HUNTSVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas State Police have charged a man with murder in the 1991 death of a Huntsville woman, closing a 32-year-old cold case.
Rick Allen Headley, 48, is an inmate at Varner Maximum Security Unit. He’s now charged with first-degree murder for the death of 19-year-old Sabrina Underwood.
Headley is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to murder for killing his wife in March 2018.
Court documents say that on Jan. 20, 1991, Underwood was dropped off by her mother at the intersection of U.S. Highway 412 and U.S. Highway 62 near Bear Creek in Boone County.
An affidavit says that Underwood was planning on hitchhiking to Calico Rock to visit an inmate at the Arkansas Department of Corrections North Central Unit. She had previously hitchhiked to the ADC earlier that month.
Underwood was reported missing to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office shortly after.
On April 8, 1991, a hunter reported finding items belonging to Underwood near the Gum Springs Cemetery in Fulton County. Fulton County deputies and ASP later found Underwood’s remains nearby.
The items found included human hair, human bones, an earring stud and a pair of underwear. Underwood was identified by the jewelry and clothes she was wearing.
Court documents say that throughout the investigation, no leads or evidence resulted in any arrest.
In July 2022, detectives were provided a tip from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office that a local attorney’s client at the Varner Maximum Security Unit had information that could help assist with identifying a suspect in the case.
The witness was interviewed in August and stated that Headley provided him with a confession letter detailing the killing of Underwood.
The letter was later provided to investigators.
Headley was interviewed and stated that he did write a confession letter regarding Underwood’s murder.
Headley told investigators that he was returning from Huntsville when he stopped at a gas station in Bellefonte and was approached by Underwood.
Underwood asked if he would give her a ride and he agreed.
According to court documents, Headley told investigators that on the way to Fulton County, Underwood began to make sexual advances. They stopped at a cemetery and the two had sex.
Underwood then told Headley that she needed a couple hundred dollars, or she was going to tell everyone that he hurt her. He stated that he began to drive off, leaving her at the cemetery, before realizing that “he could not let her ruin his life,” court documents say.
Headley then attacked Underwood, using a knife to kill her.
“Headley stated this never would have happened if Underwood hadn’t done what she did,” court documents said.
Court documents say that Headley decapitated Underwood.
“Headley stated he used the knife to cut through Underwood’s neck and used a rock to force the knife blade through her neck bone,” the affidavit said. “Headley stated he used the rock to hammer on the knife blade until it busted the bone off.”
A witness interviewed by police said that Headley wanted to get Underwood’s murder off his chest.
“Sabrina’s family still suffers from the pain of her absence, but we hope this week’s arrest will provide them with some comfort and long-sought answers,” said ASP Colonel Mike Hagar. “We will never give up on finding justice for families like the Underwoods.
Headley is set to appear in Fulton County court on Nov. 13.