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Both the family members of Sandra R. Long, a 41-year-old woman who was found dead in her car near Lusby two years ago, and the police investigating her murder say they will not give up on searching for those responsible for her death.

Maryland State Police believe there are people in the area who have information about who murdered Sandra Long. Investigators are urging these persons to come forward and provide whatever information they may have, regardless of how insignificant they think it may be. Anyone with information about Long’s murder is asked to contact Sgt. David Sexton of the MSP Homicide Unit at 410-977-1519, the MSP Prince Frederick barrack at 410-535-5520 or Calvert County Crime Solvers at 410-535-2880.

Phyllis Dawkins, Long’s sister, said she was at work Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, when she received a phone call at about 8:30 a.m. from Long’s daughters. They told Dawkins that Long’s employers called them because Long had not shown up for work, she said.

“I said, ‘Well, she probably just got a little deterred, she probably just went elsewhere,’” Dawkins said. “I said, ‘Don’t worry yet,’ because that was one thing we never thought in a million years, that she would be found that way.”

Glenda Johnson, Long’s niece, said it was “very uncharacteristic” for Long to not show up for work in White Sands, just 2 miles from her home in the 11000 block of H.G. Trueman Road in Lusby, without at least calling ahead with an explanation.

“They never received a phone call; she never showed up,” she said.

As the hours crept by with no word from Long, the family said they began to really worry.

Johnson said she received a phone call about Long not showing up to work at about 10 a.m. that day and left her house at 11 a.m. to go looking for her.

“My initial thought was maybe she had a medical emergency and for some reason had driven off the highway in the brush somewhere and no one saw her car,” she said.

Johnson said she drove south on Route 4 from Port Republic to Lusby, “kinda going slow, just looking to see if I saw her car or something.” She turned onto H.G. Trueman Road and when she drove by Camp Canoy Road, she said she “peered over my shoulder and I saw a car there,” a silver Ford Focus. Johnson said she knew her aunt had just purchased a new car but did not know what the make or model was, so she called a family member to find out what type of car Long drove.

“I said I saw it by the church,” Johnson said she told her relative. “[The relative] thought it was the church at the end of Cove Point Road. She had gone out with her husband and saw at the park & ride a silver Focus, and she said, ‘Oh no, we already looked there and that’s not it,’ but that’s not where I was talking about.”

At about 2:30 p.m. that day, Long’s body was found in the front seat of her silver 2009 Ford Focus. The car was parked in the hunters’ parking area of Calvert Cliffs State Park, at the intersection of Camp Canoy and H.G. Trueman roads.

An autopsy determined Long was murdered, according to a Maryland State Police press release. Forensic pathologists determined she died from blunt force trauma.

Investigators believe Long’s car may have been moved to the location where it was found after she was killed. Investigators urge anyone with information about any suspicious people or vehicles that were seen in the Calvert Cliffs State Park area between 7 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. the day Long’s body was found to contact them immediately.

Initially, Dawkins said, the family may have had some reservations about the way the case was handled by the police. Since the early stages of the investigation, police and government officials have met with the family to give them updates and information concerning the case more regularly, she said.

“Now it’s different,” she said. “We’ve met with … government officials at our church and ever since, things have been [better].”

Long’s family and friends have collected more than $5,000 that they are offering as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for her murder, the press release states. The Sandra Long Memorial Fund is offering a reward of up to $5,300 for information. An additional reward of up to $1,000 is also being offered by Calvert County Crime Solvers.

MSP Homicide Unit investigators, assisted by the Calvert County Investigative Team and the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office, continue to investigate the murder.

Both Dawkins and Delois Johnson, Long’s sister and Glenda Johnson’s mother, said their “faith in God and reassurance by many” are keeping them hopeful that those involved in their sister’s murder will be found.

“I hope and pray continuously … that someone will see a newspaper clipping or hear something, and it will prick their hearts to come forth and say something,” Dawkins said. “Someone had to have seen something or heard something. It’s a small county.”

“It’s hard to believe it’s been two years [Nov. 30] and nothing has come out of it ... but we’re still hopeful and prayerful that the Lord will touch the heart of the person or persons that did it,” Delois Johnson said.

The night before Long died, which was a few days after Thanksgiving, Dawkins said she called her to talk about Christmas presents for Long’s daughters. Long told her to just give them money because “they probably won’t like what you buy them,” Dawkins remembered with a smile.

Because Thanksgiving was the last holiday the family spent with Long, Glenda Johnson said, the family tends to reminisce about her more around that time.

“We often look back at that, and those memories of her coming in the house,” she said. “She just made her presence known.”

Delois Johnson agreed it’s hardest to cope with Long’s death around the holidays.

“We’ve been through a few holidays since then and I think about her, not only every day, but during the holidays I think about her more because she was a fun person to be around,” she said.

Dawkins said she hopes to one day be able to ask the person responsible for her sister’s death, “Why?”

“To face that person, to really ask why … that lump that’s here, I say would not be settled totally, but some sort of closure,” she said, pointing to her heart.

Dawkins, who since Long’s death has been writing her thoughts down on paper because “it feels better” to do that, said she wrote in a letter one other question she would like to ask the person or people involved in her sister’s murder. She said she wants to know how they can sit in silence because Long did not deserve “this horrible death.”

“Shame on you if you have any involvement in such a hideous crime,” Dawkins read from her letter. “… If this had happened to a loved one in your family, wouldn’t you want those responsible for such a horrific crime brought to justice? Sandy was a daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, mother, friend. … [She] did not deserve this brutal death. So, this plea is to anyone withholding information: Help us find those who had any involvement in her murder.”

Glenda Johnson urged anyone who has information about Long’s murder to put themselves in the family’s shoes.

“You wouldn’t want your relatives to be found murdered inside of a car and taken away from their families like that,” she said.

“The family … will never, never give up,” Glenda Johnson said. “If anyone thinks this is just going to go away, that nothing else is ever going to be said, that’s not going to happen. We loved her too much for that to happen. Sandra will never be forgotten.”

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com