Theresa Knorr, a notorious American murderess, was found guilty of torturing and murdering two of her daughters while coercing the other daughters into helping her cover up the crimes. She is currently serving two concurrent life sentences at the California Institution for Women in Chino, California. When her lone surviving daughter told the police the tale, it seemed so unbelievable that the police wrote it off as fiction—but then the evidence from the twin unsolved cases supported it, allowing for further inquiry and the discovery of the horrifying crime. A horrified nation was riveted by the horrifying double killings, which were reportedly motivated by a potent cocktail of unstable mental health, severe anger issues, and protracted alcohol abuse. In addition to receiving extensive media coverage, the dramatic tale has been depicted in a number of TV programs, books, and movies.
Early Youth & Life
Jimmie Teresa On March 12, 1946, Francine Knorr (née Cross) was born in Sacramento to James “Jim” Cross and Swannie Gay. She was the second child of the pair; her sister Rosemary was a few years older than her. William and Clara, two step-siblings born to Swannie’s first marriage, were also Theresa’s.
Swannie worked at a nearby timber business while Jim worked as an assistant cheesemaker at the Golden State Dairy in Sacramento. The family was doing well, so in the early 1950s, they relocated to a bigger home in Rio Linda, California.
However, their joy was only momentary because Jim was given a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in the late 1950s. He suffered from depression after being forced to quit his work, and the kids took the brunt of his rage. Swannie died of congestive heart failure on March 2, 1961, while Theresa was holding him. They had just left for the neighborhood grocery. Due to her strong attachment to her mother, Theresa was profoundly saddened by this loss and experienced severe depression.
The family home had to be sold because Jim was unable to work and Swannie had passed away. This lack of security made Theresa even more vulnerable, and when she was only 16 years old, she rapidly fell in love with and married Clifford Clyde Sanders, who was five years older than her.
Theresa dropped out of junior high school, and the newlyweds settled into a studio apartment in North Highlands, California. The marriage quickly deteriorated because Clifford was kept on a very short tether by the insecure Theresa.
Their first child, Howard Clyde Sanders, was born on July 16, 1963, and this resulted in a brief period of calm. On Clifford’s birthday, July 5, 1964, the couple got into a heated argument, and when Clifford attempted to leave the house, saying he’d had enough, Theresa shot him to death. She was at the time expecting her second child, and during the hearing, she managed to get an acquittal by claiming self-defense.
Disrupted and multiple marriages
Her second child, Sheila Gay Sanders, was born in 1965. Theresa had a short affair with disabled former US Army soldier Estelle Lee Thornsberry. Theresa’s drinking issue, wild behavior, and infidelity caused the couple to separate.
She wed Thornsberry’s acquaintance Robert Knorr on July 9, 1966, even though they were already having an affair.
She was seven months along at the time, and Suesan Marlene Knorr was born in September 1966. After that, on September 15, 1967, the pair gave birth to William Robert Knorr, and on December 31, 1968, to Robert Wallace Knorr, Jr.
Theresa frequently accused Robert Knorr of having extramarital relationships and, on June 3, 1970, managed to get a divorce despite being pregnant. Only two months later, Theresa (Terry) Marie Knorr, her sixth and final daughter, was born.
Both of her later marriages—to railroad worker Ronald Pulliam in 1971 and to Sacramento Union editor Chester “Chet” Harris in 1976—were failures and resulted in divorce. Theresa, who had gone through numerous divorces, increased her drinking, put on weight, and developed seriously irritable bowel syndrome. She began physically punishing her children after torturing them mentally. She even started to act like a hermit, refusing company and going out.
The Suesan Massacre Mary Knorr
Theresa began abusing Suesan after becoming convinced that Chester Harris had changed her into a witch. Susan eventually fled away but was given back to her mother because no one believed her claims of being subjected to mental and physical abuse.
