Sandra Lee Long Murder: Is Brian Steckel Dead or Alive?

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Investigation Discovery’s ‘Shattered: Driftwood Killer’ follows the horrific rape and murder of Sandra Lee Long in New Castle County, Delaware, in September 1994. The killer went on to confess his crime after he was nabbed following an anonymous call to a local daily. The episode follows the disturbing tale of this self-acclaimed “Driftwood Killer” and his various gory crimes and his trial.

How Did Sandra Lee Long Die?

Sandra Lee Thomas Long was born on October 18, 1964, in Prices Corner in New Castle County, Delaware. She was killed in her apartment on September 2, 1994, after neighbors noticed her apartment was ablaze. Despite heroic efforts from pedestrians and neighbors, the 29-year-old could not be rescued. Witnesses at the scene stated that Sandra had tried to escape the apartment through the bedroom windows but failed.

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After dousing the searing flames, the investigators found that Sandra had strangulation marks around her neck as well as bite marks and other evidence on her body that pointed towards rape. The most horrific evidence was that of the penetrating marks of a flat-head screwdriver in the private parts of the victim. Arson experts also determined that the fire was intentional and an attempt to cover the rape and other crimes. Her autopsy report stated smoke inhalation as the cause of death of Sandra, who also had burns to 60% of her body.

Who Killed Sandra Lee Long?

The investigators did not have to look long for the killer since a local newspaper The News Journal received an anonymous call wherein an individual identified himself as the “Driftwood Killer” stating he had already committed murder and named his next victim — a woman named Susan Gell. The paper immediately notified the authorities about the anonymous call, and Susan was placed under police protection. Susan informed the police that she had been receiving threatening calls over the last month that were very lurid and perverse.

The investigators shifted their focus on tracing the phone calls and traced them back to Brian Steckel. It was also confirmed that Brian had made the anonymous call to the newspaper and identified himself as a prospective killer. With so much circumstantial evidence against Brian, the police concluded that he was a likely suspect and apprehended him in the early hours of September 3, 1994, on an outstanding harassment warrant. During several interviews, Brian waved his Miranda rights and confessed to various disturbing details of the crime he committed against Sandra.

Brian confessed to how he set fire to the apartment and the gory detail of using the screwdriver, as well as two other unrelated murders. As per Brian, he had known Sandra for about a week and had knocked on her door under the pretext of making a telephone call. However, after entering her apartment, Brian proceeded to disconnect her phone and rape Sandra after she refused to have sex with him. He tried to strangle her with nylon stockings and a tube sock he had brought with him. In the ensuing struggle, Sandra lost consciousness before biting him so hard on the finger that it caused bleeding.

After raping Sandra, Brian set fire to the apartment with his cigarette lighter to conceal the crime. Sandra might have regained consciousness and tried to escape the fire but was eventually consumed by the rousing flames. After a forensic dentist determined that the bite mark on his finger matched the dental pair of Sandra as well as other DNA evidence found at the crime scene, Brian was charged with the rape and murder of Sandra.

Brian Steckel Was Executed in 2005

Brian Steckel was convicted by a New Castle County jury of 3 counts of first-degree murder (2 counts of felony murder and one count of intentional murder), two counts of second-degree burglary and one count each of aggravated harassment and first-degree arson on October 2, 1996. He was sentenced to death on January 8, 1997. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, and his appeals and writ of habeas corpus were denied by different courts throughout 1998 and 1999.

Brian had remained unrepentant for his brutal crimes, even sending a copy of the autopsy report to Sandra’s mother along with a note that read, “Read it and weep. She’s gone forever. Don’t cry over burnt flesh.” He was executed at the Delaware Correctional Center, near Smyrna, Delaware, with a lethal injection on November 4, 2005, at around 12:21 am.

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