DECATUR, Alabama — Alice "Betty" Gholston was the tomboy of Ed and Minnie Pruitt's seven girls, the tough one you'd have to "knock out with a fruit jar," sister Virginia Pruitt joked.
She also had the gentle soul, the one who "would give me $99 if she had $100," brother Clyde Pruitt said.
The day before she was killed, Gholston was the happiest she had been in her life because she was going to pick up her son, who was getting out of prison, her sister said.
She got her hair styled at a neighbor's home, ironed clothes and visited her aging mother just like she did most days.
"We just want to know who killed her," Virginia said as she stood in the front yard of the home where investigators found Gholston's badly beaten body Nov. 25, 1996. She was 44.
Moulton Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter said he has read every document — including the sticky notes — in the two manila folders investigators have on the city's only unsolved murder.
"We have no solid suspect, but we have two or three persons of interest," McWhorter said in his office as he thumbed through witness statements and pictures of the crime scene.
The murder is back in the forefront because the city is tearing down the home where Gholston died because it is structurally unsafe.
McWhorter said authorities have collected all the evidence they need from the scene. They photographed and filmed the interior of the home in the 3000 block of Moulton-Danville Road.
"There's someone out there who knows something, and we need them to come forward," McWhorter said.
The $5,000 reward the governor's office offered for information about the slaying still is available.
That's small change for what the family lost, but it may be motivation to make someone come forward with information, authorities said.
McWhorter did not want to release the name, but said one of the persons of interest is in prison for an unrelated murder.
"It will be 18 years since this happened in a couple of weeks, and we just want it solved," Clyde said.
Clyde and Gholston's ex-husband found his sister that rainy morning in 1996. Both passed a polygraph test, McWhorter said.
The ex-husband was planning to go with Gholston to get the couple's son from prison. When the ex didn't get an answer at the door, he called Clyde.
"I knocked and knocked on the door and she didn't answer," the brother recalled. He, too, got no answer.
Clyde went through a window in the laundry room and opened the door to let his sister's ex-husband in. He called her name and got no answer as he walked through the kitchen.
"Betty, Betty," he yelled as he approached the living room.
Again, no answer.
"I knew something was wrong," Clyde said.
As he approached a back room his sister used for storage, he said he saw "blood all over the wall."
Clyde nudged his sister's body, but she didn't respond.
"She didn't say anything," he said. "She was already gone."
Emergency officials were at the scene by 7:30 a.m. Lawrence County Coroner Greg Randolph pronounced Gholston dead at the scene. He estimated she was killed sometime shortly after midnight and ruled blunt force trauma as the cause of death.
Investigative papers indicated someone had answered a telephone call at Gholston's house less than an hour before she was found.
The person never spoke and hung up the phone, records show.
"Whoever killed Betty killed my mother, too," Clyde said.
Minnie Pruitt, who had another daughter murdered in Decatur in the early 1980s, died a month later, two days after Christmas.
That daughter's killer was caught and convicted.
"She was no more good after Betty got killed," Virginia said. "She couldn't bear to lose another child, and I think she just gave up."
McWhorter was an investigator with the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department and didn't help with the initial investigation.
He became Moulton's police chief in 2005 and, with the family's consent, visited the crime scene in January 2009.
McWhorter wouldn't say why, but acknowledged his department has received forensic results from fingernail clippings investigators took from Gholston's body.
"I can't tell you an arrest is imminent, but we're digging and poking around," he said.