Location, location, location…
I’m often asked why I chose to set my crime fiction in Sacramento, California, instead of one of the more well known west coast crime magnets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Fresno. Michael Connelly and Robert Crais have L.A. locked down with their Harry Bosch and Joe Pike series. But, Sacramento is an untapped resource of criminal historical treasure, rich enough to fuel any crime fiction writer’s imagination.
Fun fact: Sacramento has seen over a dozen serial killers and hosts 15% of the nation’s serial murderers. (Great Job River City!) While I don’t know how the city ranks nationally on a killer per capita ratio, because publicizing serial killing friendly cities doesn’t seem to be something that the local Chamber of Commerce wants to endorse and Buzz Feed doesn’t have a Facebook quiz for this one either–go figure.
Serial killers who’ve made Sacramento their home base include: Herman Hobbs (the murder of five young girls are attributed to him), Gerald Gallego and his wife (as many as 13 victims were allegedly kidnapped and murdered by the couple), Richard Trenton Chase (he killed six people and drank their blood, earning the nickname, The Vampire of Sacramento), Morris Solomon (who killed six prostitutes and buried them in his backyard. While in prison he tried to solicit female pen-pals, calling himself a romantic). The I-5 Strangler, Joseph Ferguson, Nicoli Soltys, Richard Brewer, Arturo Suarez, Xao Xiong, Eric Leonard, The Speed Freak Killers, and even Ted Kazinski, of Uni-Bomber fame struck Sacramento. Juan Corona killed at least 25 migrant farm workers in Yuba City (technically not Sacramento–but commutable). And we can’t forget the little old lady, Dorothea Puente who was charged with nine murders after the bodies of seven tenants from her F Street boarding house were unearthed in her backyard. (I’m putting together a post on the Puente murders following the recent meeting of my Mystery Writers of America chapter at the F Street house. Really interesting stuff uncovered there–see what I did there?–uncovered)
Dorothea M. Puente inmate photo
Sacramento is home to the East Area Rapist who terrorized more then 50 victims before DNA tied him to a string of murders in Southern California. Manson devotee Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme committed her assassination attempt of President Gerald Ford in the city. Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army even made a tour through the capitol city.
Church vandalism and bombings, the sex trade, human trafficking, hostage dramas and drug manufacturing are, unfortunately, all too common here.
Then there’ the arguably more vile and costly crime that occurs under the capitol dome. Influence peddling, arms trading (yes–as is guns) and extortion have deep roots in the hollowed halls of state politics.
So, when it’s all said and done, the question changes from “Why do you write about Sacramento crime?” But, “Why wouldn’t you?”
Awesome. I’ll be linking to this post. Nicely done, Jim.
Thanks so much, Sue!
I’ve been seriously considering leaving “the golden state”….this helps to confirm my reasoning.
The state does seem to have more than its share of weirdness, for sure.
Poor old Sacramento! I’ve known some strange people from there but no serial killers.
Maybe because I’ve been around Sacramento for a while, but the place does have a full plate of both strange and serial…
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