Larry Kursa still says a prayer every time he passes by the lonely Sonoma County road where his older sister Lori was found dumped in the weeds 39 years ago, raped, nude and murdered. Only when he sleeps does the pain ever lessen, he says.
Kursa would like nothing better than to have an answer to the question that has haunted him all these years: Who killed 13-year-old Lori, and six other girls and young women, in what came to be known as the “Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders” of 1972-73?
“I think about her all the time,” said Kursa, 47 and living in Clearlake. “After all these years, I just need to know.”
He may soon have his answer.
Investigators think there is a chance the murderer was serial killer Ted Bundy, and they are devoting new efforts to try to prove it. Bundy was executed in 1989 after being convicted of murdering two women and a 12-year-old girl in Florida. Before he died, he confessed to raping and killing at least 27 other women throughout the West, including at least one unidentified victim in California.
Investigators are hoping to compare his DNA to the Santa Rosa-area crime scenes, and if they find a match, they will add a new chapter to Bundy’s horrific legend.
The killer told investigators before being electrocuted in Florida that his victims actually numbered more than 100, and that he began raping and strangling women in 1969 – although the first slaying to which he confessed happened in 1974, when he was 27.
“Bundy is definitely a good suspect,” said Robert Keppel, the retired Seattle police detective who helped snare the murderer and interviewed him repeatedly. “The killings in Santa Rosa would fit his methods, he spent time in the area, and I’m sure he started killing well before 1974.
“It was an open market for Bundy.”
Sonoma County sheriff’s Lt. Steve Brown, who has investigated the killings over the years, said the department doesn’t know who killed Lori and the six others, and that any details of the department’s active murder probe are confidential.
“The feeling was that one person committed the killings, and Bundy was looked at,” Brown said. “But I always thought it must have been a utility worker or a postal worker, someone familiar with the area.”
However, sources familiar with the investigation say detectives are hopeful that with modern technology not available decades ago, there may be ways to see whether Bundy’s DNA can link him to the local killings. DNA from Bundy can be had from blood on file with investigators.
The Sheriff’s Department reportedly began looking into the killings again more than a year ago.
“This has been a terrible case, one of the worst ever, and trying to reconstruct it is going to be very hard,” said Carole Moore, a former police detective, author of a book on finding missing people and a friend of one of the seven victims, Jeannette Kamahele, whose body was never found. “But they have tools today they didn’t have then.
“I know they’re trying to put Jeannette’s DNA into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System database, and that may help,” Moore said. “Even if these killings were done by someone no longer with us, like Bundy, it could put our minds at ease if we knew who it was.”
Kursa’s family members have felt so tortured that they couldn’t summon the will to put a headstone on Lori’s grave in Santa Rosa until five years ago.
“Lori took care of me, a great sister,” Kursa said. “I cried for two years after she died.”
The Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders began Feb. 4, 1972, when Yvonne Weber and Maureen Sterling, both 13 and from Santa Rosa, were seen thumbing a lift on Guerneville Road northwest of the town. They vanished, and their bones were found 10 months later near the edge of twisty Franz Valley Road, about 6 miles into the hills north of Santa Rosa.
A month after the pair’s disappearance, 19-year-old Santa Rosa Junior College student Kim Allen’s naked, strangled corpse turned up in a creek 8 miles south of Santa Rosa. She had last been seen hitchhiking in Larkspur.
Four more women soon also disappeared: 20-year-old Kamahele in April, Lori Kursa in November, 15-year-old Carolyn Davis in July 1973 and 23-year-old Therese Walsh in December 1973.
Each had been hitchhiking, and all but Kamahele were found naked and pitched down embankments into weeds or creeks near roads. Kamahele was never located but is presumed dead.
In all, three of the women were raped, and three were too decomposed to discern much. Two were strangled, one’s neck was broken, one was poisoned, and one had been bludgeoned.
A college teacher, a drug dealer and bikers emerged as suspects, but no arrests were made. The never-caught Zodiac was also considered, but his confirmed five killings didn’t involve rape, nudity or dumping victims off roadways.
“It was a different time back then,” said sheriff’s Lt. Brown. “People were hitchhiking and easy targets. Everybody trusted everybody.”
That more innocent, hippie-flavored era is partly why it was so easy for Bundy to hunt women from Washington to Florida up until 1978, when he was finally caught.
He liked to rape, strip and strangle, and to dump the remains near roads, and he bashed many of his victims in the head.
Bundy also attended Stanford University in 1968, and is known to have visited a girlfriend in Palo Alto and San Francisco between then and 1974. That, plus the fact that Bundy told investigators that he killed somewhere unspecified in California, still has him in the mix for the Sonoma County killings – as well as an unsolved, similar slaying of a woman at Stanford in 1973.
Some investigators in the 1970s said credit card receipts put him in the Northwest too frequently to have been in Sonoma during the times of the slayings. But a Chronicle examination of police records shows that in each of the killings, there were gaps long enough to give him at least a two-day window to drive to Sonoma and back. Ex-Detective Keppel said Bundy at times drove hundreds of miles to kill.
“One of the last times I talked to Bundy, I mentioned California, and he looked at me like, ‘I can’t talk about that right now,’ ” Keppel said. “I think he believed his execution would be stayed so he could talk for years about his crimes, but the governor had other ideas.”
Book and documentary
The Bundy-Sonoma connection is also part of the focus of a documentary and book being assembled for the fall by Mike McCann, whose uncle dated a woman Bundy confessed to raping and strangling, and author Dennis Purdy, who has researched the killer since 1985.
“Bundy fits a lot of what’s there,” Purdy said of the Sonoma homicides.
One amateur sleuth engrossed in the case, however, doubts Bundy was responsible.
