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Theresa Knorr (born August 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.

Early life

Theresa Knorr was born Theresa Jimmie Cross in Sacramentomarker, Californiamarker. She was the youngest child in the family and very devoted to her mother. When her mother died in 1961, she went into a depression. At the age of 16, she married Clifford Clyde Sanders. They had a son, Howard Clyde Sanders. Their marriage ended when Knorr shot Sanders to death in 1964 while they were living in Galtmarker, 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 1966, followed a year later by a son named William Robert Knorr, and in 1968, another son, Robert Wallace Knorr. In 1970, Theresa gave birth to daughter Theresa Marie Knorr, named after herself.

None of Knorr's children were spared her physical 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"). For years, Knorr beat and tortured her daughters in various ways, including burning them with cigarettes. Knorr focused her anger primarily at her daughters and trained her sons to beat and discipline the others.

Suesan's death

In a heated argument in 1982, Knorr grabbed a 22-caliber pistol and shot Suesan in the chest. The bullet became lodged in her back, but her mother refused to seek medical help and left Suesan to die in the family bathtub. Suesan survived, so Knorr then handcuffed her to a soap dish and began to nurse her back to health. Suesan eventually recovered from her wounds without professional treatment .

In 1984, Suesan decided to tell her mother she would like to move out. Knorr agreed under one 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, Suesan's 15-year-old brother, to remove the bullet with a box cutter. Infection soon set in, her skin turned yellow from jaundice, and she became delirious. Suesan lay dying on the floor and Knorr demanded the other children to merely walk over her. As Cross' daughter Terry told Cold Case Files, Cross 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 asked Suesan's brothers, Robert and Bill, to help her to dispose of their sister. They drove Suesan to Sierra Nevada, Interstate 80 outside Truckee, laid her down, poured gasoline on her and burned her alive.

Sheila's death

The following year, Suesan's older sister, 20-year-old Sheila, also died at the hands of her mother. According to her daughter Terry, Knorr forced Sheila into becoming a prostitute. She accused Sheila of transmitting an STD to her via a toilet seat, and thereafter, Knorr's abuse of Sheila escalated. Sheila was locked in a closet and died of dehydration and starvation several days later. Her body was packed into a cardboard box and dumped along the side of a road. She remained unidentified for years afterward.

Subsequently, Terry Knorr claimed, Knorr forced her to burn down the Sacramento apartment the family had called home, hoping to destroy any evidence that might implicate her in Sheila's death. Terry later said she survived because she stood up to her mother and demanded to be allowed to leave the house.

Aftermath

Knorr and her sons were arrested in 1993 when her daughter Terry contacted authorities after watching an episode of America's Most Wanted, according to Terry's 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 first pled not guilty. However, 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.

References

  • See also: Cold Case Files (A&E), Episode #49: "Mommy's Rules" (featuring an exclusive interview with Terry Knorr).


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