The Sonoma Coed Killer Part 4

I have been promising a post on the clues that support the theory that all the victims in Sonoma County in the early 1970s were the victims of one serial killer rather than two distinctive predators. So let’s look at that in this post.

This serial killer has been called The Sonoma Coed Killer or the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer. He was considered active after the death of Kim Wendy Allen in March 1972 and he is suspected to have ceased at an unknown time after 1973. The ambiguity is the result of the fact that one victim was found in 1979 and from the evidence she must have been killed sometime in 1972/73.

Confusion as to whether one or two killers exists is due to the fact that two distinct MOs can be gleaned from the evidence. Earlier in February 1972 two girls, Maureen Sterling and Yvonne Weber, but 12 and 13, had vanished from near Snoopy’s ice rink in downtown Santa Rosa. They were last seen hitching on Guerneville Road. In November of 1972 another 13 year old would be seen “abducted” by at least 3 men on Calistoga Road and later her body would be found cast from the road and down a 60 foot embankment. In December the bodies of the first two missing teens would be found down an embankment off Franz Valley Road. In July 1973 another 14 year old would be found near the previous two victims’ location off Franz Valley Road. All had been nude when dumped.KWA

In this period of time more mature women, those who were 19-23, would disappear or be found in similar circumstances– nude, raped and basically slow tortured via an elaborate way of hogtying them and then using a slip knot on the neck. In essence, they slow-choked themselves to death. Beyond descriptives really, but it was sophisticated. It was estimated that the first victim found like this, Kim Wendy Allen, took 30 minutes to die. For pretty Jeannette Kamahele, the second suspected victim, she would never be found.

The rub is that Kim Allen’s nude body, the official “first,” had been dumped off Enterprise Road about 8 miles southeast of Santa Rosa. The young girl victims– Weber, Sterling, Davis, Kursa, had been dumped to the northeast of Santa Rosa. Only after their deaths (and the locations) achieved notoriety in the press would the case take a turn. Then, in disturbing parallel, those subsequent victims that matched the signature seen in Allen’s murder would be found dumped off Calistoga Road or off Mark West Springs Road. Both locations are in the northeast of Santa Rosa, nowhere near where Allen had been dumped. In the case of the unidentified Jane Doe victim, she had been found quite close to where Lori Kursa’s body had been found in November 1972. (Age estimates for this Jane Doe were older, about 20 years old. This put her in Allen’s and Kamahele’s age category.) Jeannette-Kamahele

Nevertheless, the signatures of the crimes in these later victims remain quite distinct from those of the signature of the young girls. The signature is that seen in the Allen murder. It is possible that the more brutal and sophisticated murderer of Kim Wendy Allen decided to give himself some cover by dumping his later victims near the other publicized murder sites. But it could be the killer of both types were one and the same killer.

Let’s clarify the two categories. The bold listings indicates those who were found in sadomasochistic positions. The italicized are those victims that were mere girls and not killed in the same sadomasochistic way.

February 1972– Sterling and Weber hitching back home from Snoopy’s Ice Rink.

March 1972– Santa Rosa Junior College coed Kim Wendy Allen was hitchhiking back to Santa Rosa from her job in Larkspur. She never made it. Nude body found off a rural road. She had been bound in a sadomasochistic way.

April 1972– Jeannette Kamahele was hitching up from Rohnert Park, just south of Santa Rosa, to go to class at Santa Rosa Junior College.

November 1972– Lori Lee Kursa hitching on Calistoga Road or abducted.

July 1973 — Carolyn Davis ran away from Anderson, northeast of Santa Rosa, and hitched south. Body found at Weber and Sterling’s body drop location.

December 1973– Therese Walsh hitching to her family home from Malibu to north of Santa Rosa. Later found in Mark West Creek, bound in a sadomasochistic way.

1979– skeleton found having been bound in same sadomasochistic ways. Estimated victim murdered in 1972. Found near where Kursa’s body had been found off Calistoga Road. First suspected to be Kamahele, but dentals prove otherwise.

Despite the variables, one thing is common here: each had a connection with  Highway 101 or, in Kursa’s case, a main road off Highway 12, the main rural highway off 101 that heads to Napa. None of the victims, despite their age differences, were kidnapped or picked up in the heart of the town. Even in Kursa’s case this is questionable. When she was last seen on Calistoga Road, the witness described her as being propped up by two men who rushed her between them to a van in which was sitting a driver. She may have already jumped from the van and hurt herself in doing so. Her body would later be found with a broken neck. She seemed to have died from trauma.