“I think it was someone from here, because you really have to know where you’re going to get to the body sites,” said Deborah Silva, 59, who has run a website on the Sonoma slayings since 2009. “These killings could have been a learning curve for Bundy, yes. But I would hate for everyone to just say, ‘OK, it’s him,’ and stop looking for other suspects.”
‘It was creepy’
Silva became fascinated when she lived from 1990 to 2004 a few hundred feet from the spot on Franz Valley Road where Yvonne and Maureen, the two 13-year-old hitchhikers, and 15-year-old Carolyn were found – and 2 miles from where Walsh, the last victim, was tossed, hog-tied and strangled, into a creek.
“I had dozens knock on my door looking for where the bodies were,” Silva said. “It was creepy, but as I looked into it I came to really care for all these girls.”
She now lives far north, in Point Arena (Mendocino County), but the other day she came back to Franz Valley Road to pay homage to the girls whose lives are forever capped in youth.
“Look at that,” she said, pointing to yellow flowers at the edge of a shady meadow where the bones once lay. “Daffodils. They don’t normally grow on this land, but I remember seeing them appear years ago.”
Silva gazed for a long moment. “They must have been planted for those girls, because this spot is too far from anywhere someone would go,” she said. “After all these years, people remember.
“It’s so sad.”
E-mail Kevin Fagan at [email protected] .
- So Long AT&T: Why I'm Better Off with a Small ISP
- De-Bug Your Dinner
- Andrea Sneiderman gets four years in jail for lying about affair with man who murdered her husband after sobbing to judge for mercy
- Watch Your Filthy Mouth
- 9 Beer Myths Busted
- Why Men Get a Bang Out of Guns
- John Wayne Gacy: 1978 Murder Mystery Solved
- Your taxes paid Apple hackers to crack terror iPhone for FBI, say sources
- Why Are Men Still Smoking?
- Who Killed Chris Kyle?
- Profiling and categorizing cybercriminals
|The Unusual Suspects - Once Upon a Time in House Music (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Country Quilts Puzzle - "A Day in Lancaster County" by B. Johnson - Over 500 Pieces (check at Amazon)||5.0|
|Silver Buffalo DM0984 Despicable Me One in a Minion Plastic Flip Straw Cold Cup, 16-Ounces (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Photo Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, now a museum in Door County's Peninsula State Park, Sister Bay, Wisconsin (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Not A Worry In The World, A Cold Beer In My Hand, Life Is Good Today Wooden Tropical Sign (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Stoning in Fulham County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Ted and Ann - The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Home in the Woods: Pioneer Life in Indiana: Oliver Johnson's Reminiscences of Early Marion County (America Since World) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia (On the Case with Holmes & Watson (Paper)) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion; Wine Smart in a Day, Napa & Sonoma Edition (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Cameron Creek Village: A Site in the Mimbres Area in Grant County, New Mexico (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Trial in Lafayette County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Summer in Sonoma (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Death in Door County: A Val & Kit Mystery (The Val & Kit Mystery Series) (Volume 3) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Fight and Survive! a History of Jackson County, Arkansas in the Civil War (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Bad Blood: A Family Murder in Marin County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Grace be a Lady: Love & War in Johnson County Book 1 (Volume 1) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: A George Smiley Novel (George Smiley Novels) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Shaded History: A Curious Account of the Adventures of Howell A. "Doc" Rayburn in Prairie County Arkansas During the Civil War (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Sins of Henry County: After Two Wrongful Convictions & the Death of Jerry Banks, a 35-year-old Cold Case is Reinvestigated (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Ted Bundy : Conversations with a Killer (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|100 Years in Leelanau: a history of Leelanau County, Michigan (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Free Soil - A Free People: The Anti-Rent War in Delaware County, New York (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Prime Suspect 2: A Face in the Crowd (Prime Suspect Series) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Day in the Life of a U.S. Air Force Fire Fighter During the Cold War: "Sometimes it was Hell on Earth" (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Test excavations at the Tankersley Creek site, a multicomponent campsite in Titus County, Texas (Publications in archaeology) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Summer in Sonoma by Carr, Robyn [MassMarket(2010/6/29)] (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Jailhouse Doc: A Doctor in the County Jail (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Sacred Sonoma: Sacred Sites and Alignments in Sonoma County, California (Revised and Updated Edition) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Quicksilver Mining in Sonoma County:: Pine Flat Prospect Fever (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|By M.D., William Wright Jailhouse Doc: A Doctor in the County Jail [Paperback] (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Thomas Price (a pioneer in Posey County, Indiana) and his descendants;: A history and genealogy, (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Lake in Dickinson County: Lake West Okoboji (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Presence in Russell County (The Organization Book 1) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Once upon a time in Tattnall County, Georgia (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Local Einsteins: What to Know Before Buying or Selling a Home in Marin County, California (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Observations from a Peak in Lumpkin County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Cold Snow in Castaway County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Round Up the Usual Suspects: Criminal Investigation in Law & Order, Cold Case, and CSI (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Murder in Kent County 2nd edition (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Walking Softly: A Collection of Mostly Gentle Walks in Sonoma County, California (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A city in racial crisis;: The case of Detroit pre- and post- the 1967 riot (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Flora of Sonoma County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Killing in Carter County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A Killing in Quail County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|The Princes in the Tower : Cold Case Re-opened (True Historical Crime) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Trouble Comes a'Lookin: A Murder in Hardin County (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|A MURDER IN ANOKA COUNTY (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|#1 Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Bohemia (On the Case with Holmes and Watson) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
|Cold Case in Cherokee Crossing (Cold Case Series Book 4) (check at Amazon)||0.0|
Ted Bundy a suspect in Sonoma County cold cases have 2230 words, post on www.sfchronicle.com at December 6, 2011. This is cached page on USA Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.