Theresa Knorr was born on March 14, 1946, in Sacramento, CA to parents, James (Jim) Cross and Swannie Gay Cross with the birth name Theresa Jimmie Francine Knorr. Theresa was sentenced to two life imprisonment terms at California Institution for Women in Chino, California for torturing and murdering two of her children. Swannie had a son and daughter from her previous marriage resulting in Theresa to be the youngest of the two daughters.
Theresa"s father, James who was known as Jim saved enough money to buy a home for his family in Rio Linda, California while working at a local dairy as an assistant cheesemaker. Jim had no choice but to quit his job after he was diagnosed with Parkinson"s disease in the late 1950s. Jim shortly after began taking out his frustration on his family because he was depressed but his wife kept their family financially stable. Swannie died in March 1961 from congestive heart failure which left Theresa devastated because she was extremely close to her mother. Jim could not afford to take care of his home financially and had to sell their home.
Clifford Clyde Sanders: Married Theresa on September 29, 1962 - Died on July 6, 1964
Theresa was 16-years-old when she married Clifford Clyde Sanders on September 29, 1962, and shortly after dropped out of high school after she became pregnant. She met Clifford who was five years older than her a few months before they got married. Their first child, Howard Clyde Sanders was born on July 16, 1963.
Theresa and Clifford did not have a stable marriage as Theresa regularly accused Clifford of cheating her. She told officers that Clifford punched her in the face on June 22, 1964, but she did not press charges. Theresa shot Clifford in the back as he was walking out the door after he told her that he was leaving her on the day after his birthday which she was mad about because he spent his birthday with his friends instead of his family.
Pregnant Theresa was arrested on July 6, 1964, for killing her husband but she pleaded not guilty during her trial and said it was in self-defense because her husband physically abused her. Clifford family testified that he was not violent, abusive or an alcoholic. Theresa"s sister testified also saying that her sister was possessive and "would kill him (Sanders) before any other woman could have him." The prosecution started that Clifford Sanders did not provoke Theresa and that she killed him maliciously.
Theresa was acquitted on September 22, 1964, of Clifford Sanders death/murder and gave birth on March 16, 1965, to her and Clifford"s daughter Sheila Gay Sanders. Theresa became an alcoholic after Sheila was born and she was a regular at the American Legion Hall. She met disabled United States Army veteran Estelle Lee Thornsberry at the American Legion Hall and soon after started living together. Theresa did not quite her drinking and would leave her children home with Estelle while she goes out drinking. He found out that she was having an affair on him with his best friend after she would leave him and the kids for a few days at a time. He ended their relationship, but she did not take long to find a new relationship.
Robert Knorr: Married Theresa on July 9, 1966 - Divorced in 1970
She began dating Robert Knorr who was a United States Marine private and shortly after became pregnant which resulting in their marriage on July 9, 1966. Theresa gave birth on
September 27, 1966, to their daughter, Suesan Marline Knorr. Robert and Theresa had three more children together, September 15, 1967: William Robert Knorr, December 31, 1968: Robert Wallace Knorr, Jr. and Theresa Marie "Terry" Knorr was born on August 5, 1970, but died on December 8, 2011.
Theresa began accusing Robert of cheating on her resulting in Robert leaving her in June 1969 after he got tired of her accusing him. Theresa did not let Robert see their children after they got divorced in 1970.
Ronald Pulliam: Married Theresa in 1971 - Divorced in 1972
Theresa left her kids with Ronald while she stayed out in the nights partying and drinking.
Ronald started to suspect that Theresa was having an affair and divorced her in 1972.
Chester "Chet" Harris: Married Theresa August 1976 - Divorce in November 1976
Chester was a Sacramento Union copy editor who did not disclose his hobby which resulted in their divorce. Theresa did not like that her daughter Suesan was close to Chester and was becoming very fond of him resulting in her jealousy. Theresa filed for divorce in November 1976 after she discovered that Chester likes to take nude photographs of females with their consent
Theresa abused her children physically, verbally, and psychologically but the abusive of her children escalated after her divorce with Chester as well as her alcoholism. She gained a huge amount of weight and became reclusive including not letting her kids have visitors over and disconnecting their home phone.
Theresa threw knives at her children, burned them with cigarettes, forced feed them and beat them by having her children hold each other down while she beat them or do other wrong things to them. She had threatened her youngest daughter, Terry, by putting a gun to her head and told her that she was going to killer her. Terry is the only daughter that is alive and mentioned in an interview that her mother did not like Suesan and Sheila because they were growing into beautiful young women while she (Theresa) was growing old and not as beautiful as before.
Howard Clyde Sanders: Born - July 16, 1963
Sheila Gay Sanders: Born - March 16, 1965, Died - June 21, 1985
Suesan Marline Knorr: Born - September 27, 1966, Died - July 16, 1984
William Robert Knorr: Born - September 15, 1967
Robert Wallace Knorr, Jr.: Born - December 31, 1968
Theresa Marie Knorr: Born - August 5, 1970, Died - December 8, 2011
Suesan Marline Knorr: Born - September 27, 1966, Died - July 16, 1984
Theresa believed that Chester Harris (her fourth husband) turned Suesan into a witch and that is why Theresa treated Suesan the worst. Suesan eventually ran away from home after Theresa had beaten her severely, but she was sent to a psychiatric hospital after police officers picked her up. Suesan was unfortunately released back into her mother"s care after Theresa said that she does not abuse her daughter and that Suesan had mental issues. Theresa was furious and wore leather gloves while she beat Suesan for running away and forced her other children to beat Suesan as well.
