In 1979 a woman told police a story
about how her mother had taken her sister out into the
woods and set her on fire while she was still alive,
she had done this with the help of her mother. She
eventually told them the story of how her mother and
brothers had also taken the body of her other sister
and left it in the woods. Theresa Knorr as witness to the abuse her sisters
suffered and later, to things that caused their deaths
at the hands of her mother. Unfortunately, she was not
believed because he story was bad and bizarre. On two
different occasions, police didn't take her seriously,
thinking that she had to be making it up.
The story of the abuse and murder
of Suesan and Sheila Knorr was one so horrible that
people found it hard to believe. That is until some
detectives in Northern California realized that her
story sounded like it might be related to two bodies
which had never been identified and had been a
mystery for a long time.
On July 17, 1984, a woman named
Maybel Harrison was driving on a California highway
when she saw a bright light in the woods. She
thought it might be a fire and stopped her car to
check it out. Maybel couldn't get a good enough look
to see what was going on, she made her way down the
slope and when a horrible stench found it's way up
the hill. Maybel ran up the hill and stopped a man
in a truck. She told him there was a fire down the
slope and he grabbed a fire extinguisher and they
both ran down the hill. Robert Eden put the fire out
and he and Maybel were both shocked at what they
saw, it was a human body. Eden called the police
from his CB radio.
Tahoe City Detectives Russell
Potts and larry Addoms requested the services of
Michael Saggs, a criminologist and Donald J. Nunes,
the Placer Country Sheriff. The men took soil
samples and began to take pictures of the area. The
body was badly burned, however, it was clear due the
presence of badly burned breasts that it was a
woman. 30 piece of evidence were collected from on
and around the body. A green pepsodent toothbrush, a
pair of Gloria Vanderbuilt jeans, a scarf, an under
wire bra, a bracelet, disposable diapers as well as
other clothing, were among the items round. The body
was taken to the Placer Country Morgue.
A police sketch of Suesan after
her body was found.
Forensic Pathologist, Dr. A.V.
Cunha conducted an autopsy less than two hours
later. It was discovered that the woman was between
18 and 22 years old, five feet three inches tall and
weighed about 115 pounds. It was clear that the
person had been abused and there were two puncture
wounds on her back. Though her injuries were life
threatening, the cause of death was
listed as smoke inhalation.
Theresa Jimmie Cross was married
in 1964 at the age of 18. Already pregnant with her
first child. That marriage ended in her shooting her
husband, Clifford Clyde Sanders . In court, she
claimed she killed him to protect herself from being
"I grabbed a gun to make
him keep from hitting me and it went off,"
The District Attorney didn't
"This is clearly
premeditated first-degree murder. "Not every
murderer can look like the
witch in Snow White. She is
18 and pregnant, but that doesn't overcome the
maliciously shot and killed
her husband without provocation."
Deputy District Attorney
On August 4, 1964, Theresa entered
a plea of innocent by reason of self-defense. She
was acquitted by a jury in that case.
Theresa had two children at that
time, Howard, who was born in 1963 and Sheila who
had been born in 1965. Theresa met and married a man
named Robert Knorr and in four years, should would
give birth to four more children. Suesan, William,
Robert and Theresa. The second marriage wasn't much
better than the first and lasted until Robert Knorr
left in 1970. Theresa would marry two more times,
she would keep her maiden name of Cross with both of
Theresa and her children lived for
13 years in a suburb of Sacramento called,
Orangevale. In 1983 she moved her children to a run
down neighborhood in Sacramento. The neighborhood
was supposed to be a tough one, though even there,
the family stood out. People who lived in the
neighborhood said that apartment the Cross family
lived in was always dirty and smelled like urine.
Theresa wouldn't allow the children to use the front
door and they always seemed to be nervous. Most of
the children had no more than an eighth grade
education and Theresa didn't like to let them out of
her sight. One of Suesan's child-hood friends said
that if the bus was late, Suesan would get upset
knowing that she was going to get beaten for being
late home from school, even though it wasn't her
Things were getting worse. During
an argument, Theresa picked up a gone and shot
Suesan in the chest. The bullet did not exit her
body and instead, lodge into her back. Suesan would
recover without ever having received medical
attention for the gunshot wound.
Suesan Knorr turned 17 in 1984 and
told her mother that she wanted to move out of the
home. Theresa said she could as long as she allowed
her to removed the bullet from her back just in case
she ever wanted to report her for child abuse, there
would be no evidence. Desperate to get out of the
house, Suesan agreed.
On the kitchen floor, using
whiskey and Mellaril capsules as an anesthetic,
Theresa ordered her 15-year-old Robert to dig the
bullet out of Suesan's back with an X-Acto knife .
Suesan grew delirious as the site where the bullet
had been removed, became infected. At that point,
her mother decided that she needed to disappear.
With the help of her sons, William and Robert,
Suesan was driven 100 miles away near the Squaw
Valley Ski Area. They laid her down on the ground
and while she was still alive, set her on fire.
In late Spring of 1985 Theresa
decided that she need to make more money than what
was coming in from the state. It was decided that
Sheila would go to work as a prostitute. Not willing
to disobey her mother, against her will, Sheila was
soon bringing home hundreds of dollars every day.
One blessing out of all if it was that her mother
seemed to be almost proud about
what Sheila was doing and she didn't beat her as
much and gave her some freedom, allowing her to come
and go as she pleased.
