MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fifteen years ago, sisters Dee and D’Undra Willis lost their mother when they were both teenagers.
“We never had a chance to say goodbye,” said Dee Willis. “So this is the first time we have had a chance to speak out.”
The sisters held a memorial vigil for their mother in Minneapolis Saturday, remembering Sept. 3, 1996, as the day they learned their mother was brutally murdered.
Cassandra Willis, 36, of Minneapolis, was found beaten and stabbed to death while visiting a friend at a public housing highrise on 1515 Park Ave. S.
Willis was affectionately called “Pumpkin” by family and friends, and her murder has not been solved.
Her daughters believe she had been killed well before her body was discovered, and they don’t know who last saw their mother alive.
“She had a free spirit, she was a social butterfly, she liked to laugh,” the sisters said. “We miss her so much, she had a gorgeous smile.”
They both are moved to tears when they think that their mother only met one of her now four grandchildren. With children of their own, the sisters have vowed to solve their mother’s case, pleading with the public and police to bring the cold case to a closed chapter.
“We basically had to relive some of the details we didn’t know about,” Dee Willis said.
Dee Willis knows her mother was killed on the building’s 12th floor. She was wrapped in sheets and blankets, placed in a storage locker and later abandoned on the ninth floor stairwell.
In the years following her death, grief has surfaced, but clues have not.
“Look at how huge this building is,” said D’Undra Willis, pointing up the highrise that houses several hundred people. “You know, someone heard something, someone saw something, whether it was a small detail or a big detail, we are urging anyone to come forward with that detail; because that just may be the detail they are missing to break the case open and solve it and give us that justice we are looking for.”
The sisters say their mother always wished to be buried in purple. So, during a vigil outside the highrise Saturday, loved ones released 100 purple balloons and watched them rise into the sky above the place Willis was murdered. The sisters hope that after all these years conscience or courage will finally set her free.
“I believe she is here watching over us and everybody and I hope something comes out,” Dee Willis said.
Crimestoppers of Minnesota is offering a 1,000 dollar reward for information leading to an arrest.
Minneapolis police say these cases are not dismissed. Spokesperson Sgt. William Palmer said the department has a full-time detective devoted to solving cold cases that date back to the 1970s.
The family says Minneapolis police also recently submitted their mother’s DNA for BCA testing.