UPDATE: Man indicted in East Ridge homicide of girlfriend from 2 - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Man charged with murder in 16-yr-old East Ridge cold case

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Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry
EAST RIDGE, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: A Michigan man was indicted Tuesday afternoon by the Hamilton County Grand Jury in the June, 2000 death of Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry.

Jason Kirk Sanford, 43, of Westland, Michigan was indicted for first-degree murder of his former girlfriend.

Each year for the past 16 years Sarah Davis Perry's family would check in with East Ridge detectives to see if there were any new leads in her murder case.

Sarah's mother said she's been persistent and has never given up hope that her killer would be found.

"I said this Cold Case Unit? I said they will look at Sarah's case," Pam Hilton said.

Hilton's only child went missing 16 years ago.

"I heard it on the radio that they had found a body in the creek in East Ridge and we had been looking for Sarah for two days," she said.

That's when she learned her 21-year-old daughter, and mother of two, was found dead in a garbage can.
    
Police said Sarah had been strangled.
    
Right away, her mother suspected her estranged boyfriend committed the crime, saying Sarah mentioned he had been abusive.

"She was also distraught that she might possibly have been in a physically violent relationship."

Police said their main suspect has always been her boyfriend Jason Sanford but there wasn't enough evidence to make an arrest.
    
Shortly after Sarah's death, Sanford bought a one-way ticket to Michigan.

"Of course we did wonder why didn't they? Why wasn't this happening, and why wasn't an arrest made?" Hilton said.

Sarah's family said the past 16 years have been difficult, not knowing if her children would ever learn what really happened.
    
Six months before Sarah's death, she asked her mom to adopt her son Jacob.

"To me that was the strongest thing she's ever done in her life was to give us up for adoption," said her son Jacob Carr Frederick, "I'd love my mom either way, and I love my mom right here."

In May, Hilton contacted the Hamilton County Cold Case Unit.

HCSO Detective Brian Ashburn, assigned to the CCU talked with her and then began a review of the case file and felt the case could be solved.  

Ashburn and CCU investigator Michael Ray went to Detroit to conduct interviews in the case. 

Tuesday afternoon District Attorney General Neal Pinkston and CCU Supervisor Mike Mathis presented the case to the Grand Jury. 

Sanford is currently being held in the Westland, Michigan jail pending extradition. A Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office fugitive team is expected to travel to Detroit in the coming days to pick up the defendant and return him to Hamilton County.

"I knew that this day would be coming, I couldn't tell you how happy I am today," Hilton said, "It has been the persistence, it really has been the team that never forgot about this case."

This is the third murder indictment from the Cold Case Unit since it began two years ago.


According to the Hamilton County Cold Case Unit, Sarah Lea (Davis) Perry, 21, was last seen on the morning of Wednesday, June 14, 2000. 

The next day, two 12-year old boys playing in Spring Creek off the 1600 block of Springvale Rd in East Ridge and discovered garbage can. One of the boys dared the other to open the lid and inside the can was the partially nude body of Sarah Perry. 

Perry, herself a young mother with two small boys of her own, had been strangled.  

Hours before she disappeared, Perry called East Ridge Police to request they check her home on Lockhart Lane for her estranged boyfriend, Jason Sanford. 

She said Sanford had threatened to hurt her and was trying to find her. An hour later, at 5:11am, a police officer stopped to talk to her as she walked along the 6400 block of Ringgold Road. She told the officer Jason Sanford was angry because she had ended their relationship. Several other witnesses reported seeing Sarah Perry in East Ridge. She was last seen alive at 8:30 that morning. 

The following evening after the discovery of Sarah Perry’s body, Jason Sanford bought a one-way ticket and boarded a Greyhound bus to Detroit, Michigan. 

He has since been living in the Detroit metro area. 

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