Theresa escalated the matter by handcuffing Suesan to her bad and made the other children take turns watching her. Theresa then made Suesan dropped out of school, and she did the same to the other kids resulting in most of her children not advancing past the eighth grade.
Theresa was determined that Suesan was a witch and that Suesan had put a spell on her to gain weight in 1982 which resulted in Theresa shooting Suesan in the chest after Suesan denied putting a spell on her. Theresa thought that Suesan would eventually die as the bullet was lodged in her back so Theresa put her in the bathtub to die but she did not die. Theresa decided to nurse Suesan back to health and let her daughter help nurse Suesan back to health which leads to Suesan recovering.
Theresa stabbed Suesan with a scissors in the back during their argument in July 1984 and Theresa refused to seek medical help for her daughter. Theresa decides to let Suesan move to Alaska but only after Theresa remove the bullet that was still lodged in Suesan"s back because she does not want any evidence to remain.
Suesan passed out and became unconscious after Theresa gave her Mellaril capsules and liquor as an anesthetic. Theresa and made her 15-year-old son Robert use an X-Acto knife to remove the bullet. Suesan woke up with extreme pain the next day and developed septicemia a few day later. Suesan health began to decline even after Theresa tried to treat her with ibuprofen and antibiotics. Theresa packed all of Suesan belongings into trash bags on July 16, 1984, and bind her arms and legs with duct tape. Theresa ordered Robert and William to put their sister Suesan in the car, and they drove to Squaw Valley. Theresa then ordered the boys to put Suesan on top of the bags on the side of the road. Theresa poured gasoline over Suesan and the bags before setting Suesan and her belongings on fire.
Suesan"s body was found the next day, and autopsy results showed that she was alive when she was set on fire but her identity was unsolved and she was recorded as Jane Doe #4873/84.
Sheila Gay Sanders: Born - March 16, 1965, Died - June 21, 1985
Theresa began taking out her anger on and abusing Sheila after Suesan"s death and even forced her started prostituting in May 1985. Sheila had to prostitute because she needed to financially support her family since her mother received government money and did not work. Sheila was allowed to come and go from their house as she likes because Theresa was thrilled with the huge amount of money Sheila was making.
Theresa pleasantry did not last long as she claims a few weeks later that she contracted a sexually transmitted disease by using the same toilet as Sheila. Theresa accused Sheila of being pregnant and getting the sexually transmitted disease, but Sheila was beaten by her mother after she denied the accusations. Theresa did not only beat Sheila, but she also locked her in a hot closet without ventilation after she hogtied her. All of the children in the house was told not to give Sheila anything, including food and water.
Theresa"s daughter who she named after herself and is also called Terry did not follow her mother"s order and gave Sheila a beer. Sheila decided to confess to her mother so that she can be free but Theresa did not believe her and Sheila died from dehydration and starvation three days later on June 21, 1985. Theresa did not know that Sheila had died until three days after her death.
Theresa ordered Robert and William to get rid of Sheila"s decomposed stinking corpse, so they put her body in a box and placed the box near an airport in Truckee, California. Sheila"s body was not identified after it was discovered a few hours after she was left there, so she was marked as Jane Doe #6607-85.
Terry said that "She [Theresa] wanted Sheila to confess. That was mother"s way. Beat them until they confess."
Theresa became very concerned about her being caught after the rotting smell from their apartment would not disappear, so she decided to move her family belongings out of their home on September 29, 1986. She ordered Terry to burn down their Apartment by pouring lighter fluid on the house and setting it on fire so that all evidence could be destroyed, but neighbors reported the fire. The fire did not have time to spread, so the closet that Sheila was locked in did not get burned.
Theresa fled and hid while her remaining legal age children did not want anything to do with her and 16-year-old Terry also left and used Sheila"s ID to pass as an adult.
19-year-old Robert, Jr. stayed moved with his mom, Theresa to Las Vegas where they mostly stayed to themselves until Robert shot a bartender in November 1991 during an attempted robbery in a bar in Las Vegas. Theresa moved to Salt Lake City, Las Vegas after Robert was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Terry Knorr informed officers in Utah about her sister"s murders, but her report was dismissed.
Terry contacted America"s Most Wanted on October 28, 1993, and they told her to contact the detectives in Placer County, California which was where Suesan"s body was discovered. Placer County detectives opened an investigation and found that the two Jane Does that was found in 1984 and 1985 death to be exactly what Terry told them.
William was arrested in Woodland, California on November 4, 1993, and Robert Jr. was already in jail serving a 16-year sentence but was additionally charged with his sister"s murders. Theresa was arrested at her home on November 10, 1993, in Salt Lake City.
Theresa was convicted of two murders on November 15, 1993, and was two counts of conspiracy to commit murder along with two special circumstances charges including multiple murder and murder by torture. She once again pleaded not guilty but later decided to make a deal with the prosecution to be spared from the death penalty after she found out that Robert, Jr. was going to testify against her so that this sentence can be reduced.
She was sentenced on October 17, 1995, to two consecutive life sentences and severed her sentence at California Institution for Women in Corona, California.
William received a sentence of probation and mandatory therapy because she took part in Sheila"s murder.
Robert Jr pleaded guilty and received three years imprisonment sentence for taking part in Sheila"s murder which was added to his 16-year sentence.
Rosemary was found strangled at the end of a dead end road in Placer County in 1983 after she went grocery shopping in Sacramento.
Terry lives in Sandy, Utah with her second husband and works as a cashier at a grocery store in the same area where Theresa (her mother) used to live before her arrest but they did not know they lived so close to each other. Terry died at the age of 41 on December 8, 2011, from a heart attack in Saint Joseph, Missouri.