GuernvilleRd
The relation of Guernville Road,  Highway 101 and Snoopy’s. All pick-ups most likely occurred off Highway 101

As far as prowling, it seems the MO is the same– Highway 101. This sounds like a single prowling MO. The problem is that this is the only highway and this is where anybody seeking hitchhikers is going to look. It is, in fact, the only common MO. This doesn’t mean one killer is involved

Hitchhiking was common back then, all too common. Hitchhiker murders were also far too common, not only of those hitching but of those offering. Stanley Dean Baker is a notorious case.

Other than the fact all were hitchhiking and along Highway 101 we have nothing but differences. We have one group which are 12-14 years old. The cause of death in Sterling and Weber could not be determined, but obviously it was done by someone who could overpower both. Davis, whose body was found close by, had died by massive strychnine poisoning– quite odd. Kursa died of trauma, possibly the result of having tried to escape the speeding van. Her case tells us that more than one person was involved. The distance down the embankment from Franz Valley Road and Calistoga Road where the victims were found tells us either a single killer was very strong  and could throw bodies far or that more than one person helped in tossing their bodies. Each of the young girls seems to have died differently than the other.

At a contrast, Allen, Walsh, and Jane Doe, died the same way, and each was about 19 to 23 years old. Kamahele was never found. Each died in a complex way in which they basically choked themselves to death.HHtoH

 

Hitch Hike to Hell  accentuated the dangers of young women hitch hiking in 1977. It was inspired by the increasing fears in society over the practice.  Though an incredibly bad, low budget flick, it did help put an end to the fad. 

All victims were found nude.  Aside from having been picked up on or around Highway 101, that is the only common link between them.

What shall we then say? With the facts at hand it is hard to see only one hand involved in this. The older teens do not seem to have been killed by a few guys working in tandem. Each was killed in a sophisticated, sadomasochistic way. The young girls were killed in various fashions and possibly their deaths were the result of two or more killers.

But did these disparate killers operate together at times and the leader had his own individual kinks? The driver of the van awaiting the two men rushing Kursa back to it was described as a white guy with an afro. There was a witness who saw Jeannette Kamahele jump into an old pickup on the onramp in Cotati. He described the driver similarly.

There’s always that one other curious link: the killings stopped at the same time. However, from the records of other counties in California, young girls would still vanish while walking along the secluded arboreal roads. The 1970s was a dark time. It was a time that reminded us of something we do not like to believe. Human predators exist. They have territoriality. Like sharks they cruise about. How many missing young girls and women in northern California exist in the records? How many skeletons of unidentified  Jane Does still need a name put on them?

Officially the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murderer has gotten away clean, whoever he or they might have been.

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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.

The Sonoma Coed Killer — Addendum

The Case of the Lisa Smith that was and was not and now maybe is missing.

I mentioned the case of the missing 17 year old Lisa Smith in Sonoma Coed Killer Part 3– Dressed to Kill– Freda’s Night Out. She vanished in March 1971, last seen hitching on Hearn Avenue in Santa Rosa. She had run away from her foster parents in Petaluma.  She may have been the Lisa Smith who was tended in the Novato Hospital south of Santa Rosa before she vanished again.  Lisa_Smith_SRHM

I mentioned the case as representing a possible early victim of the Sonoma Coed Killer. A Santa Rosa Press Democrat article from 2011 likewise mentions her case. She is listed on Wikipedia as a possible victim as well, though that source is hardly ever stellar.

It wasn’t soon after the blog post went up when a lady who has followed the crime spree posted on my FB wall a clipping from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The clipping was from April 1971, detailing the safe deliverance of Lisa Smith. She, in fact, did not vanish. 12791070_10154018603163024_4790211346616862534_n

What happened to her thereafter? We do not know. The article mentions how she escaped from a man in a pickup truck who threatened to rape her after brandishing a gun. This clue is very tantalizing. Jeannette Kamahele was last seen getting into an older pickup truck with a custom wood camper on the back, at Cotati’s onramp north to Santa Rosa in April 1972, one month after Kim Wendy Allen’s bizarre murder while hitchhiking up from San Rafael.