Theresa shot Suesan with a.22-caliber pistol in a fit of anger in 1982. Suesan was cared for by her sisters Sheila and Terry while being bandaged with the bullet still in her body because she didn’t want the authorities to get involved.
In a subsequent argument in July 1984, Theresa stabbed Suesan with a set of scissors, though not severely.
Suesan, who had had enough, asked for permission to move out and unexpectedly got her mother’s approval. However, one rider needed to be extracted first due to the bullet that was stuck in Suesan’s back.
The bullet was successfully removed by Robert Wallace Knorr, Jr. following his mother’s directions, but an infection soon set in, and within a few days Suesan was in excruciating pain, her eyes had gone yellow, and she had lost control of her bowels.
On July 16, 1984, Theresa had Robert and Bill load Suesan and her possessions into the vehicle while taping her mouth shut. They took Highway 89 south to Square Creek Bridge, dumped Suesan and her belongings there, doused everything in gasoline, and lit everything on fire.
Sheila Gay Sanders’s Death
Theresa, who was unemployed and receiving government assistance, made Sheila, who was 20 at the time, a prostitute in order to raise the family’s revenue. Sheila was initially appalled, but she lacked the courage to rebel, and before long, she was making a respectable living.
Theresa accused Sheila of getting pregnant and giving her a venereal illness from a common toilet seat in May 1985. Sheila endured severe beatings and was imprisoned in a sweltering, stuffy closet without access to food or water.
Three days after she was imprisoned, on June 21, 1985, there was a loud thump followed by a period of quiet. Before the door was opened and her decomposing corpse was discovered, three more days passed.
On Interstate 80’s Martis Creek Campground, Sheila’s body was hurriedly placed into an old cardboard box, carried to the car, and dumped in the weeds. Sheila became Jane Doe #6607-85 despite the fact that the body was found within a short period of time, the police were unable to identify her or establish what caused her death.
The start of the end
Theresa, who was paranoid, packed up the family’s possessions on September 29 and gave Terry the order to set the home on fire. But the fire was discovered right away, and the fire service put it out. All of the kids had left the house by 1991, with the exception of Robert, and ultimately, the mother and son followed them to Las Vegas.
Robert attempted to rob a tavern on North Nellis Boulevard out of desperation for money, but he instead killed the bartender. After being detained, he was given a 16-year term. Theresa then relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, feeling anxious.
After watching an installment of “America’s Most Wanted” in 1992, Terry got in touch with the Nevada County Sheriff’s office and reported the murders of Suesan and Sheila. Incredulous Ron Perea, the police sergeant, conducted a face-to-face interview with Terry, and soon enough, detectives were able to gather the information that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Terry was telling the truth.
Arraignment, Prosecution, and Sentence
The detectives reported Theresa, William, and Robert for crimes on November 4, 1993. William was apprehended in a quiet Sacramento neighborhood while Robert was discovered in a Nevada County jail. Both originally resisted being questioned, but later they confessed to their roles in the deaths of their two sisters.
Theresa was located in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she had been detained just five days earlier for intoxicated driving. She answered the door when Sergeant John Fitzgerald knocked, despite being informed of the investigation and preparing to leave.
Theresa Knorr faced charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, numerous murders, and torture-murder that could have resulted in the death penalty. Theresa changed her plea from not guilty to guilty after learning that Robert had made a bargain with the prosecution and agreed to testify against her in return for a lesser sentence.
Theresa changed her plea to guilty on October 17, 1995, and was given two consecutive life sentences because she was unwilling to take the chance of receiving the execution penalty. If she survives, she won’t be available for parole until 2027 when she will be 80 years old.
Except for one claim of conspiracy in connection with Sheila’s murder, all charges against Robert were dropped. He was given a three-year term that will run concurrently with his murder conviction from 1991. William was given a probationary period and told to get counseling.
Estimated Net Worth
Sheila Knorr is one of the wealthiest and most well-known murderers. Sheila Knorr’s net worth is $5 million, per our study of data from sources like Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.