Sandra Kaye Butler was born on March 27, 1962 in California. When she was in her teens, her mother and her moved to Sparks, Nevada, a suburb of Reno, where they lived in an apartment at Fourth Street and Greenbrae Street. The complex was across from the Greenbrae Bowling Alley and Shopping Center, both of which were popular hangouts for the area’s teenage population.
Sandra was a student at Reed High School in Sparks. At the time of her disappearance, classes had recently let out for summer vacation.
On June 26, 1978, Sandra’s mother left early for work, leaving her daughter home alone. At some point that afternoon, the teenager called her mother and asked if she could ride her bike to the Reno Rodeo at the fairgrounds across town. While the journey would require Sandra to cut through neighbourhoods, the area was relatively safe, so her mother granted her permission.
Sandra was last seen walking to the Greenbrae Shopping Center on her way to the rodeo. It’s currently unknown why she made the detour.
At the time of her disappearance, Sandra was considered a runaway, despite her family saying she would never have left home without telling anyone. This meant local authorities did very little to find her. There were no officers canvassing the area or speaking with witnesses. This distinction also meant the case didn’t receive a lot of media attention and her disappearance went largely unnoticed by the public.
Eventually, the case was reclassified as a missing persons investigation. It has passed through many detectives, primarily those new to the Sparks Police Department. With so little evidence, finding credible leads has proved to be difficult.
Sandra’s DNA and dentals have been uploaded to national databases.
1) The primary theory in the case is that Sandra was a victim of serial killers Charlene and Gerald Gallego. The pair were known for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering teenage girls in California, Nevada and Oregon, and were active around the time of Sandra’s disappearance. They are said to have been near the Reno Rodeo on June 26, 1978.
They have 10 known victims, including Brenda Judd and Sandra Colley, who both went missing from the Sparks fairgrounds on June 24, 1979, a year after Sandra went missing. The pair were eventually arrested, and in 1983 were convicted of kidnapping and murder. Gerald was sentenced to death in California, and died in prison of rectal cancer in 2002.
Charlene testified against her husband in exchange for a reduced sentence. She was released from a Nevada prison in 1997 and relocated to California under a new name. Investigators with the Sparks Police Department have been unable to interview Charlene about Sandra’s disappearance, but have said they continue to pursue leads in the case.
2) Sandra is also believed to have been the possible victim of another serial killer, Royal Russell Long. Long, a part-time carnival worker and long-haul truck driver, was convicted in the disappearance of 12-year-old Sharon Baldeagle and the kidnapping of her friend, Sandi Brokenleg, in September 1984, and is a suspect in the disappearances of Cinda Pallet and Charlotte Kinsey, among others.
Many of his presumed victims went missing from fairgrounds, leading some to theorize he may have been involved in Sandra’s disappearance.
3) A Websleuths user has put forward the theory that Sandra could be a Jane Doe who died after being hit by a tractor-trailer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The deceased, who went by the name “Donna”, shares similarities to Sandra, including her height, weight, and hair and eye colour. Detectives believe she may have had family in Nevada, and it’s thought she’d hitchhiked across the country, with stops in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Canutillo, Texas; and West Monroe, Louisiana.
The only difference online sleuths have been able to come up with regarding the pair is that the age estimate for Jane Doe doesn’t match Sandra’s. It’s currently unknown if the possible connection has been investigated by the Sparks Police Department.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Sandra “Sandy” Kaye Butler went missing from Sparks, Washoe County, Nevada on June 26, 1978. She was 16 years old, and what she was last wearing is currently unknown. At the time of her disappearance, she stood between 5’0″ and 5’1″, and weighed 110 pounds. She had blonde-to-light brown hair and brown eyes, and had a freckled appearances. Her ears are pierced, and both her second toes are much longer than her big toes.
Her middle name is spelled “Kay” by some investigating agencies.
Currently, the case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 59 years old.
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Sparks Police Department at 775-353-2231.
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