Was the man Smith encountered the same fiend who would turn bizarre murderer in 1972, or does he sound too crude? The Sonoma Coed Killer would not kill them himself, technically. He let them choke themselves to death in a cruel bondage position, no doubt while he watched.

Rape, unfortunately, of hitchhiking girls was not uncommon and often wasn’t taken too seriously by authorities. Some even felt any girl was asking for it by hitchhiking. When Sonoma State College girls started a carpool and put in a switchboard to arrange bussing there was a curious reaction from the men. “Not one or two but 11 men on campus have protested the Switchboard effort, terming the raping of hitchhikers as ‘inevitable,’  some said the girl hitchhikers should ‘relax and regard it as a learning experience.’

‘Hell, the chicks like it,’ one said.”

You can gather that lots of rapes and attempted rapes went unreported. Lisa Smith could have encountered any number of nutcases prowling the highway.

The article from which the above quotations were taken was published on May 3, 1972,  and can be accessed here:

Hitchhike? Try the SSC Carpool

From what I have laid out about the Sonoma Coed Killer he seems too sophisticated to brandish a gun and try brutality. He may even have known a couple of the victims and lulled them into a false sense of security. Yet we cannot be sure.

In any case, attempted rape was not uncommon and it seems Lisa Smith survived. It would be nice if she is found today. Perhaps she can still shed some light on the man who threatened to rape her. According to the article, she was taken to her real parents in Livermore afterward. So there is a clue to start the search.

*         *          *

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. 

Dressed to Kill — Freda’s Night Out– Sonoma Coed Killer Part 3

It was not until 2002. Finally in that year a name from within the legal grapevine of the north Bay Area snuck out regarding a person of interest for being the Sonoma Coed Killer. Details, as they come to us, are thin. Moreover, the initial conduit was not a very good one. We have to assume that Robert Graysmith was accurate in his core recital of what he had heard, which is assuming a lot. Robert Graysmith tailored every bit of information he could get on Bay Area murders to try and implicate The ‘Zodiac’ Killer. Graysmith has been repeatedly exposed for some of the grossest inaccuracy in the cases he has discussed. Some of his sources are little more than gossip, and upon this he tailored interpretation to make the ‘Zodiac’ a viable suspect. In the case of the Sonoma Coed Murders, he tried to repeatedly link Leigh Allen, his ‘Zodiac’ suspect. Manalli-53

After reading his 1986 book Zodiac a woman who retired from the Coroner’s office in Sonoma County wrote to Graysmith. She told him of an auto accident in 1976 involving 41 year old Fred Manalli. He had taught creative writing at Santa Rosa Junior College, Napa Junior College, and even at San Quentin  Prison near Larkspur. On August 24, 1976, he had been driving his van from his home west of Santa Rosa in Sebastopol. Highway 12, a 2-lane rural but frequently traveled road, was and remains today the main route between these two historic cities. Suddenly his van veered and hit the oncoming car. In this head-on collision, Fred Manalli had been killed. According to this informant, the sheriffs found drawings in the back of the van of women in sadomasochistic positions, listing them according to their sexual preference. One of them was Kim Wendy Allen. Fred also drew himself as well, in drag, and captioned himself as “Freda.” Manalli kept a lock of hair in his wallet, but it did not match Kim Allen’s. A backpack was also found, though Graysmith did not state that it matched Allen’s. He only said it belong to “one of the victims.”Santa Rosa-Sebastopol

According to Graysmith, his correspondent believed the evidence was destroyed around 1979.

According to Graysmith yet again (page 261 Zodiac Unmasked) “one investigator” discovered that Freda’s widow/ex-wife found more drawings, showing that “Freda” liked bondage and was involved with other young women.

Eventually we get a source name from Graysmith that corroborates some of this. He spoke with Sgt. Steve Brown, Sonoma Co. Sheriffs. Brown admitted he had a photocopy of a couple of the sketches. Brown is quoted as saying: “He drew Kim and he drew himself as ‘Freda.’ He drew this other girl and those two girls had classes with him.” According to Graysmith, Chief Wayne Dunham of Santa Rosa Police thought that “Freda” had something to do with Allen’s murder. This would seem reasonable. According to Brown, however, we get an insipid insight:

“One investigator thought that the teacher had this sex/slave thing going, whips and chains and all this weird stuff, and he was obsessed with big-breasted women. He probably taught Kim, and when she shows up dead he became really obsessed with her. A weird dude.”KWA

There’s a keen mind at work.

