Over the past few months, I’ve shared the stories and investigative details behind some of the Sacramento region’s most notorious serial killers. This Northern California community has suffered more than its share of violence inflicted by a specific type of killer–one with a taste for the crime.
According to the Radford University – Serial Killer Database, California tops the list of states with the most recorded serial killers. When you focus in on the Sacramento region, a study referenced in a 2002 piece in the Sacramento New & Review reported that of the serial killers apprehended in the previous thirty years across the nation, 15% of them committed their crimes in, or they had ties to the Sacramento community.
The profiles I’ve posted, recount the trail of death and depravity spread throughout the Sacramento Valley. Here are the links to the individual Sacramento Serial Killer profiles for a handful of the region’s most notorious murderers:
In addition to these notorious Sacramento killers, the capitol region has seen the likes of Juan Corona, the serial killer who murdered 25 farm workers and buried them in a field. Then there was Herman Lee Hobbs who preyed upon teenaged girls. We can’t forget the Speed Freak Killers, Westley Shermantine and Loren Hertzog, who claimed to have killed as many as 70 victims in their spree of killings. Leonard Lake and Charles Ng, Killed up to 11, holding the women as sex slaves before killing them.
The Uni-bomber, Ted Kaczynski struck here twice, a gang held a Sacramento Good Guys store in one of the nation’s most deadly hostage standoffs and the SLA committed a deadly bank robbery in the city. One of the nations’s oldest cold case serial murder investigations is the 1941 Mad Killer of Sacramento.
With this criminal pedigree, what is it about Sacramento that seems to breed serial killers and murderers? Is it in the water? The Sacramento and American rivers surround the city–enough to have flooded the place on a couple of occasions–and reports from the 1941 Mad Killer case indicate that the perpetrator used the rivers to hide and move the bodies of the victims. I used the river system in my novel, AT WHAT COST as a means of body disposal.
Retired homicide detective Ray Biondi, who worked many of the Sacramento serial killer investigations, including the Golden State Killer and the search for George Gallegos and his co-defendant wife Charlene, wonders if the highway system that intersects the city contributes to serial killers using Sacramento as a hunting ground.
Sacramento has two major freeways north and south, Interstate 5 and State Highway 99. Highway 50 and Interstate 80 cut an east-west path through the region. We know that Roger Kibbe, the I-5 Strangler, used the interstate for his crimes, as did the Gallegos, the Golden State Killer, and the Speed Freak killers. A killer can murder, or abduct their victim, and be out of the city in minutes. Easy access into and out of the area, to hunt and dispose of the victims, may have played a part in some of these notable serial killer cases. California’s capitol isn’t the only place where this phenomenon is being noticed.
In 2009, the FBI formed a Highway Serial Killings Initiative to to raise awareness among law enforcement agencies and the general public about this issue. Using national law enforcement data, over 500 murder victims found along or near highways, as well as a list of some 200 potential suspects now exists. Names of suspects, largely long haul truck drivers—contributed by law enforcement agencies—are examined by analysts who develop timelines using a variety of reliable sources of information. To date, 10 suspects believed responsible for some 30 homicides have been placed in custody…including a trucker arrested in Tennessee charged with four murders and a trucker charged with one murder in Massachusetts and another in New Jersey.
While serial killer arrests have tapered off in recent years, one must ask have they found another means of hunting to stay under the radar? And, is it only a matter of time until another one surfaces again in Sacramento?