DNA leads to suspect in 2003 sledgehammer murder


Police say the suspect was recently convicted of being in the country illegally, but now he has a murder charge against him.

This Tomball pasture has no sign, no marker -- nothing to hint of the violence done here in January 2003 when a woman's body was found in the field. A man flying a remote control airplane in the area discovered the body, which appeared to have been there for a few days. Police involved with the case remember it well.

"The condition that she was left in as well as finding the sledgehammer there sent pretty much a chilling message," said Captain Ricky Doerre of the Tomball Police Department.

The sledgehammer used to kill her was found nearby. DNA evidence was recovered from the body. An autopsy determined she had died of blunt force trauma. She was identified as Sandra Rochelle Williams, 34. But no name for the killer.

Leads went nowhere and the case languished until last November when Tomball police got a call.

"It's hard to describe. It's something that you've waited on; you've waited on a break," said Capt. Doerre.

The break was an unrelated arrest, and when someone is arrested for a crime, a DNA sample is taken. When Joel Guadalupe Sanchez, 33, was arrested for burglary, DUI and being in the country illegally, his DNA was compared against that from Williams' body, police say it was a match and was confirmed by another test.

"There was no question once the second one came back," Capt. Doerre said.

Williams had a daughter who was 16 years old at the time of the murder. She's 23 now and we spoke with her by phone.

"It's been a long time and my mom has three grand kids now that she'll never meet. It's hard, you know," said Williams' daughter.

It has been a long time for Williams family, but thanks to a DNA database and police who never forgot, there will be a trial and a cold case off the books.

"Really the first major case where you have a death of an individual, this is probably our first to close that away," said Capt. Doerre.

Tomball police say Sanchez denies knowing Williams, but also say there are witnesses who will testify that Sanchez was looking for her just before her murder, accusing her of trying to steal his truck.

Joel Guadalupe Sanchez, 33, has been charged with murder. Sanchez is currently incarcerated on a previous conviction.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.