In all honesty, we have to cut Sgt. Brown some slack. He most likely didn’t say it in that manner. It is so illogical, a rational mind above lower primate could not make such a statement. Graysmith often went out of his way to muddy the evidence against anybody but Leigh Allen for most any crime he tried to associate with ‘Zodiac.’

If we are to accept at face value what Sgt. Steve Brown is quoted as saying, then he is implicitly saying that Fred Manalli’s drawings of his students in such sadomasochistic positions is purely from his memory of the students. Therefore the drawings represent fantasies and not reflective of actual moments with them. This would make it quite a coincidence that Kim Allen was killed in a sadomasochistic position.

It is a fact, however, that Sonoma Co. Sheriffs have never made a comment on Fred Manalli. To what should we attribute this? By 1976, 3 years since the last victim had been found, did the average sheriff not know enough details to realize the significance of the discovery? Or did the clues simply leak back to the sheriffs through independent sources? If all the evidence from the van was first in sheriff custody, I would imagine that Brown would have more than just 2 copies of the sketches. It sounds like they only got copies and never had the originals. Brown also said “He probably taught Kim”– which doesn’t sound like he or anybody did an official investigation.

The unnamed retired member of the Sonoma County Coroner’s office had told Graysmith that the detective who cataloged everything from Manalli’s van had said “As long as he’s dead, for his family’s sake, there’s no point in ruining his reputation.” This comment is also unlikely in the context it was given (page 260). Police aren’t too concerned with a citizen’s reputation if there is evidence he was some deranged killer. In Cold Case,  if there is much moral evidence against a suspect, but there is no way to prove it, it will still be investigated. It will not be dismissed. It will, however, have to take a backseat to “hot cases.”

“Zodiologists” have, of course, only considered Fred Manalli in terms of being the ‘Zodiac’, quickly dismissing him because he was strong, 6 foot 3 inches and didn’t look anything like the ‘Zodiac’ composites. That’s about as far as it goes.

We can forget ‘Zodiac’, but we cannot forget Manalli. There is no question that the Sonoma County grapevine knew of Manalli as a possible candidate for being the Sonoma Coed Killer. Kim Wendy Allen’s name is directly linked with him, and a sheriff also had a copy of a couple of “Freda’s” S&M sketches. Beyond this, however, they did not seem to venture.

Let’s consider a few intangibles.

Manalli-R
During high school days Manalli was quite popular.

In general, Fred Manalli reflects the type that would be trusted by local girls. He was known to be a JC teacher. He was strong, handsome, and in 1972 he was in his late 30s– still in his prime. He had lived in the area for about 10 years at the time of his death in 1976, so about 6 years by the time of the crimes. He was also a poet. We all know what they’re like. You may think that is unforgivably “English” of me, but it is true that poets are aesthetics. They resonate to country places and creeks. He knew the foothills. He also taught at San Quentin, which is accessed along Sir Francis Drake Blvd just from Larkspur, where Kim was working and from where she hitchhiked the day she vanished and was murdered.  She had been left off on Bell Avenue in San Rafael. Manalli  could have come along and picked her up. She would probably have trusted him.Jeannette-Kamahele

Pretty Jeannette Kamahele hitched up from Rohnert Park, south of Santa Rosa. The person seen to pick her up at the onramp of Highway 101 may have been innocent enough. The person may have being going north to Highway 12 in Santa Rosa and no further. He may have left her off there. It is along this highway Manalli would have come to work from Sebastopol. He could have picked her up there.

In fact, doing a rough compute of where the victims may have been picked up highlights Santa Rosa proper or south of Santa Rosa. This introduces another disappearance. This is the case of 17 year old Lisa Smith, from Petaluma. She disappeared in March 1971, before any of the others, last seen hitching on Hearn Avenue in Santa Rosa. A young woman using that name later appeared in the Novato hospital with injuries, saying she had escaped a ride and had been beaten. They patched her up and she left. She was never seen again.

Carpool

At first glance, it sounds as if she escaped the villain we seek– serials are not so efficient when they begin and they make mistakes. But how to explain her disappearance thereafter? Did he find her again? Actually, sadly, rape and attempted rape was not so rare around the area during these times. Many SRJC and Sonoma State coeds were reporting similar incidents while hitchhiking. Both colleges began to organize carpooling and bussing. It is not beyond probability that she met with an attempted rape and survived and then later met the real sadistic fiend that intended to kill his victims.

