Ian's I Love Sacramento Page - serial killers

Serial killers I love Sacto in the summer, when it sizzles

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Serial Killers


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Sacramento has what you might call a dark side.

"There's something odd about Sacramento, that Winesburg Ohio of a place - in the past 15 years there have been 11 cases of serial killers in Sacramento County" - jumbled text site

Serial Killers | Spree Killers | Other Killers | Other

Serial Killers

By the News & Review's count, the Sacramento area has hosted 15% of the country's serial killers, a high rate for the U.S.'s 20th-largest metropolitan area. (Caveat: the SNR counts 9 serial killers between 1971 and 1992, and three more since then, but adds in non-Sacto killers like Juan Corona, Leonard Lake, and Cary Stayner.)

In February 2005, convicted rapist Herman Lee Hobbs pleaded no contest to raping and murdering 13-year-old Sacramento girl Terri Maree Pata on January 21, 1975. Pata's body was found "stuffed into a pipe in a North Highlands drainage ditch, just off Long Tree Road, a mile west of El Centro near Elverta Road." Hobbs is already in prison for the rape of a 15-year-old Yuba County girl in 2000. Police used DNA evidence to convict Hobbs for the 1975 murder. Homicide investigators also suspect Hobbs was responsible for four other murders of young girls of similar age found murdered in the vicinity of North Highlands during the 1970s. Additionally, Hobbs was investigated for other unsolved murders of girls and women in nearby counties.

In November 1980, Gerald Gallego (and his wife?) kidnapped Craig Miller and Mary Elizabeth Sowers at gunpoint from the Arden Fair mall, and murdered them. In April 1980 Gallego abducted Stacey Redican and Karen Twiggs from the Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, then killed them with a hammer. He was also tied to the 1978 Country Club Plaza killings of Kippi Vaught and Rhonda Scheffler in Sacramento (beaten with a tire iron, then shot), and may have also killed: 6 teenage girls, a young betrothed couple, a Yolo County mother of 2, and a pregnant hitchhiker in Oregon.

On November 11, 1988, Sacramento police investigators found 7 bodies buried in the yard of Dorothea Puente's rooming house at 1426 F Street, an "elegant, two-story Victorian house, well-maintained and beautifully landscaped." The "little old lady" was eventually charged with nine counts of murder. One of the detectives involved in the case wrote a book about it. Puente writes recipes from prison.

In 1987, on "the other side of town," Morris Solomon was arrested for murdering seven prostitutes and burying their bodies behind his Oak Park house. From death row, Solomon has posted an ad for correspondence on a personal ad Web site, describing himself as "romantic, and loves to meet people." He does not mention the 6 women he was convicted of murdering (he was apparently not convicted for the seventh woman).

In January 1978, Richard Trenton Chase, the "Vampire of Sacramento," killed six people and drank their blood and/or ate them. In 1980, he was found dead from an antidepressant overdose in his Vacaville prison cell.

"before that the only case to compare was in the early 60s when a young man killed some boys down by the river" - same jumbled text site as above

During the late 1970s, more than fifty women in the Sacramento area were assaulted by the East Area Rapist, who later also terrorized Contra Costa County, and has been linked through DNA to ten serial killings in Southern California between 1979 and 1986. The case was featured in an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" on Lifetime TV.

And, back in September of 1941, the "Mad Killer of Sacramento" killed at least eight people in a month, and was never caught.

" 'We've had more than our share of serial killers,' Lt. Ray Biondi in the Sacramento County sheriff's department told me. He'd just come back from testifying at the trial of Roger Kibbe, the suspect in the I-5 strangler case, involving seven killings, circa 1985. Biondi has worked all nine of the county's serial killer cases; the other two were the city's. Why so many, I asked? 'Sacramento is a crossroads,' he explained. 'It's where I-5 and I-80 intersect. It's also a melting pot and still growing' " - same jumbled text site as above

"the discovery of unidentifiable bodies is becoming commonplace often reported only on the back page of the local newspapers the murders are happening everywhere including the most affluent neighborhoods " - same jumbled site as above, possibly hyperbolic comments

It took people a while to get suspicious, but eventually Jack Barron was accused of murdering his entire family. The Bee headline was "Man testifies he didn't kill family."
"A self-described good husband, father and son held fast to his story this week that he didn't kill his wife, two children and mother"
IRENE BARRON (34) - found dead in bed, 1992
JEREMY BARRON (4) - found dead in bed, 1993
ASHLEY BARRON (3) - found dead in bed, 1994
ROBERTA BUTLER (52) - found dead in bed, 1995

Though I personally wouldn't count Yuba City as a suburb of Sacramento, at least not 30 years, ago, in 1971 Juan Corona was tried for killing 25 migrant farmworkers near there. My sources tell me the police just stopped digging after a while, so there could be more.

