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.
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.
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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