Looking at the line up of the victims of the so called Sonoma Coed Killer AKA Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murderer, we see 7 pretty girls. Specifically, however, only 4 were girls (juveniles). The others were adults, young women, including a Jane Doe which brings the tally up to 8 victims. The last two victims would be adults.
After the discovery of the body of 14 year old Carolyn Davis July 31, 1973, the next victim was Terese Walsh. She was 23 years old, hitchhiking between Malibu and her family home in Garberville, far up Highway 101, north of Santa Rosa, Christmas time 1973. Somewhere around Santa Rosa her journey ended. Her body was found hogtied in Mark West Creek, west of Michele Way, on December 28, 1973, in a mountainous canyon area. Two kayakers had come upon her partially submerged body.
Investigators finally made it to the remote location, waded chest deep in icy water and retrieved the body, which was partially pinned under a sunken and fallen log. It took some time to identify the victim as Walsh because she was not a local, but it didn’t take long to realize what had been done to her.
She was nude, her arms tied before her, her feet tied behind her and a length of cord was tied to her ankles and the other end wound around her neck in a slipknot. She had died of strangulation– a sadomasochistic murder, a unique form of psychological self torture, where struggling causes you to choke yourself to death. This was the end of poor Terese Walsh. Her family had been devastated by her disappearance at the festive time of year, and their new year shattered by the discovery of her body in such a way.
It had been 5 months since the killer had struck, but in truth her death was the first of its kind since Kim Wendy Allen’s in March 1972. Since Walsh was only passing through, she obviously did not get picked up by someone she knew and then went with them for a spicy night. The circumstances of Walsh’s murder reinforced that Allen was deliberately murdered and that her death was not the result of a kinky night gone wrong.
However, despite Walsh’s murder being identical in MO to Kim Allen’s, Walsh’s body was found nowhere near hers. It had been found in the general vicinity as the juvenile victims– Weber, Sterling, Davis, Kursa– in the northeast of Santa Rosa in the Santa Rosa Hills. Not only was she in the general vicinity, her body might have been dropped much closer to the others initially. Mark West Creek had been turned into a winter torrent by the rains. There was no doubt the current had carried her body quite a distance to the remote location. Upstream, the most viable places for having dumped a body near the creek were off Mark West Springs Rd or even as far as Calistoga Road.
Mark West Springs Road, Porter Creek Road, Petrified Forest Road– all are essentially different names for different lengths of the same road that loops around in the Santa Rosa Hills northeast of Santa Rosa. Calistoga Road connects with them, and Franz Valley Road branches off to the northeast.
The road system in the Santa Rosa Hills northeast of Santa Rosa. Victims’ approximate locations are marked according to the first letter of their surname.
It would not be until July 1979 that the remains of another body would be found. not so surprisingly, it was found off Calistoga Road. More curious than this, it was found 100 yards from where Kursa’s body had been found. Yet it had been there a long time. It was estimated that it must have been dropped there back in late 1972/early 1973. Bones and hair were all that was left. The age estimate of the victim was 20 years old in 1972. Her hair had possibly been auburn. Lengths of weathered and rotting cord, perhaps the kind used in a Venetian blind, were found around one ankle bone and then around the neck bones, where it had been wound a few times. In other words, she had been trussed up just like Walsh. The first thought on investigators’ part was that Jeannette Kamahele had been found. But the dental x-rays proved otherwise.
It would seem unquestionable that the same man who killed Allen and Walsh had killed yet another. But how to interpret the location where the bodies of these last two victims had been found? They weren’t found near to the first victim whose MO they share (8 miles southeast of Santa Rosa). Rather they are found in the general vicinity northeast of Santa Rosa where the younger victims had been found, those whose killer seems to have had quite a dissimilar MO.
For hypothetical reasons, let us label the juveniles the victims of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer, and the older ones who were all tortured and strangled as the victims of the Sonoma Coed Killer.
For argument’s sake, we have two killers afoot. One likes young girls. He may even have a partner. The other likes college girls. When Kim Wendy Allen was murdered (March 1972) and Kamahele vanished (April 1972), there was no evidence that someone was killing 12, 13 year old girls in the area. The bodies of the first victims– Yvonne Weber and Maureen Sterling– would not be found until the end of the year. They are quickly linked to Kursa, a 13 year old found nearby, also in December 1972. Seven months after the discovery of Weber and Sterling, another young girl, 14 year old Carolyn Davis’ body is dropped where they had been off Franz Valley Road.
The local Press Democrat had reporters on the scenes of all of these discoveries, with pictures in the newspaper. Some time after this the victims of the Sonoma Coed Killer start appearing in the general vicinity as those of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer. Despite the similarity of location, the evidence in their cases is at a stark contrast to the other victims. They are late teens or early 20s, and each was strangled.
Evidence indicates that Jane Doe was killed and dumped off Calistoga Road in late 1972/early 1973, a year perhaps before Walsh. She was dropped about 100 yards from were Kursa’s body had been found. From the remains it seems she had been in a laundry bag. The point is she was dropped where she would be found. From the rise and fall of the local creek she had eventually been buried in a shallow grave before being discovered years later by hikers. Curiously, Walsh may have been dropped in the same general area and the winter torrent took the body downstream.
We thus have an interesting chain of events, one that suggests that Kim Wendy Allen’s killer decided it would make a perfect alibi to drop his victims where another publicized killer had left his victims.
It is macabre, of course, to have to contemplate the vivid details of this, and I do not indulge it in winsomely. These killings happened, and these are clues that cannot be ignored. Blood still cries up from the ground, and society as a whole cannot ignore that these type of predators exist. Details cannot be swept under the carpet and therewith the loss of what may be a significant clue that could jog a witness’ memory even this long afterwards.
If the above supposition is correct, then we should expect that Jeannette Kamahele’s body, if she is a victim, is to be found closer to where Allen’s had been dumped. Or, quite possibly, radically different from all the locations. Once again, it was only after the other murders hit the news at the end of the year that their locations would become a perfect cover for someone else quite sadistic to drop his victims.
Lori Kursa’s murder is the most at odds with them all. But if the witness before-the-fact is correct it suggests that there were as many as three men involved in the killing of the juveniles. Two men were seen escorting her to a parked van on Calistoga Road. They almost seemed to be holding her up between them. When her body is found, the coroner believes she died on the spot, that is, when she was pitched from the van down the embankment. This is hard to believe.
It was also thought she may have jumped from the van and received the injuries.
I would suggest a combination of both– that she realized what was up, got free, jumped on the road, and the two men went and got her while the other waited in the van. The witness saw these two men at Parkhurst Drive carrying the broken girl back to the van. They drive off. Inside the van they must believe she has died. They strip her and throw her off the embankment further up Calistoga Road in the Santa Rosa Hills. I cannot imagine a killer is going to throw from his van or from the embankment a victim he knows to be alive. It’s a huge assumption that the victim will die on the way down and not survive to tell the tale and incriminate him. But if “they” thought she was already dead from having jumped out the van to escape, they might have stripped her body and then discarded her down the embankment.
The manner in which Carolyn Davis’ body had been found also suggested an unusually strong man or two men having thrown her over the intervening bushes on the embankment, since none had been damaged in the 60 feet between the road and where the body wound up.
There are arguments, naturally, for one killer. But before we pursue those in more detail we must look at the only person of interest whose name has gotten out of the grapevine. We must ask some hard questions. Such as: why has he not been pursued and the rumors laid to rest or confirmed? This is for our next post.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.