Looking for Playboy Johnnie– The Sacramento Nurse Murders

Over 1967-68 Carol Hilburn had lived in Sacramento while studying as an X-Ray technician. Carol was a lively strawberry blonde, with a definite sparkle in her eyes, as an old friend remembered. She got a job at the 40 Grand on Del Paso Blvd as a waitress and paid for her way through her tech classes in hopes of finally becoming an assistant nurse.

Carol really enjoyed working at the lively and popular lounge, and she often stayed after work to dance with the men.  It is during this time that she met a man she would only call “Playboy Johnnie” to her friend. It was clear that she had a crush on him. Did she know his actual name? Nobody knows.

Then there occurred an event that is a reflection of the times and the culture of popular bar lounges. She danced with a black man and the owner personally fired her. She had no job now and had finished her nursing courses. The only choice was to move to Santa Rosa where her mother now lived.

But Carol liked Sacramento and the friends she had met. It was the new age and antiestablishment movement at full swing. She wasn’t wild, but she definitely had that type of character that was easy to like, and she lived and partied like the young did at that time.

About a year after being fired she called a Sacramento friend and asked if she could stay with her the next night. It was November 12, 1970. She was coming for a visit and she specifically mentioned she would be meeting with that mysterious Playboy Johnnie.

Her friend said of course, and told her to call her when she needed to pick her up the next day (she didn’t have a car). Carol never called.

A few days later Sacramento papers expressed their concern about yet another murder of a young woman. There was growing concerned about a serial killer afoot. A sweet court secretary Nancy Bennallack had been murdered in her own apartment on October 26, sliced up with a knife for no reason. Just across the street at another apartment complex nurse Judith Hakari had been abducted on March 7, 1970, and her body found buried near Weimar on the way to Lake Tahoe. There was that strange disappearance of another nurse in South Lake Tahoe named Donna Lass. That had happened on September 6, 1970.

Now on November 13, 1970, a body of a young woman had been found in North Sac at 4th and Ascot in a field that was a part of the Hansen Park, a huge undeveloped area bordered by old country homes and orchards. The body was almost nude. It had panties and a brown suede boot. The victim had not been sexually molested, but she had been beaten to death beyond recognition.

No one knew who she was, so the coroner had to have a forensic artist try and draw a semblance of what she had looked like. It was posted in the Sacramento papers on November 16, 1970, asking for help in identifying the victim. Articles brought up the Bennallack and Hakari murders and now wondered if there was a connection. Carol’s friend read the article but didn’t connect it to why Carol had not called her.

SacUnion-11-16-70

Due to the description of the victim (boot most likely), someone called the sheriffs and suggested Carol. Finally she was identified. The newspapers wrote about how the sheriffs spoke to a man about her, but we do not know if this was the mysterious Playboy Johnnie. When the article identifying Carol was published, her friend was stunned that this victim had been her old friend Carol who was to stay with her that night.  She kept the newspaper editions of the Sacramento Union.

Sac-Union

To this day the case remains unsolved, as do the cases of Hakari, Bennallack and Lass. Was there one killer? Nothing really fits. Carol was having a lively time out visiting a couple of bars, from the rough part of West Sac to Del Paso Blvd in North Sac. Ascot and 4th was an easy drive north of Del Paso Blvd on Rio Linda Blvd. It seems she met someone here and afterward went with them and eventually ended up alone with them.

The murder scene was never found.  But whoever drove her body to the dump site must have known the area. It all depends on which site is correct. Both 4th Street and a few blocks away West 4th street end at Ascot Avenue. 4th is the first street into the community from main the road Rio Linda Blvd. It would make for an easy and quick site. But West 4th is much further in by an old olive orchard. If West 4th is the site then the killer drove much further into the country community than necessary to dump a body. Presumably because he knew the orchard made the road a lonely, dark place here at night.  He drug the body across the street into the open field that is now the very northern perimeter of the country park.

DSC01191

Ascot Avenue and the field beyond, as seen from West 4th through the orchard at the possible dump site. Taken on February 11, 2013.

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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 or Q Man. “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.

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