All we know is that it seems Lisa Smith vanished once again south of Santa Rosa, between Larkspur and Novato. Jeannette Kamahele was south of Santa Rosa, too; Kim Wendy Allen last seen in San Rafael; Carolyn Davis was hitching up from Malibu; and for Jane Doe we have no clue. She wasn’t local.

Lisa_Smith_SRHM

None of the bodies were ever dropped to the west of Santa Rosa, in the direction of Sebastopol. They were all dropped to the east,  in a direction unlikely to suggest a killer from Sebastopol.

Rosa

Calistoga Road connects with Highway 12, the rural 2-lane road to Sonoma and Napa. It then connects with the others (Mark West Springs, Porter Creek) used by the killer. In turn Mark West Springs Road connects to the north of Santa Rosa and Highway 101. In this northeast area all the bodies were dumped except Allen’s. Lori Kursa was last seen on Calistoga Road.

We are left with only the fringes of a possible image. A handsome, trusted man who picks up his victims, usually to the south of Santa Rosa. He takes them to his lair (ostensibly). He then binds them and prepares them for his sadomasochistic pleasures. He returns to the darkened room dressed as a woman– Freda has arrived. He does not kill them himself, not with his own hands anyway. He won’t soil his hands with that. They die during the act by strangling themselves in the deadly slipknot bondage position he has put them in. Perhaps it is afterward. The slipknot is now too tight. He won’t loosen it. The result is slow torture and strangulation, in a sense self inflicted while Freda calmly watches. Kim Allen strangled to death slowly, for up to 30 minutes.

Manalli-swing

Was it “Freda”?  I don’t know. But it needs to be looked into aggressively if the grapevine has even picked up on a shadow of truth. My experience with cold case crime reveals a different type of predator who goes after average middleclass girls. He is not the crude tavern dreg who hunts prostitutes. These predators aren’t particularly clever nor need they be. They are picking up women who want to be picked up to do business. But your serial fiend who likes to attack nice middleclass people is more sophisticated and calculating. He is picking up young women who aren’t in business. He himself also has a respectable profile he must maintain. This is what we see in the Sonoma Coed Killer.

BTK was respectable enough. Bundy. All clues point to EAR/ONS having a middleclass profile. The same can be said for ‘Zodiac’ and The Phantom. Each attacked the average citizen.  The predators who prowl the strip at night to hunt prostitutes have usually been an unsavory kind who can fit on the strip.

Fred Manalli’s name has already been publically referenced long before this. Though his name has been referenced mainly by “wacky” ‘Zodiac’ enthusiasts, the rumor mill, sometimes even official rumor mill, has mentioned some very disconcerting clues. Broadly, he fits a pattern that is applicable. Maybe when it was all put together, the sheriffs really didn’t have enough to get a clear picture to proceed. Maybe they were blind sighted by the standards of the time.

Toronto Police still cringe over their Pollyanna mistake with the Ken and Barbie Killers. They had one half of that gruesome duo (Ken) in front of them. Paul Bernardo hadn’t turned to murder yet. He was still only raping his victims in the Scarborough suburb. Though a person of interest he gave such a good impression of himself that the Toronto detectives did not even bother to test his DNA. It would have revealed him to be the rapist they sought.

A similar attitude may have prevented Sonoma County from proceeding beyond a rationalizing theory about Manalli. Without anything but kinky art, with more in the possession of the widow, what did they have? There was no DNA science in forensics. Three years after the fact Brown only formed the convenient theory of a “weird dude” that “probably” fantasized about Kim, whom he also “probably” had taught.

Frederic Manalli’s guilt or innocence should be pursued. DNA might still exist and he could be ruled out or found guilty 45 years after-the-fact. Something more has to be done than to dismiss him as “weird” because he cross-dressed and drew sketches of a murder victim in sado positions, which reflected how she did die.

WiQf5Ht

In our next post we will look at the clues that indicate a single killer was responsible for the entire spectrum of victims over those 2 years in the very bizarre early 1970s. And, we have to consider clues that indicate it was not Fred Manalli.

*         *          *

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. 

Sonoma Coed Killer Part 2

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.

TW

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.

victim locations-73

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.

