Kay Bridges knew it was her little sister when she saw her hair sticking out of a black body bag at St. Mary's Hospital in East St. Louis.
It's been 17 years since Bridges went to the morgue to identify her 35-year-old sister Christine Foster, of Collinsville. Foster had been stabbed more than 20 times. Her skull was fractured. Her throat was slit.
"I just lost it. I really did," Bridges said.
Foster's partially clothed body had been found in a drainage ditch by a man walking his dog on Dutch Hollow Road off Illinois 161 near Belleville on May 20, 1995.
"She didn't deserve that," Bridges said.
The case remains unsolved but after 17 years Bridges and her sister, Sherry Titchenal, found out last week their sister's murder is getting new interest from police.
"For so many years, I would go up there and try to get them to do something and they would tell me it was such an old case," Titchenal said.
"... I almost dropped to my knees when you told me."
Reporters told Titchenal and Bridges that St. Clair County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Hundelt had gotten a search warrant signed by Circuit Judge John Baricevic for the Belleville home and for the DNA of George H. Bricking Jr., the man who was charged with murder 17 years ago in connection with Foster's death. The charge was dismissed when the grand jury twice declined to indict Bricking.
"Taking a look at this case has always been about justice," said St. Clair County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Johnson. "It has always been open and we have been pursuing leads as they became available."
Bricking was released from jail and moved away to Texas, but now lives with his mother in Belleville, according to the search warrant.
"I saw him once at (a bar) and I sat down next to him and ordered him a beer and told him that (Foster) told me that she was in his head every day and was that true?" Bridges said. "He wouldn't answer me. He just looked straight ahead. I just got up and left."
Bricking, now 53, could not be reached for comment.
Jeanette Yarber, Bricking's mother, said she knew her son was innocent.
"I wish they would leave him alone," she said. "I know he didn't do it. Maybe they just have it in for him."
Christine Foster was a single mother raising a 13-year-old daughter in 1995. She also struggled with a drug and alcohol problem, Titchenal and Bridges said that began after a traffic accident when she was 17. One night she ran a stop sign at Hollywood Heights Road and Illinois 157 in Caseyville and struck a man on a motorcycle, killing him.
"That started her decline," Bridges said.
She turned to alcohol, Bridges said, then drugs.
"After the second beer, she had a different personality," Bridges said. "She would fight, argue. She was really strong. It surprised me that someone would overcome her."
For a while, the family hoped Foster had beaten her addictions.
"She was doing real good, going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for about six months," Bridges said. "Then, one day, she just fell off the wagon."
Shortly before Foster was killed, she went to Bridges' bar, The Treasure Chest in Belleville, which is no longer operating. She was drunk, Bridges said, and didn't want the party to stop. She drank more and popped some pills, Bridges said. When Foster fell off a bar stool, Bridges told her daughter, Christy Swift, to take her home. Swift went home, without Foster, who wanted to keep on drinking.
Foster then went to Downtown Abbey on East Main Street in Belleville. At closing time, about 2 a.m. May 20, 1995, a fight broke out in the parking lot. Bricking told police he pulled his motorcycle to the curb to watch, according to the search warrant. Foster asked him for a ride home. While both were known to frequent area bars, it is unclear whether they knew each other.
She got on the back of the bike, but Bricking told police she fell off. Foster got back on the bike and Bricking headed toward Foster's home in Collinsville. Bricking stopped at a stop sign on Illinois 159 near Swansea and Foster fell off again. This time, Bricking said he left her alone on the side of the highway.
Christine Foster was found dead 15 hours later.
Her blood alcohol was 0.371 percent -- more than four times the .08 limit legal to drive.
In her right hand, Foster clutched a man's ruby ring.
Bricking told police that he had a "similar" ring, according to the search warrant, but it went down the drain at his house a few days after the murder. Bricking bought the ring through his job at Memorial Hospital in Belleville where he worked as a dietitian.
Yarber, Bricking's mother, told police that she saw her son during the early morning hours of May 20, 1995, the day Foster's body was found, standing at the sink and she heard something metal drop.
A handyman came to the Bricking house to fix a leak in the kitchen sink later in 1995. The leak was from someone taking apart the sink, the handyman told police. There was no ring found and the handyman didn't think the ring would fit down the drain.
Earlier this year, sheriff's department investigators reinterviewed the handyman and Yarber, who told them she still has the receipt for the ring at her house. The receipt was collected as evidence and will be tested for DNA.
The search warrant also allowed investigators to photograph the drain and seize the gooseneck or "S" shaped portion for evidentiary purposes.
The search warrant also directed the investigators to obtain a buccal swab of the inside of Bricking's mouth. This procedure typically yields DNA material that is easier to test.
The search warrant also allowed the ring found in Foster's hand, blood from her clothing and material found under her fingernails to be collected for testing.
"With new information and newer technology, we've proceeded in pursing a search warrant for items in this case," Johnson said. "Those items include blood, the receipt and the drain in the sink."
Foster's family continues to hope the evidence in the case will give them justice.
Years after her sister was killed, Kay Bridges said she was in a car with her mother who was backing out of the driveway of her home when her mother suddenly stopped.
Bridges said her mother had said she had just heard the voice of her deceased daughter.
"She was (talking to) us then from her grave to give my mom some peace. I hope we can tell her now that we know, for sure, who did this to her."