Suesan Marline Knorr
September 27, 1966 - July 17, 1984
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Sheila Gay Knorr Sanders
March 13, 1965 - June 19, 1985
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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 hit. 

"I grabbed a gun to make him keep from hitting me and it went off,"

The District Attorney didn't agree:

"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 fact she 
maliciously shot and killed her husband without provocation." 
Deputy District Attorney Donald Dorfman

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 them.

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 fault.

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 water.

"She wanted Sheila to confess. That was mother's way. Beat them until they confess." 
Theresa Knorr

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 neighbor

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 their sister.

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 conspiracy charge.

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!

I 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 Theresa.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 1:03 am

Theresa Marie 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.

Deaths occurred in the state of California

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