Snoopy-HI
Snoopy’s Hot Ice, where Weber and Sterling were last seen in Santa Rosa.

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. 

Sonoma Coed Killer — Part 1

As I mentioned in my introductory post, analysis must come first in Cold Case, not investigation. Let us take a look here at a few clues in the case of the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders or, also called, the Sonoma Coed Killings. The Sonoma Coed Killer was active between 1972 and 1974. At least 7 victims are attributed to him, with a probable 8th victim. However, there is a quiet schism today as to whether the victims were the victims of one killer or two separate killers.

Since this is an analysis of whether there could be 2 unrelated killers, I am not going to go into minutiae here on each case._1%20Analy%20Hall

The first victim found was Kim Wendy Allen,  a Santa Rosa Junior College coed. She was 19 years old.  On March 4, 1972, she had been hitchhiking back to the JC from her job in Larkspur, south of San Rafael in the Bay Area. She worked at a grocery there. She was last seen carrying a soy barrel and wearing a metal frame backpack. She hitched a ride to Bell Avenue in San Rafael where she was left off. She must have hitched a ride further north to Santa Rosa. The next day, March 5, 1972, her nude body was found down an embankment off the rural Enterprise Road, southeast of Santa Rosa by about 8 miles.

KWA

Examination showed she had been bound at one point with ligatures. She had been strangled to death slowly.  It was thought she had been bound in a manner that indicated she had been spread eagle. She may also have been bound in a sadomasochistic way, with her arms bound before her and her legs behind her, connected hogtie fashion by a length of cord with a slipknot around her neck. Thus when struggling she would have slowly strangled herself. It could be determined she was strangled for at least 30 minutes before dying. She may have been raped. There were overt signs of sexual activity, but her bindings suggested sadomasochism.

The 1970s were the “Swingin’ Seventies.” Free and very unusual sex was commonplace. Wife swapping was even being engaged in, which is truly bizarre. As presented, the evidence could suggest this was an accidental death from a kinky night out, and the man panicked and dumped the body. KWA1

Nevertheless, adding other clues strongly suggested premeditated torture and murder. In addition, there was no indication Allen ever got back to Santa Rosa. If she had, her backpack and soy barrel should have been found at her residence. It must still be noted, however, that she may have been picked up by someone she knew and accepted a lift to their domicile first. Otherwise she was forcibly led somewhere by a man who had picked her up along Highway 101. Her clothes, distinctive soy barrel and backpack must have been disposed of. The clues and evidence in the Allen case indicate she had been taken somewhere for some time, subjected to binding and perhaps some aspects of sadomasochistic acts. Where? It could be a van or a remote house in the rural areas in Sonoma County. The point is, this wasn’t done in an inconvenient location. Some time was devoted to the binding and “torturing.” If it wasn’t an accidental death, a diabolical and very premeditated mind was responsible.

One month later, April 25, 1972, Jeannette Kamahele, of Hilo Hawaii, was last seen on the Highway 101 onramp at E. Cotati Ave and Old Redwood, south of Santa Rosa in Rohnert Park. She was  hitching a ride to Santa Rosa Junior College where she too was a student. A friend saw her jump in an older truck with a custom camper affixed on top. She was 20 years old, pretty. She was never seen again.Jeannette-Kamahele

Nothing of particularly similar occurrences were known to happen to JC coeds for the rest of the year. Therefore these two incidents– a strange death and a disappearance– were not, at least on the face of it, overtly related.

There had been a very dissimilar disappearance on February 4, one month before Allen would vanish. Yvonne Weber, 13 years old, and Maureen Sterling 12 years old, were last known to have been at the Snoopy’s ice rink in Santa Rosa. There are conflicting stories whether one of their mothers was to pick them up or not at 11 p.m. Possibly, both had been seen on Guernville Road near Snoopy’s, trying to hitch a ride.  The two girls vanished. They were classified as “runaways” by Santa Rosa police.

On December 28, 1972, their skeletons would be found off another rural Sonoma County road, Franz Valley Road. This road, however, is northeast of Santa Rosa. Due to the fact only skeletal remains were left, no cause of death could be determined. However, they had been there for quite some time obviously. They had probably been murdered soon after they had vanished. They were found about 60 feet from the road down the embankment heading to the Franz Valley Creek.

