Sister of murdered Belleville teen visits grave for first time after 44 years
This is another installment of “Into the Archives,” a series that looks back on stories from the Belleville News-Democrat archives.
In 1974, an 18-year-old woman from Belleville was shot in the back of the head, chest and arm. Her murderer tied her hands behind her back and a concrete block to her waist before throwing her body into a pond in Stookey Township.
Whoever murdered Sabrina Jean Cain has never been held responsible for the crime.
Prior to the discovery of her body, Sabrina had been missing from her Belleville home for almost two months. She disappeared in February 1974 and her body was discovered in April.
The only person indicted for the murder was Sabrina's stepfather, Fred Roark, a Belleville police officer. A jury found Roark not-guilty in a trial at the Adams County Courthouse in Quincy.
Though the crime probably occurred in St. Clair County, a judge ordered the change of venue to Adams County because of the extensive media coverage the murder had received in Belleville.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request about Sabrina's murder investigation from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department have multiple witnesses stating Sabrina hated her stepfather for his controlling and allegedly violent behavior, according to police reports. He has since died.
The day she disappeared, Sabrina told her friends, coworkers and boyfriend, she was leaving home because she couldn't stand to be under the same roof as Roark any longer, according to police reports.
Roark was called to identify Sabrina's remains and aided investigators in the early stages of the murder investigation, but lost his job as a police officer after he refused to take a lie detector test about the killing.
Roark died in a traffic accident in St. Louis in November 1978, four years after Sabrina died. He is buried next to Sabrina at Lake View Memorial Gardens in Fairview Heights.
Three roses for Sabrina
Sabrina's half-sister, Kimberly Cain, was 7 years old when her sister was killed. They had the same father, Cork Cain, and different mothers.
At the time, Kimberly lived with her parents in Arcola, an Illinois town about 150 miles northeast of Belleville. Sabrina lived in Belleville with her mother and stepfather, Lorene and Fred Roark.
Even though she always wondered what happened to her sister, Kimberly didn't begin searching for information until her father, Cork, passed away in October 2013.
Kimberly said, "It was too painful for him. His way to deal with it was to just not talk about it."
They lived in different towns and had a 12-year age difference, but Kimberly regrets she didn't know Sabrina better. Kimberly had the opportunity to visit with Sabrina only three times before she was murdered.
"I know she always thought about me and wanted to be in my life," Kimberly said. "But it just wasn’t meant to be."
Kimberly said Lorene and Fred Roark never called her father to tell him his daughter, Sabrina, was missing. She said her father learned Sabrina was missing when a family member called to say her body had been discovered.
Until this month, Kimberly had never viewed her sister's grave. In the 44 years since Sabrina's death, no one informed her where it was.
Kimberly purchased three roses and placed them at Sabrina's headstone during her visit to the grave.
"That's for you, Dad," Kimberly said.
'She was all I had.'
The last day Sabrina was seen alive was Feb. 5, 1974. She worked days at Midwest Home Savings and Loan and evenings at K-Mart Grocery, both in Belleville.
Roark told police he talked to Sabrina around 1 p.m. on Feb. 5, then she walked away from home, angry at him. According to investigation reports, Roark was most likely the last person to see Sabrina alive.
The family didn't formally report Sabrina as missing until March 22. The reason for the delay, Roark told police, was because Sabrina had left before but always returned.
Two men were target shooting when they found Sabrina's body on April 20, 1974, in a 3-acre pond off of Town Hall Road. She was bound, wearing the same clothing she had on when she disappeared on Feb. 5, and decomposing.
Investigators recovered four rings from her body. One of them, a Belleville West High School class ring, had the initials S.J.C. on it. Roark was called to identify the rings and he said the class ring was definitely Sabrina's.
Roark identified all of the clothing recovered from the body, including underwear, as belonging to his stepdaughter. According to police documents, "He also made the statement that it hadn't been long since (Sabrina) had purchased the panties."
Then, Roark asked to see Sabrina's body. The report said, "His reaction to seeing the body seemed normal for any person. His only reply was that she didn't have a face." Her scalp was found floating beneath the rest of the body, according to reports.
The investigating officer, Delbert Jackson, wrote in a report that he asked Roark why anyone would want to kill Sabrina.
