Theresa Knorr

Confirmed Kills
Suspected Kills
Total Possible Kills
Years Active
March 14, 1946
Sentenced to two life sentences
Alive or Dead?
In Prison (Life)
US States Operated
Info Box

Theresa Knorr née Cross (Theresa Knorr) was born in Sacramento, California in 1946. She committed gruesome murders on her two children and used the others to cover up for the crimes. In 1993, Cross was arrested with her sons. At first, she pled not guilty but when she learned that one of her sons decided to testify against her, she admitted all the charges in order to avoid the death penalty. She was sentenced to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 2027. 

Early Life

Theresa Cross was the youngest of her siblings and spent most of her time taking care of her mother. When her mother passed away back in 1961, Cross fell into a depressive state. At 16 years old however Theresa Cross met Clifford Clyde Sanders and they soon decided to wed. In 1964 they would have their first child, Howard Clyde Sanders. While still married but estranged from Clifford, Theresa gunned down her husband to death in Galt, California where they were living. She claimed it as self-defense and was acquitted of the crime and shortly gave birth to her daughter, Sheila Gay Sanders in 1965 after the tragic passing of her husband.

After getting pregnant in 1966, Theresa Cross started a family with the father of her third child, Robert Knorr, and eventually had four children with him. Suesan Marlene Knorr was born in September of the same year. In 1967, William Robert Knorr was born. Robert Wallace Knorr was born in 1968. The fourth child, a daughter named Theresa (Terry) Marie Knorr was born in 1970. 

Abuse and Murder of her children

None of Theresa Knorr’s children were spared her physical and verbal abuse. An interview with her surviving daughter, Terry, revealed that Knorr had a special hatred for her daughters Suesan and Sheila because she felt that they were growing up and blossoming into young women while she would soon lose her own youth. The abused children often found themselves covered in cigarette burns as well as countless numbers of bruises. In fact, Knorr consistently focused on abusing and torturing the girls while the boys were trained to beat their sisters over the course of several years.

Thersa Knorr shoots her daughter Suesan – Chains her to a soap dish

In a dramatic turn of events in 1983, Theresa Cross grabbed a 22-caliber pistol from a nearby drawer and shot her daughter Suesan in the chest. The bullet lodged in her back and Cross refused to transport Suesan to the hospital for fear that officials might discover what she did. During these months of pain, Suesan was handcuffed to a soap dish as Cross tried her best to nurse her unhealthy daughter back to health in spite of the fact that it never fully healed after this ordeal.

In 1984, Suesan decided she would like to move out. Knorr ordered that Suesan let her remove the bullet from her back before leaving. They used liquor and Mellaril pills as anesthesia while Robert provided assistance by removing the bullet with a box cutter. Knorr told her children Suesan’s ailment was because she had been possessed by the Devil and that the only way to be rid of the demon would be through fire. She made Robert and Bill help her dispose of Suesan. They took her on a trip to Sierra Nevada, Interstate 80  (where they disposed of her body), poured gasoline on it, and torched it.

Theresa forces Sheila into prostitution, locks her closet, and burns her body

In 1985, Sheila was also brutalized by her mother. Terry claims that Theresa Knorr forced Sheila into prostitution and then later alleged that she passed on an STD to her via a toilet seat. The abuse against Sheila escalated from there, as Knorr began locking her in a closet and beating and starving her until she finally died of dehydration several days later. Her mother then got rid of the body by dumping it along the side of a road in a cardboard box, where she remained unidentified for months afterward.

Terry’s attack 

Later, however, Terry revealed that her mother had forced her to set fire to the family apartment in an effort to destroy evidence linking her to Sheila’s death. Following this revelation, she claimed that she only survived the abuse of her mother by demanding to be allowed to leave the house. 

Arrest and Convictions 

In 1993, Theresa Knorr was arrested with her sons when Terry contacted authorities after watching an episode of America’s Most Wanted. This was according to her Cold Case Files interview. At first, Theresa Knorr pled not guilty but when she learned that one of her sons decided to testify against her, she admitted all the charges in order to avoid the death penalty. She was sentenced to life in prison. Theresa Knorr will be eligible for parole in 2027.