That freedom would come to a halt
in May of 1985 when it was suspected by her mother
that Sheila had become pregnant. Also being accused
of having VD, Sheila said she wasn't pregnant and
had contracted VD through the use of a toilet.
Sheila was beaten black and blue and thrown into a
tiny closet as punishment. Theresa left strict
orders that the door was NOT
be opened at all, even though inside the closet was
extremely hot. The door could not be opened for any
reason and Sheila was to not to be given food or
"She wanted Sheila to
confess. That was mother's way. Beat them
until they confess."
Theresa Cross was the kind of
parent who bullied her children. The children were
beaten until they did what she had asked of them.
When a child dared to go against what she said, what
she wanted or what she expected, she would kill that
child to get them out of her way.
"I knew they were weird,
but I didn't know they were that weird,"
Susan Sullivan - a former
There came a point when Sheila did
confess and her mother accused her of lying and left
her in the closet. Theresa could hear her sister
crying out for help and moaning. After about three
days of being in the closet there was a loud thump
hear coming from the closet. The door was left
closed and nothing more was heard from Sheila. A few
days later when the door was finally opened it was
discovered that Sheila had tried to climb up some
small shelves and because they could not hold her
weight, they had fallen causing her to crash to the
floor. Sheila was dead, her body already beginning
to rot, in the fetal position.
Theresa threw some blankets and a
pillow into a cardboard box and once again, ordered
her two sons to help in her disposing of the body of
one of their siblings. They carried the box to the
car and and were soon on their way up Interstate 80.
Theresa pulled off of the road near a field and told
her sons to take the cardboard box out of the
car. Sheila's body was left near a
campground, in the weeds.
Hours later, Elmer Barber was
making the rounds at the Martis Creek Campground
when he found the cardboard box containing Sheila's
remains. Elmer would be haunted for the rest of his
life, by what he saw inside the box. Nevada Country
Sheriff's were there within hours and with very few
clues and no real evidence to be found, they were
unable to identify the remains of the woman in the
box. The cause of death was listed as undetermined.
Theresa Knorr stayed with her
mother for three years after the killings and then
at the age of 16, she ran away from home.
Theresa eventually married and one
night while watching "America's Most Wanted", she
decided to try one more time to get someone to
listen to her story about her sisters. Police
Sergeant Ron Perea of the Nevada County Sheriff's
Office was the one to take her call. Theresa told
him all that she had told the others about the abuse
and killings of her sisters. Ron Perea wanted to
interview her in person and met with her the next
day. The interview lasted for several hours. Ron
took his notes to the District Attorney's office and
a task force was put together to investigate the
story. Pretty soon it was realized that the Jane Doe
reports they had on two women, were similar to the
two women Theresa had told about.
On November 4, 1993 felony
complaints against Theresa Cross and her two sons,
William and Robert Knorr were filed. Finding the
three would prove to be easy enough. William was
living in a Sacramento Suburb, working at a
warehouse. Robert was found in a Nevada jail.
Theresa was traced and found when Salt Lake City
authorities called and told them about her drivers
license application and how she had been arrested
for drunk driving five days earlier. Sergeant John
Fitzgerald flew to Salt Lake City and knocked on the
door of the listed address for Theresa Cross.
Theresa answered the door and luckily, the police
caught her in the act of packing to move, she had
been aware of the ongoing investigation.
William and Robert were, at first,
not willing to talk to about what had happened to
their sisters. Eventually, they both talked and
confessed to their parts in the deaths of both of
Appearing in front of Superior
Court Judge J. Richard Couzens Theresa Cross was
charged with two counts of murder and two counts of
conspiracy to commit murder with two special
circumstances, multiple murder and murder by
torture. She pleaded not guilty and was taken to the
Sacramento County Jail.
On the same day, Judge J. Richard
Couzens ruled that Robert Knorr would be charged as
an adult. Robert struck a deal with the prosecutor
to testify against his mother for a lighter
sentence. A month later, the prosecutors dropped all
of the charges against him except for one, it was a
Theresa learned about Robert's
deal and decided she didn't want to take any chances
and end up with the death penalty. She would plead
guilty if they would not seek the death penalty.
District Attorney John O'Mara agreed. On October 17,
1995, Theresa went to court and change her plea to
not guilty. Judge William R. Ridgeway said that
the crimes Theresa had committed
were callous and beyond belief. Theresa was sentence
to two life sentenced to be served consecutively and
if she lives to be 80, that will be when she is
eligible for parole in the year 2027.
Robert was still serving his
sentence in Nevada, for murder. For his part in the
murders of his sisters he was sentenced to three
years in the state prison. That sentence would run
concurrently with the one he was already serving.
Will was placed on probation and
ordered to undergo therapy for his part in the
murders of his sisters.
Theresa Knorr was not sentenced at
all and has chosen NOT to reveal her new,
married name. I for one am glad that she had the
nerves it must have taken to come forward a second
time after no one believed her the first time. God
bless you Theresa!
want to thank the man who brought to my attention
that Theresa Knorr has passed away. Theresa passed
way on December 8, 2011. Theresa had died of a
massive heart attack at the age of 32 years old.
Find A Grave memorial for Theresa
Rest In Peace
14, 2011 1:03 am
Knorr was born August 5, 1970 and went to be
with the Lord on December 8, 2011.
She leaves behind a loving companion, Raymond
Bernard; a brother, Robert; two pets; and
numerous friends and loved ones.
No services will be held; a remembrance will
be held at a later date.
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