Lastly, no roundup of serial killings in Sacramento would be complete without mentioning the UNAbomber. From the Sacramento Bee:
Dec. 11, 1985, Sacramento, Calif.
RenTech owner Hugh C. Scrutton stops on his way to lunch to remove what looks to be a road hazard in the parking lot behind his Howe Avenue computer rental store. The object, actually a bomb filled with nail fragments, explodes. It rips Scrutton's chest open and penetrates his heart with shrapnel.
April 24, 1995, Sacramento, Calif.
A package mailed to the California Forestry Association, too difficult for the office receptionist to open, is handed over to Gilbert B. Murray, the timber lobbying group's president. The parcel explodes when opened, killling Murray with a force so great it pushes nails from the walls of other offices in the same building. The package is addressed to Murray's predecessor, William Dennison, and bears the return address of Closet Dimensions, a custom furniture company in Oakland, Calif.

Spree Killers

On April 4, 1991, three Vietnamese-American brothers stormed into a Good Guys electronics store in Sacramento, held 41 people hostage at gunpoint, and demanded a helicopter to take them back to Southeast Asia to fight the Viet Cong. After over eight hours the siege ended, six people were dead, and the lone surviving gunman is now in Corcoran State Prison serving 49 consecutive life terms.

On February 19, 1991, Eric Royce Leonard killed three people in a Round Table Pizza on Watt Avenue, and got the nickname of "pizza thrill killer." One week earlier, Leonard killed 3 people at a Quik Stop on Auburn Boulevard, taking only beef jerky from the crime scene. h says "the day after the Round Table Pizza killings, he came into the writing center at American River College and did some work. The police later confiscated his folder. The Writing Center gave him a no-credit."

Nikolay Soltys On August 20, 2001, Ukranian cobbler Nikolay Soltys killed his pregnant wife Lyubov at their duplex in North Highlands ("for speaking or for her tongue"), then, illustrating the wide area that Ukranians have settled in here, had to drive 16 miles to Rancho Cordova, where he killed four members of his cousin's family ("Zoya, again for speaking or for her tongue" and Sergei, "also for his tongue"), drove another 30 minutes to
pick up his son at his mother's place in Citrus Heights, then abandoned his car behind a House2Home store, then drove another car to the end of Watt Avenue, where he lured his 3-year-old child into a cardboard TV box using toys, slashed his throat and "violated" him. Soltys was captured ten days later, hiding under a desk in his mother's back yard. "Police said Soltys appeared to want to flee, but was blocked by a inoperative refrigerator." He was carrying a potato peeler and a map of Sacramento. Soltys later committed suicide while awaiting trial.

crazy white trash guy On September 8, 2001, Joseph Ferguson, 20, who had recently been suspended as a security guard because he attacked his ex-girlfriend's car with an ax, killed his ex-girlfriend Nina Susu, 22, of Romania, and Marsha Jackson, 32, both security guards. He then drove to the Miller Park Marina and killed George Nague
Bernardino, also a security guard, and John Derek Glimstad, a bystander. All had been shot repeatedly. He then drove through the gates of the Sacramento Zoo and handcuffed Diana Phountz, another security guard, to a tree. He held yet another security guard and his wife hostage at their home in Rancho Cordova, while making a videotape. The next day he killed the security guard, left the home with the man's wife and dropped her off unharmed several miles away with the videotape. He then shot a CHP officer in the arm, was chased for 40 minutes during which he shot a passing motorist, fired at a Sacramento Police Department helicopter and exchanged gunfire with several officers before crashing into a light pole in front of Jack in the Box at Folsom Boulevard and Zinfandel Drive. After a fierce shootout, Ferguson killed himself.