Jackson wrote: "At one point in our interview, I had asked Mr. Roark of knowledge of anyone having a reason for killing Miss Cain, and some kind of way, the interpretation he got from my question was that I was asking if she was pregnant. His statement was, 'You think she was pregnant.' My answer was that I didn't insinuate that. At that point, Mr. Roark started crying and swearing and made the statement, 'She was all I had.'"
St. Clair County Coroner C.C. Kane determined the three bullets pulled from Sabrina's body were fired from a .38-caliber weapon.
Roark was a member of the Belleville Police Department for about five years prior to the murder of Sabrina. He owned a .38-caliber gun, but told investigators he lost it around the time Sabrina's body was discovered.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported a coroner's inquest held on May 4, 1974, determined Sabrina was murdered at the "hands of a party or parties unknown."
Roark searches for evidence
On the same day Roark identified the items and Sabrina's body, authorities were searching around the pond in Stookey Township to locate evidence. The area was heavily wooded and investigators made a public plea for volunteers to help in the search on WIBV radio of Belleville.
Around 6:45 p.m. on April 20, 1974, Roark and his neighbor, John "Jack" Erlinger, showed up at the scene and offered their assistance in the search. An investigation report says Roark asked the deputies whether "anyone had searched the area of the trestle on the same road, approximately one half mile west of the lake, for the victim's purse."
Roark and Erlinger walked to the road, checked for evidence and returned empty-handed.
In a later interview, Erlinger told authorities Roark had been with him on the entire walk and was never out of his sight. Erlinger returned to the lake and walked investigators along the path the two had trod that evening.
Erlinger died a decade ago, according to his family.
One of the items authorities and volunteers were searching for was the weapon used to kill Sabrina.
At first, the police department suspended Roark with pay during the investigation into Sabrina's murder. After the Belleville police chief at the time ordered Roark to take a lie detector test and Roark refused to answer any questions other than his name, address and occupation, Roark's pay was suspended as well.
The Belleville Board of Fire and Police Commissioners voted unanimously in June 1974 to dismiss Roark. He appealed to the Circuit Court to review the decision, but in January 1975, the court upheld Roark's dismissal.
Blood-stained carpet in Sabrina's room
In the investigation documents, Sabrina's co-workers at Midwest Savings and Loan told police they thought the relationship between Roark and Sabrina was "strange."
They described Roark as "over-protective." Two separate interviews with police included a description of Sabrina crying because Roark had rubbed off her eye-makeup with his hands because he "didn't like it."
The day before Sabrina disappeared, on Feb. 4, 1974, investigation documents say she told a co-worker, "Fred Roark had pushed her around and struck her on several occasions."
Jean Morisseau Kuni, who was a friend of Sabrina's, told authorities that Roark "asked (Sabrina's friends) to call him Fred and not Mr. Roark."
Jean didn't believe Sabrina would have walked away from home. In April 1974. She told police, "The one thing that Sabrina did not like to do was walk, or leave without money. Sabrina was stubborn that way."
In a 2018 interview with the BND, Jean said, "(Roark) was controlling and didn’t want her to date — ever." She described the relationship between Sabrina and Roark as "very odd."
In the days after Sabrina's disappearance, Jean said Lorene and Fred Roark called her and asked whether she had seen Sabrina. She had not.
"I went to see her mom a few days later," Jean said. "We went into Sabrina’s bedroom." Lorene moved a rug that was blocking Sabrina's closet to open the doors.
Lorene showed Jean brand new clothes in Sabrina's closet that had never been worn and had tags on them. Jean remembered Lorene saying, "Nobody would leave and just leave clothes like that."
"When she was trying to close the closet door, there was a lot of blood on this rug, the carpet underneath the rug," Jean said.
Jean asked Lorene about the blood and she attributed it to an accident Roark had "when he was trying to get into Sabrina’ s stuff to see if she left anything."
At the time, Jean didn’t think anything sinister about it. When Sabrina's body was discovered, Jean told police about the blood stain in Sabrina's room.
Police went to Roark's home to examine the blood stain. It was gone.
"After they found her body, my mom and I went over to see Lorene," Jean said. The county coroner called while they were there and spoke to Roark.
