Brief but heartwarming, the email arrived in Irene Brociner’s inbox on Friday — the 36th anniversary of her sister's unsolved slaying.
It was sent by one of the last people to see Eve Wilkowitz alive, her former boyfriend. “God bless you on this special day,” it read.
The message, faithfully sent year after year, brings Brociner comfort that her older sister, whose brutalized body was found in a yard about a mile from her Bay Shore home on March 25, 1980, is not forgotten.
Wilkowitz, 20, was abducted while walking home from a Long Island Rail Road station, held captive and sexually abused, and then strangled with rope, authorities said.
Brociner remembered her sister in a solemn tribute on Facebook on Friday. In an interview, she said she longs for justice.
“I keep my fingers crossed, my mind open, and hope,” said Brociner, 53, of East Meadow. “It just gets harder . . . There’s still no closure.”
Brociner remains hopeful that someone will come forward with information that could lead to an arrest. “I just want peace in my life,” she said.
There were no other siblings. Her mother died of cancer before the slaying; her father died in 2010 at the age of 90.
Days after the shocking 1980 slaying, a veteran homicide detective labeled the case “one of the biggest mystery murders we’ve ever had.”
On Friday, Suffolk Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the case “remains an open investigation, and any information could always move the case forward.” He urged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477.
Wilkowitz had been struggling to cope with her mother’s death when she moved out of the family’s Oakdale home to her Bay Shore apartment with a friend. She was outgoing and liked to ride horses and listen to Billy Joel, the Beatles and Elton John.
She took a job as a secretary with Macmillan Publishing in Manhattan and attended college classes with a dream of becoming a social worker.
Wilkowitz was last seen alive at 12:29 a.m. on March 22, 1980, in Penn Station, where her then-boyfriend told police he watched her get on a train headed back to Bay Shore.
Solving the case proved challenging from the onset. Two early suspects — both male acquaintances — passed lie-detector tests.
Detectives interviewed hundreds of people in Bay Shore with histories of sex crimes, knocked on doors of places where Wilkowitz may have stopped on her way home and rode Bay Shore-bound trains from Penn, showing her photo to commuters.
Wilkowitz’s roommate said she had complained several times about men following her during the 10-minute walk home from the LIRR station. He called police and filed a missing person’s report after she failed to arrive home.
Also worried, the former Manhattan boyfriend, Jack Dempsey, called her family, Brociner recalled.
She said Dempsey’s anniversary notes, sent over the past 10 years or so, help ease her pain. But she can’t help but wonder about the future that was stolen from her sister.
“She could’ve been married. She could’ve had kids. I could’ve had a best friend,” Brociner said.
Brociner, a nanny, sees her sister — especially her smile — in the face of her own 23-year-old daughter Dara.
And when Brociner runs grueling half-marathons, she feels Eve’s presence, encouraging her to finish.
“She’s like my angel,” Brociner said.