Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders

Between 1972 and 1973 Santa Rosa, California experienced the killings of seven women whose murders have never been solved. An eighth probable victim disappeared and her body has never been located. All of the victims were known to hitchhike, a popular mode of transportation during that time. These murders became known as the SANTA ROSA HITCHHIKER MURDERS.

The so called Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders have been linked to other crimes that occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s where the facts have been distorted to meet the criteria of the particular murderer thought to have committed them, most notably the Zodiac Killer and Ted Bundy. THESE MURDERS REMAIN UNSOLVED.

On March 5, 1972, two high school students made a terrifying discovery: the nude body of a woman lying in a creek bed. The body was that of Kim Wendy Allen, a 19-year-old who had last been seen hitchhiking to school and carrying a wooden soy barrel with red Chinese characters on it. Coroners soon discovered that the Kim was tortured to death before being dumped. Her wrists and ankles had been bound, and she had been raped before being strangled by a cord. Investigators determined that she was strangled slowly over the course of a half-hour. Kim was last seen on Enterprise Road in Santa Rosa. Her body was found eight miles east of there. And it wasn’t going to be the last body the police found.

Santa Rosa is a town located north of San Francisco just twenty miles from the California coast in Sonoma County. During the late 60s and early 70s, it found itself caught in political upheaval because of its proximity to the hippie movement in San Francisco. In March of 1972, a prison riot broke out at the county jail. In 1968, the infamous Zodiac Killer was making headlines for several murders in the San Francisco Bay area and down in Los Angeles, around that same time, Charles Manson and his followers were the lead suspects in a series of home invasion killings in and around the Hollywood Hills. In other words, there was no shortage of crime, murder, and mayhem in California during this period.

That’s why the discovery of a body on the side of the road, although a major cause for concern, probably didn’t raise a lot of eyebrows.

On April 27, 1972, almost two months after the discovery of Kim Allen, friends reported the disappearance of twenty-year-old Jeannett Kamahele who was last seen hitchhiking some 20 miles from where Kim was found. Rumors and connections were immediately made as officials began warning coeds against hitchhiking to class and work. Residents were beginning to think a serial killer might be at work, a belief that was further fueled by the discovery of two more bodies in an embankment north east of Santa Rosa.

The bodies were that of Maureen Sterling and Yvonne Weber. Both 12-year-old middle school students were last seen February 4, 1972 hitchhiking on Guerneville Road. Their skeletal remains were found 6 months later. Their cause of death would never be determined.

Before police could even completely identify their new victims, another body emerged.

Lori Lee Kursa’s mother reported the 13-year-old girl missing on November 11, 1972. Believed to have run away from home and known to hitchhike, Lori was last seen visiting friends in Santa Rosa ten days after her mother reported her missing. On December 14, the 8th grader’s body was found down an embankment off Calistoga Road in north Santa Rosa. The cause of death was a broken neck. But with Lori’s death came a potential break in the case. A witness came forward claiming to have seen two men force a young girl matching Lori’s description into their van. The witness claimed that two men grabbed the girl and threw her into the back of a van which was being driven by a white man with an “Afro hair style”.

 Carolyn Davis was a 14-year-old run away from Anderson, California, a small town three hours north of Santa Rosa. Carolyn ran away from her home on February 6, 1973. She was last seen alive by her grandmother who dropped her off at the Garberville Post Office, two hours north of Santa Rosa, on July 15th. Witnesses claimed to have seen a young girl matching Carolyn Davis’ description hitchhiking down Highway 101  heading towards Santa Rosa. Her body was discovered one year after Maureen Sterling and Yvonne Weber vanished and only three feet from the exact spot where their bodies were discovered. The cause of death was strychnine poisoning. 

Theresa Walsh was last seen on December 22, 1973 at Zuma Beach in Malibu, California, 460 miles from Santa Rosa. Friends said she was intent on hitchhiking north to Garberville so she could spend the holidays with her family. She never made it home. Instead, on December 28th, 1973 the 23-year-old’s body was discovered by boaters, partially submerged in Mark West Creek just west of Santa Rosa. She was the 6th victim found in Sonoma County in just two years.

Truth is, they had no solid evidence and Bundy never took credit for these crimes so still the killer could’ve possibly just gotten away with these awful murders.