Weber-Sterling

Between their disappearance and discovery, there had been another disappearance and recovery. Lori Lee Kursa, only 13 years old, had runaway from home on November 11, 1972, and was staying with friends. A couple of weeks later she vanished. Her body had been found, nude, down an embankment off Calistoga Road, northeast of Santa Rosa, on December 14, 1972. She had apparently died at the scene where she had been dumped, having a number of contusions and even a broken neck. There was no sign of sexual assault or binding.

It must be noted that Calistoga Road heads from the eastern suburbs of Santa Rosa into the Santa Rosa Hills and finally reaches the juncture of two roads. Petrified Forest Road goes to the right and to Calistoga. To the left the road is known as Porter Creek Road. Turning left onto Porter Creek Road and very soon on your right is Franz Valley Road. It was 2.2 miles up Franz Valley Road where Weber and Sterling would soon be found. These 3 were thus grouped along the connected roads northeast of Santa Rosa.

LLK

Since Kursa’s death was so at odds with the evidence in Allen’s murder and the assumed circumstances of Weber and Sterling’s deaths, she was only tentatively placed as a victim of what appeared to be a serial killer now afoot in this quiet community.

The next victim proved a surprise, and it confirmed that a serial killer was afoot.  The body of Carolyn Davis, 14, was found only 14 feet from where Sterling and Weber had been dumped. Her last known whereabouts were on July 15, 1973. She was found on July 31, 1973. Her body was found, nude, face down, and must have been there for a week. She was from Anderson in Shasta Co. and had run away. But she returned at one point and was last seen by her grandmother in Garberville much further north of Santa Rosa, where she had been dropped off at the bus station. However, she must have hitchhiked south along Highway 101.

It was becoming obvious that the killer used Highway 101 and picked up his victims around there near Santa Rosa. It is the only major highway going north/south along the coastal and scenic California counties.

The cause of death was surprising– massive strychnine poisoning.

Just what was going on here?CD

Although such a poison could be administered in a van, the victim also might have been taken to a residence. Due to decomposition it could not be determined if the poison had been taken in tablet form or administered by injection. Drug culture used strychnine to mix with certain drugs. The killer may have had quite a knowledge of illicit drugs, aside from access to them.

In a sense this clue in Davis’ case may help to explain how two girls (Weber and Sterling) could be subdued by a single individual– poison.  However, circumstantial evidence in Kursa’s case indicated that she had been picked up on Calistoga Road by two men who held her between them, almost rushed through the intersection of Parkhurst Drive, and to a van parked on the north side of Calistoga Road. A man was seated in the driver’s seat. He was a white man with an afro style hairdo– the new fad. They put her in the back. Three men? That’s hard to fathom. It is hard to fathom 3 men would be involved in a serial murder spree.

Nevertheless, Sonoma Co. sheriffs had to consider more than one man or a very strong man. Davis’ body had been thrown from the road down the embankment and over the intervening bushes. There was no damage to them.  This was a very strong man or 2 men throwing her. It was, truly, suggestive of the current TV hit Night Stalker, where the super human strength of Janos Skorzeny, a “vampire,”  could throw a victim 60 feet, leaving a mystery of a body with no footprints around it.

FVroad

Certainly the same killer who dumped the Weber and Sterling girls also did-in Davis. It was very gusty returning to the same scene after it had been discovered months before by the law.

But something else was to change now. Bound bodies would turn up in the northeast in these general areas. Their murders would fit the MO in the Allen murder, but they would not be found near where she had been dropped. No other victim would be found near where her body had been dropped.

As it stood in August 1973, after Davis’ discovery, Kim Wendy Allen’s murder was unique. It had been torture, rape and slow strangulation. These other victims, though found nude, had shown no such diabolical acts upon them per se. There was also quite a difference in their ages. These were all young girls, the oldest being 14. Allen was a 19 year old JC coed. Kamahele (20) probably fit the Allen scenario, but she had never been found. The next victims would be around Allen and Kamahele’s ages. They would fit the MO in Allen’s murder, but they would be found nowhere near where her body had been dropped.

The only connection is that it seemed a very strong man was involved. Allen had been thrown down the embankment off Enterprise Road by a fairly strong man to get her body 20 feet down the embankment. He may have slipped in doing so. There was a mark as though made by a leg when he slipped and fell down.

In our next post we will look at these later victims and the clues to suggest that Allen’s killer started dumping his victims near the others to confuse his identity.

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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.