Theresa Knorr

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Theresa Knorr
Born(1946-03-14) March 14, 1946 (age 66)
Sacramento, California, United States
Charge(s)Murder, conspiracy to commit murder, torture
PenaltyLife imprisonment
Convinction StatusImprisoned, eligible for parole in 2027
SpouseClifford Clyde Sanders
Robert Knorr
ChildrenHoward Knorr (né Sanders)
Sheila Knorr (née Sanders, deceased)
Suesan Knorr (deceased)
William Knorr
Robert Knorr
Theresa “Terry” Walker-Knorr
 
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Theresa Knorr
Born(1946-03-14) March 14, 1946 (age 66)
Sacramento, California, United States
Charge(s)Murder, conspiracy to commit murder, torture
PenaltyLife imprisonment
Convinction StatusImprisoned, eligible for parole in 2027
SpouseClifford Clyde Sanders
Robert Knorr
ChildrenHoward Knorr (né Sanders)
Sheila Knorr (née Sanders, deceased)
Suesan Knorr (deceased)
William Knorr
Robert Knorr
Theresa “Terry” Walker-Knorr

Theresa Knorr (born March 14, 1946) is an American woman convicted of torturing and murdering two of her children while using the others to facilitate and cover up her crimes.

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Early life

Theresa Knorr was born Theresa Jimmie Cross in Sacramento, California. She was the youngest child in the family and very devoted to her mother. When her mother died in 1961, Cross went into a depression. At age 16, she married Clifford Clyde Sanders. They had a son, Howard Clyde Sanders, in 1964. Their marriage ended when Knorr shot Sanders, 22, to death in the summer of 1964 while they were living in Galt, California. She was tried, but acquitted of the crime, having claimed self defense. She was pregnant at the time and would shortly deliver her second child, Sheila Gay Sanders, in 1965.

In 1966, when seven months pregnant with her third child, she married the child's father, Robert Knorr. The child, Suesan Marlene Knorr, was born in September of that year, followed in 1967 by a son named William Robert Knorr, and in 1968, another son, Robert Wallace Knorr, Jr. In 1970, Theresa gave birth to a daughter, Theresa (Terry) Marie Knorr, named after herself.

None of Knorr's children were spared her physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. However, Knorr had a special hatred for her daughters Suesan and Sheila, fueled by jealousy that the girls were growing up and blossoming into young women while she faced the prospect of growing old and losing her looks, according to an interview with her surviving daughter, Terry, in an episode of A&E's Cold Case Files (titled "Mommy's Rules"). Terry later told Investigation Discovery's Deadly Women that Knorr also believed Suesan and Sheila were witches who had cast spells on her and forced her to gain weight and become ugly. For years, Knorr abused and tortured her children in various ways, including burning them with cigarettes and beating them. Knorr focused her anger primarily on her daughters and trained her sons to beat, discipline, and restrain their sisters.

Suesan's death

In a heated argument in 1983, Knorr grabbed a 22-caliber pistol and shot Suesan in the chest. The bullet became lodged in her back, but Knorr refused to seek medical help and left Suesan to die in the family bathtub. Suesan survived, so Knorr handcuffed her to a soap dish and began to nurse her back to health. Suesan eventually recovered from her wounds without professional treatment.[1]

In 1984, Suesan decided to tell her mother she would like to move out. Knorr agreed under the condition that Suesan let her remove the bullet from her back. The removal took place on the kitchen floor, using Mellaril capsules and liquor as the anesthetic. Knorr ordered Robert to remove the bullet with a box cutter. Infection soon set in and Suesan's skin turned yellow from jaundice and she became delirious, and soon slipped into a coma. She lay dying on the floor and Knorr permitted the other children to walk over her. As Terry told Cold Case Files, Knorr told her other children that Suesan's illness was a result of possession by Satan and that the only way to purge the demon was with fire. She coerced Robert and Bill into helping her dispose of Suesan. They drove her to Sierra Nevada, Interstate 80 outside Truckee, laid her down, poured gasoline on her and burned her alive.[1]

Sheila's death

Following Suesan's death, Theresa Knorr focused the brunt of her torture and brutality on Sheila. According to Terry, Knorr forced Sheila into becoming a prostitute and later accused her of transmitting an STD to her via a toilet seat. Thereafter, Knorr's abuse of Sheila escalated. Sheila was locked in a closet and died of dehydration and starvation several days later, but not before telling Terry that Terry would be next on her mother's "hit list." Her body was packed into a cardboard box and dumped along the side of a road. She remained unidentified for years afterward.

Terry's escape

Subsequently, Terry claimed her mother forced her to burn down the family's Sacramento apartment, hoping to destroy any evidence that might implicate her in Sheila's death. Terry later said she survived her mother's abuse because she stood up to her and demanded to be allowed to leave the house.[1][2] Terry tried talking to law enforcement several times in the years that followed, but claimed her story sounded so far-fetched that no one believed her.

Aftermath

Knorr and her sons were arrested in 1993 when Terry contacted authorities after watching an episode of America's Most Wanted, according to her Cold Case Files interview. On November 15, 1993, Knorr was charged with two counts of murder, two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, and two special circumstances charges: multiple murder and murder by torture. Knorr initially pled not guilty, but when she learned that one of her sons decided to testify against her, she pled guilty to all charges to avoid capital punishment. On October 17, 1995, she was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. She will be eligible for parole in 2027.


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