After the phone call with the coroner, Jean recalled, "(Roark) came back and said, ‘Well, she wasn’t pregnant.’ Everybody in the room looked at him — dumbfounded."
Jean said Lorene asked Roark why would anyone think Sabrina was pregnant.
Jean remembers saying, "that would have been a motive," and drawing the attention of Roark. Jean said, "When Fred was looking at me, it gave my mother the creeps." They left shortly thereafter.
"There was something in his stare that wasn’t right," Jean said.
Sabrina Cain's mother
Kimberly attended the funeral of her sister, Sabrina, with their father, Cork. Kimberly said, "My dad was not listed in the obit or listed as family. I wasn’t listed as family."
She said Lorene's behavior was out of control at the funeral.
"Her mother made a screaming fool of herself," Kimberly said. She remembered Lorene yelling "someone killed my baby" and throwing herself on Sabrina's coffin.
"How could you stay with someone who was tried for your daughter’s murder?" Kimberly said.
Bob Soucey married Lorene in 1980 after the death of Fred Roark in November 1978. Soucey was Lorene's third husband. They were married for 27 years.
"Lorene didn’t like to talk about it (Sabrina's murder)," Soucey told the BND recently.
He described his wife, Lorene, as a home decorator who loved to go to auctions and flea markets. Soucey said, "She was the world’s greatest waitress."
Lorene had a stroke in 2007 and died 10 months later. The family chose to cremate her remains.
Lorene's interviews with authorities in 1974 show she believed in Fred Roark's innocence.
When asked how Roark would handle Sabrina moving into her own apartment, Lorene told authorities, "He might not like it, but if it would make Sabrina happy, he would help. Fred was always doing things to make Sabrina happy."
Investigators informed Lorene they had received information Roark and Sabrina's relationship was intimate and she flatly denied the possibility, according to the investigation reports.
Jean said, "Her mother held onto the fact that she didn’t think Fred killed Sabrina. She just didn’t think that."
Lorene buried her daughter and second husband next to each other.
Kimberly believes Roark had been molesting Sabrina. She believes that was the reason Sabrina was moving out and why her sister was murdered.
Jean said, "(The police) asked me, did I know if they had ever had a sexual relationship. I did not know."
The evidence against Roark was almost entirely circumstantial. There were no witnesses to the murder and no murder weapon was ever found.
Kimberly believes the fact that Fred Roark was a police officer is why the case against him was so thin and no one spoke up at the time of the murder. "They were afraid of retaliation," Kimberly said.
A key prosecution witness testified in court he heard Roark confess to friends about killing Sabrina while busing tables at the IHOP in Belleville, according to news reports at the time.
Donald Martindale, who was 19 at the time of the trial, said in court he heard Roark say, "I didn't mean to kill her" and "I didn't mean to get her pregnant."
Martindale could not be reached for comment for this story.
On cross examination, one of Roark's attorneys, James J. Gomric, asked Martindale about being arrested for a curfew violation by Roark's police partner, a few days before hearing the alleged confession at the restaurant.
Later in the trial, it was revealed Martindale had been fired from his job at the restaurant the day before he heard the alleged confession. Martindale's testimony was cast into doubt.
Gomric declined to comment when contacted recently about this case.
The not-guilty verdict was announced after the jury deliberated about two and a half hours. The Belleville News-Democrat reported: "The state's attorney's office considers the Sabrina Jean Cain murder case closed — primarily because he still believes Roark is guilty."
Jean said, "There was never any true physical evidence to tie (Roark) to that murder but there was certainly circumstantial evidence."
"Fred was a cop. His service revolver was missing," Jean said. "There were building blocks behind their house similar to the one she was tied to, as well as a tow rope from a boat similar to the one in their backyard."
And the blood.
An anonymous note, mailed to the St. Clair County Sheriff on April 24, 1974, and included in the investigation documents, read, "Her stepfather killed Miss Cain, that dam (sic) policeman."
"I know (Roark) did it. People have anonymously called me and said, 'I lived here (in Belleville), he did it. Trust me, he did it,'" Kimberly said.
On Oct. 20, 1975, Roark told Belleville News-Democrat reporters, "The only thing I have to say to you is did you get that verdict? Not guilty. I have no other comment."
See the full FOIA response about the Sabrina Jean Cain murder investigation from the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department: