Convicted murderer serving life for stabbing estranged wife learns fate in cold case


A convicted murderer serving a life sentence in Arkansas for stabbing his estranged wife got 40 more years added on to his punishment after he confessed to decapitating a 19-year-old hitchhiker with a “Rambo-style” knife way back in 1991.

Rick Allen Headley, 48, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Fulton County Circuit Court on Monday in the 1991 death of Sabrina Underwood. He was sentenced to 40 years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, authorities said in a news release.

“We will never give up on finding justice for families like the Underwoods, who still suffer the pain of Sabrina’s absence,” said Col. Mike Hagar, the director of the Arkansas Department of Public Safety. “Today, we pray for peace for those who remember and love Sabrina.”

As Law&Crime has reported, Headley, serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to capital murder for his estranged wife’s 2018 murder, confessed to Underwood’s murder to get it “off his chest.”

An affidavit obtained by Law&Crime outlines the case and Headley’s detailed confession.

Rick Allen Headley, right, recently confessed to the cold-case killing of Sabrina Lynn Underwood, left, in 1991, police said. (Photos from Arkansas State Police)

Rick Allen Headley, right, recently confessed to the cold-case killing of Sabrina Lynn Underwood, left, in 1991, police said. (Photos from Arkansas State Police)

On Jan. 20, 1991, Underwood’s mother dropped her off at U.S. Highway 412 and 62 near Bear Creek in Boone County and never saw her again. The young woman disappeared while hitchhiking to Calico Rock to visit an inmate at an Arkansas prison.

Her remains — human bones and hair, a pair of panties, and an earring stud — were found months later, on April 8, 1991, by a hunter near the Gum Springs Cemetery northeast of Little Rock, the affidavit said. Investigators worked the case, conducted interviews, and developed leads to possible suspects, but no arrests were made, and the case went cold.

Then, in July 2022, officials got a tip — a local attorney had a client with information on a possible suspect.

That client happened to be incarcerated with Headley at the Arkansas state prison and said Headley had given him a confession letter detailing the killing, the affidavit said. Armed with that confession letter, detectives interviewed Headley days later at the prison. They showed him a picture of Underwood and asked him if he knew who she was.

“Headley stated the photograph was of Sabrina Underwood and stated that he did write the confession letter regarding the murder of Sabrina Underwood,” the document said.

He told the investigators Underwood approached him at a gas station and asked if he would give her a ride. He agreed, the affidavit said.

Underwood told Headley she didn’t have money to pay for gas. Headley told her he wasn’t worried about gas money, court documents said.

He said she began to make sexual advances in his truck and offered to “take care” of him another way since she didn’t have gas money.

Headley said he pulled into a small cemetery, parked and had sex with her. Afterward, as he finished getting dressed, he allegedly said she told him she needed a couple hundred dollars or “she was going to tell everyone that he hurt her.”

“He stated he was shocked, and he knew right then there was going to be problems,” the affidavit said.

He told her he would have to go home to get the money and started to drive off and leave her, but “could not let her ruin his life,” the document said.

Headley attacked her outside the truck and dragged her through the cemetery into a wooded area, far enough to where “no person could see what was about to happen,” the affidavit said he told investigators.

He said he snapped and used a “Rambo-style” knife with a compass on the end to cut through her neck. He used a rock to hammer on the knife blade “until it busted the bone off,” the document said.

Headley allegedly said he decapitated her so “there would be no chance she would ever be able to tell on him.”

Afterward, he covered her body with sticks and leaves, gathered her belongings and threw them by her body.

He allegedly took the knife and rock, got back in his truck and drove toward Mountain Home. Several miles away, he threw the knife and rock out of his truck into a patch of woods.

At his apartment in Mountain Home, he removed his clothes, put them in a trash bag, and took a shower to clean her blood off his body. He then took the trash bag to a dumpster behind a mall, threw it away and left the area.

Headley told the investigators he remembered her name because “you never forget the person if you’ve ever killed someone,” the affidavit said.

Headley said through the years, he hoped nobody but him was arrested in the case “because he is the one who killed Underwood.”


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