Unguarded: A Security Guard’s Murder Remains Unsolved on the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Her Death – Redheaded Blackbelt


Cold cases grow cold because their stories stop being told. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office published an interactive map and timeline last year with over sixty missing and murdered people whose cases remain unsolved. We have taken on the task of writing about each and every one of those cases, to keep their stories alive and hopefully find justice for the victims and families. Remember, as Jean Racine, the French playwright once said, “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”

Sandra Kay Albiani

Twenty-five years ago on June 9th, 1997, horror, grief, and speculation fell over the company town of Scotia when a 45-year-old night-security guard went missing. Her body was eventually found buried in a pile of wood chips at the Pacific Lumber Company Mill.

Sandra Kay Albiani was a married, mother of two who worked as a night security guard for the lumber company. She was not supposed to work the night she was murdered, but she opted to cover a shift to help out. By all accounts, that’s who she was – a helpful, loving employee, wife, mother and community member.

Sandra was born Sandra Kay Coppini on Sunday, May 4th, 1952. Raised in Humboldt, Sandra was well-known and well-liked. As an adult she was a faithful Catholic, attending St. Patrick’s Church in Scotia. Those that knew her described her as a sweet-natured person.

Sandra’s murder shocked the small community of Scotia, at the time, a company town for the Pacific Lumber Company Mill. A Scotia resident said, “Our little town of “Mayberry” was freaked out.” Other residents said that speculation that a murderer lived amongst them put everyone on edge. Families began to worry about their loved ones that also worked the night shift. The peace in the idyllic town was shattered.

Speculation remains today as the murder has never been solved. With no solid leads, rumors have spread from suspicions surrounding Sandra’s husband Bruno, to John Annibel who is currently serving time for the 1998 murder of Debra Sloan, to a fellow employee accidently running Sandra over with a forklift and burying her body in a panic.

Current Investigation

Many community members, friends and family of Sandra’s have voiced frustration with the Humboldt County Sherriff’s Office’s (HCSO) handling of the case, some feeling like the murder was swept under the rug. However, HCSO Investigator, Robert Metaxas has been actively working on the cold case for the past 4 to 5 months.

Metaxas has been revisiting old leads and trying to track down new ones. We had the opportunity to discuss the murder of Sandra Albiani with Investigator Metaxas, a case he said keeps him up at night.

One of the biggest issues in solving the case is determining a motive for the murder of the beloved community member.

As a security guard, one might believe Sandra’s was killed in a botched robbery or something of that nature. However, Metaxas said there was no evidence that anything was stolen from the mill the night of Sandra’s death.

Several theories about an accidental death, covered up in a panic, surfaced. However, the forklift or vehicle accident does not hold up to reports that Sandra was strangled.

Many people focused their attention on Sandra’s husband, as did the HCSO investigators, then and now. The public scrutiny and speculation still follow Sandra’s husband twenty-five years later as is evident by the amount of social media comments and emails sent to this reporter focusing on the Albiani’s marriage. Statistically, a woman’s murderer is a current or former intimate partner over 50% of the time.

However, Metaxas told us that Sandra’s husband was quickly cleared of her murder at the time of her death, and again by him when he took on the cold case earlier this year. When pressed further, Metaxas said that Bruno has “bent over backwards” to assist in finding his wife’s murderer and has been very cooperative. The investigator is aware of the speculation that has followed Sandra’s husband but says that he has been cleared in 3 to 4 areas and is not a suspect.

What We Know

-Sandra was reported to have been strangled.

-There is no known evidence of a robbery.

-Sandra’s body was found buried in a pile of wood chips, possibly indicating that someone buried her with a piece of equipment.

-There was no evidence of a sexual assault.

-Investigators do have DNA evidence to compare to any possible suspect.

How Can We Help

As time goes by, memories fade and details blur. Investigators and loved ones fight against the clock to uncover evidence and witnesses to bring justice for those who die at the hands of another.

The quest for justice for Sandra has been long, but it is not without hope. Metaxas is committed to solving this case and bringing closure to Sandra’s friends and family. The investigator said he is hoping that someone will step forward to help bring closure to Sandra’s family who has already suffered tremendous tragedy, including the loss of her oldest son in a tragic motorcycle accident eight years after his mother’s murder.

Any detail, no matter how little may be of use to the investigation. Metaxas encourages the public to contact the HCSO tip line or him directly to discuss the case.

HCSO asks that if anyone has information to share about this case, “please contact our Crime Tip Line at 707-268-2539, submit information using our Online Crime Tip Form, or email [email protected] Please reference the case number associated with the case when reporting information.” The case number for the death of Sandra Kay Albiani is 199703626.

To contact Investigator Metaxas directly, email him at [email protected] or call at (707) 476-2497.

This article is written by Lisa Music, a local freelance journalist. To reach Lisa about tips, questions or comments, email her at [email protected]