Serial Killers in Sacramento–Why here?

News headlines and social media feeds were buzzing after the long-awaited death of notorious serial killer, Charles Manson. His personal role as the mastermind of the 1960’s murder spree in Southern California has been long debated, as he is quoted saying that he didn’t personally commit any of the crimes. Manson and his dysfunctional “family” of followers are credited with nine homicides and ending an era of innocence in America.

image by Bill Strain via flickr creative commons

Originally sentenced to death, Manson languished in California prisons for nearly fifty years, before dying of natural causes on November 19, 2017. His very public demise has sparked a look at other serial killers. I had the opportunity to talk about Sacramento’s dark history of notorious serial killers with Irene Cruz, ABC News10 Anchor.

Here’s the link for the piece aired shortly after Mason’s death:

I’ve mentioned previously that the Sacramento region has spawned 15% of the nation’s serial killers. Let that sink in for a moment. A significant number of serial killers have gravitated to our city as their base of depravity. Roger Kibbe (the I-5 Strangler), George and Charlene Gallegos, Richard Trenton Chase (The Vampire of Sacramento), Eric Leonard (The Thrill Killer), Morris Solomon, Wesley Shermentine and Loren Herzog (The Speed Freak Killers), Juan Corona, Dorothea Puente (The F Street Boarding House Murders), and Herman Hobbs are among the known notorious serial killers who prowled for their prey in the Sacramento area. Their motivations may have varied–financial gain, sex, or the thrill of the kill, but these named killers are believed to be accountable for 149 victims. At least 149 people who, for whatever reason, got on the radar of a killer.

Eric Leonard – The Thrill Killer

Roger Kibbe — The I-5 Strangler

Dorothea Puente — F St. Boarding House Murders

Richard Chase –The Vampire of Sacramento

Why here?

Why have over a dozen prolific killers chosen the Sacramento area? There’s been no clear answer and many theories have attempted to pin down the serial killer preference for our sleepy little city. There is ample open space to hide and bury your bodies (as did Juan Corona and Dorothea Puente) or dumping them in open water wells (as the Speed Freak Killers claimed). The interconnected freeway system in the Sacramento region favors human trafficking, moving victims from the San Francisco area to the Nevada border, as well as the major interstate corridor south from Mexico. (The I-5 Strangler used the freeway system effectively). The FBI has a task force studying the connection between serial murders and freeway systems.

Some feel it’s the overall softening of laws releasing more felons into our streets. While Proposition 47 and other initiatives to lower the prison population have been followed by increases in crime–including violent crime, a connection to serial killers isn’t born out by the data. Most of the most notorious known serial killers committed their murders during a time when the death penalty was on the books and the courts were more than willing to impose it. It will be interesting to watch what happens now, in light of newly-minted governor Gavin Newsome’s self-imposed moratorium on the death penalty in California.

Recently, an article in the New Yorker suggested that law enforcement often doesn’t have the data to connect a victim to a specific killer and the latest solve rates for homicides is only 60%. Slight changes in the methods used in the killing, different geographical killing grounds may be enough to have authorities unable to connect the unsolved cases. Thomas Hargrove, a researcher who’s collected data on over 715,000 murders, believes that there is sufficient evidence to state that there are 2,000 serial killers active in the country at this time.

Perhaps, here in Sacramento, it has something to do with the fact that we’ve seen so much of it that law enforcement is getting pretty good at identifying and arresting serial killers. But something to remember–we only catch the ones who fail…

I write about Sacramento crime in many of my stories and with such a rich environment to draw from, why wouldn’t I?

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  1. Maybe it’s the Tule fog.

    1. The fog does make you feel claustrophobic. Something to think about with the seasonal affective disorder link.

  2. Delores Quenemoen · · Reply

    Just finished Bury The Past; wonderful! I finished it in two sittings and it would have been one if Thanksgiving day hadn’t interfered with my reading desires. As much as I enjoyed At What Cost, this new book is even better. I think I appreciate it even more because so often what you write coincides with stories I hear from Shell. She asked to read it when I was finished. I’m sure she will enjoy it probably even more than I did; she relates.

    Congratulations on another fantastic read…one I only put down because I was forced to.

    Dee Q

    1. Thanks so much, Dee! I’m really glad to hear you liked it. If, it’s not asking too much, could you leave a review over on Amazon? Oh, and tell Shell to get her own book! Thanks again.

  3. […] crime here before and how we seem to be the birthplace of violent crime and most notably, a magnet for serial killers. The Violent crime rate — which includes the number of homicides, rape, robbery, and assault […]

  4. […] this installment of the Serial Killer Profile series, we will dive on one of Sacramento’s “forgotten serial killers,” The Sacramento […]

  5. […] Richard Trenton Chase is an example of the failings of the mental health system when it comes to treating the most severely mentally ill and protecting the public. It helps to start at the beginning to get a sense of who Chase was and how he evolved into one of Sacramento’s serial killers. […]

  6. […] the most often cited motives for murder. We know that mental illness plays a role in some of the serial killers we’ve seen in the Sacramento area. Richard Trenton Chase, the Vampire of Sacramento had a history of mental illness and was released […]

  7. […] of wonderful ladies at a Shalom Women’s Group this week and talked about crime fiction, Sacramento’s dark history of violent crime, and some of our more notorious serial killers. We had a wonderful discussion and the attendees asked some great […]

  8. […] Digging around in Sacramento’s history isn’t for the faint of heart. The Gold Rush town was lawless and bloody with a reputation for quick frontier justice. Yet on a few occasions, the hand of mercy reached out and offered a second chance to a killer. Ida Brewer was a sex worker in the 1850’s who was acquitted of stabbing a rival prostitute. She went on to kill one of her customers a few years later–she was fined and told to leave town. You have to wonder what she knew to warrant such lenient treatment in those harsh times. It wasn’t the last time that a murderer went free only to commit another crime. While not technically a serial killer, Ida Brewer and the others mentioned today are multiple murders who have called Sacramento home. […]

  9. […] slated for Sacramento, California, a place I lived and worked for many years. Not to mention the region is home to a huge collection of serial killers. But, this year came with extreme challenges, including COVID-19 and the quarantines that came with […]

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