CAMBRIA HEIGHTS, Queens (PIX11) – Shirda Matthews, 54, still remembers the Sunday afternoon she was summoned home from work, just over five years ago, on November 9, 2008.
“And when I came, I saw all this tape around the house,” Matthews recalled, her voice quavering, referring to
yellow, police “crime scene” tape around her beautifully-manicured home on 234th Street in Cambria Heights. “They said ‘Sabrina died,’ and I wailed, WHAT??!”
The youngest of her four daughters, 14-year old Sabrina, was discovered in her second floor bedroom, sitting on the floor, under a sheet. When Sabrina’s father removed the sheet, at 12:30 pm that Sunday, he saw her throat had been slit. He ran from the room and notified neighbors and police.
“It was an especially heinous and brutal murder,” Detective Lennard Shulman of the 105th Squad told PIX 11.
“There are many different theories,” on what happened, Shulman said, “different people’s thoughts on what could have or might have happened.”
Sabrina’s mother told PIX 11 the last time she saw her daughter alive was 10:30 pm Saturday, when Shirda Matthews went to bed. Police said the mother told them Sabrina and her father were watching TV. Sabrina’s bedroom was toward the front of the house, while her mother slept in the rear, downstairs.
Shirda Matthews said she woke up, at one point, to see Sabrina in her downstairs bedroom looking for Vaseline. Then, she fell back asleep. She told PIX 11 she never heard any sign of a struggle upstairs. Shirda’s husband worked the midnight shift as a driver for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services.
Shirda said she heard her husband leave for work and the television stayed on. She said her daughter used to have girls come and go from the house and that when Sabrina was in 8th grade, teachers in Intermediate School 59 warned her that Sabrina needed to stay away from a certain group of teens. Sabrina ended up going to summer school and did well enough to start freshman year at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village.
Her mother told PIX 11 Sabrina expressed some concern that boys were out to kill some girls around Halloween time.
When Shirda Matthews got up for work early Sunday morning, she said she noticed dark spots on the kitchen floor, but she thought they were mud spots left there by her husband’s shoes. She even left a note for Sabrina to clean them up. It was later determined the spots were Sabrina’s dried blood, left behind by her killer.
“There’s no way she could scream,” Sabrina’s sister, Aneita, said to PIX, “because if you get slit in the throat, there’s no way to scream.”
Aneita Matthews said she and another sister had to identify Sabrina at the morgue.
“You could tell Sabrina was fighting that person,” Matthews said, “because she had cuts on her face and cuts on her hands.”
The NYPD is offering a $22,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Sabrina Matthews’ killer. The Crime Stoppers hotline number is 1-800-577-TIPS.
It took months for Shirda Matthews to return to live in her home, after Sabrina’s death. She escorted us up to the bedroom, where Sabrina took her last breaths.
“Some people say to me ‘Why are you here?’ I say, ‘I love her, and if I leave this house, it seems like I’m abandoning her.’ And that’s why I stay here.”
The Jamaican immigrant told PIX 11 she had always dreamed of having an American baby, and Sabrina fulfilled that dream. She refuses to give up home that Sabrina’s killer will be found.
“I’m not going to give up until I die,” Shirda Matthews said.