she thinks about my sister everyday and cries," Lewis said. "She said she cries herself to sleep everyday at night. She adored my sister."

Since the homicide, Lewis has learned to shoot a gun but declines to say whether she carries one. She grew up in rural New Mexico but now feels like many city dwellers who fear crime everyday.

"I think I'll have this fear forever," she says.

A few times a week, Lewis visits her younger sister's grave in Alabama but the guilt overcomes her.

"I feel this great need to apologize," she said. "I feel like I failed her. I was the big sister, the protector."

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