Woman works to honor promise to find sister’s murderer

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Oct. 23, 1979, Cindy Kilburn helped close the local Long John Silver’s and went with another employee to drop off the day’s deposit.

The two made the drop without incident and said their goodbyes. That was 11:30 p.m.

By 1:53 a.m. the next day, her husband was calling police to say Cindy never made it home from work and he was worried.

“He told police he was asleep,” said Lawrence County District Attorney General Brent Cooper. “He said he fell asleep watching the football game that night and when he woke up around 2 a.m., he realized she wasn’t there and that’s when he got worried and called police.”

Police found Cindy’s car not far from her home, in fact it was within view, but she was nowhere to be found.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

She was the oldest of eight children; her parents and all of her siblings immediately knew something was wrong.

“It was just scary,” said Lisa Staggs, Cindy’s sister. “We felt like we wanted to be protective.”

PHOTOS: Cracking Cold Cases

It took two weeks before someone found Cindy’s body in a rural part of Lawrence County. Cooper said it was obvious someone tried to hide it.

“It was definitely a homicide,” DA Cooper told News 2. “There were attempts to conceal her body.”

Over the years, investigators have worked the case off and on.

“In the 80s and 90s they worked the case pretty hard,” Cooper said. “But there has been little work since then.”

When Cooper won the election as district attorney, he made it his mission to take a look at cold cases in the area and bring closure to families.

When Staggs heard about his commitment, she reached out to him.

“I promised my mom I wouldn’t let her be forgotten,” Staggs said. “We would just like to see justice that’s it.”

As the case has aged, working it has become more difficult. The passage of time leads to the loss of information.

“Evidence gets lost,” Cooper said. “We have had witnesses die. It happens with cases this old.”

He continued, “If someone has told you something about this case, even if it seems minor, we would love to talk to you.”

Cindy’s husband has since moved out of state.

If you have any information about the murder of Cindy Kilburn call the Lawrence County District Attorney at 931-766-1453.

News is committed to tracking crime across Middle Tennessee. Visit wkrn.com/crimetracker for the latest.