In 1996, two days before Christmas, Richard Anthony Brewer, 26, wearing a mask with a devil's face, attempted to rob The Bread Store on J St. with three other masked accomplices. This was the second time in a month that Brewer had robbed The Bread Store. He ended up shooting Assistant Manager Jason Frost three times with a 12-gauge shotgun at a range of three feet. Brewer will be in prison the rest of his life.

On July 12, 1988, Arturo Juarez Suarez shot his brothers in law, Juan and Jose Martinez, in the head near graves he had dug a week earlier at a remote spot in Auburn. Then, after sexually assaulting the wife of one victim, he bound her to a chair and took her children Areli, 3, and Jack, 5, to the grave where their father and uncle had been dumped. There Suarez clubbed the youngsters and covered them with dirt, causing their death by suffocation. (from the Bee, 10/5/01)

In December 1999 Xao Xiong, a 31-year-old Hmong immigrant living in North Sacramento, killed five of his seven children, ages 2 to 7, before turning the gun on himself. (from the Bee, 8/22/01)

A Sacto local is working on a page with more info on murder and mayhem.

Other Killers

Patty Hearst and the SLA holed up and caused mayhem all around Sacramento, from living above what is now Cafe Bernardo, to murdering Myrna Opsahl during a botched bank robbery and denying it for the next thirty years, to burying the shell casings in bucolic McKinley Park by the duck pond (evidence never found, so it's still there, somewhere near where I walk the dog!)

Beginning Monday, August 7, 2000, a total of nine duffel bags stuffed with human remains were found in the Mokelumne River in the Sacramento Delta. The bodies were those of Ivan and Annette Stineman, and Selina Bishop. Brothers Glenn and Justin Helzer were arrested for the murders.

The malls here can be very dangerous. On December 22, 1985, John Bertch and Jeff Hronis kidnapped 35-year-old store clerk Linda Canady from the Arden Fair Mall parking lot, then raped her, killed her, and dumped her body in an irrigation ditch 600 miles away.


Though it wasn't the work of a killer, people still remember that on September 24, 1972, a private jet crashed into Farrell's Ice Cream parlor, killing 22 people.

Around 1955-56, a little boy had his throat slit at the old Studio Theater that was on K Street around 11th, next door to the old Esquire. A young guy who worked at the mortuary that used to be on 28th around O street was the killer. The little boy went to the restroom while he was seeing a movie. The guy caught him in there and slit his throat. (Info from an e-mail. Any additional info on this crime would be appreciated.)
Truck ramming map On January 16, 2001, mental patient and ex con Michael Bowers drove an 18-wheeler truck, going 70 miles an hour and weighing 80,000 pounds, carrying a load of Gold Star condensed milk, down 11th Street and into the south side of the State Capitol Building. He was killed instantly.

On Thursday December 14, 2000, at about 5:26 pm, Elisabeth "Lizette" Otto, 31, opened the door of her HP commuter plane in midflight and jumped out. Searchers found Otto's body near a community vegetable garden and school south of Sacramento.

On the morning of June 18, 1999, redneck brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams set fire to three Sacramento synagogues: Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom, and Knesset Israel Torah Center. Many residents of the city banded together to put anti-racist placards in their windows.

Ford assassination attempt On September 5, 1975, as President Gerald Ford greeted well-wishers outside the Senator Hotel in Sacramento, California, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, aged twenty-six,
a follower of mass-murderer Charles Manson, leveled a Colt .45 at Ford and squeezed the trigger at point blank range. The gun misfired and Fromme was wrestled to the ground before she could pull off a second shot. The Senator Hotel, located at 1121 L Street, is now the Senator Hotel Office Building. h used to temp there.

Manson Family housing At the time of the Ford assassination attempt, Fromme was living at 1275 P Street, in an attic apartment at a boarding house. Also living there were Sandra Good and Susan Murphy, both Manson Family members. 1275 P Street is now a church.

In 1993, funeral home employee Karen Greenlee, en route to a funeral, drove off with a hearse and the corpse. Police found her several days later in the next county, overdosed on codeine Tylenol. In the casket with the body Karen left a four-and-a-half page letter confessing to amorous episodes with between twenty to forty dead men.

In 1995, someone important was killed at the K Street Mall. Info on these and more crimes can be found here.

If anyone can provide details about a stabbing at a mall parking garage that occurred around 1995, it would be appreciated. Blood was cascading over the side and onto the ground floor below? The victim survived? Details are murky.

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