Theresa Knorr is one of America’s most famous murderers. She is in prison, serving two simultaneous life sentences for the murder and torture of two of her children, using her other children to ensure that her crimes go undetected. She was so brutal and callous that when her horrific crimes were reported, law enforcement officials considered the stories too fantastic to be anything other than lies.
Only when the police found a connection between two unsolved cases that lent credibility to the story did they begin a full investigation that led to Theresa’s horrific crimes being uncovered. She became famous immediately after the case came to light, as millions of people were deeply shocked and fascinated by the woman who could commit such grotesque and cold-hearted murders.
Who is Theresa Knorr?
She was a chronic alcoholic who, in combination with her tantrums, paranoia, and mental instability, proved to be a lethal mix that claimed the lives of two of her children and left the rest indelibly traumatized. Theresa’s life story was widely reported in the media and in the press. Several books, films, and television series have been written about her and her criminal exploits.
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The famous criminal was born on March 12, 1946, in Sacramento as Theresa Jimmie Francine Cross. She was the second child of her parents, who were James Cross and Swannie Gay. Theresa’s mother worked in a timber company while her father worked as a cheese dairy assistant at the Golden State Dairy. She had a very pleasant childhood until her father fell victim to Parkinson’s disease and had no choice but to quit his job. Soon he became uncomfortable with his situation and began to vent his displeasure on Theresa and her siblings. Things became even uglier after her mother Swannie suffered heart failure and gave up the ghost in Theresa’s arms.
Her family was forced to sell their house because she could no longer afford it so that the young Theresa Knorr became more and more discouraged. When she was 16 years old, she met a man five years her senior and married him. The marriage soon turned sour because Theresa monitored and restricted her husband’s activities, and when he announced that he was leaving her, she shot him. During the trial she argued that her action was in self-defense because he physically abused her, so she was acquitted.
Spouse and Children
Theresa Knorr has married a total of four times. She said her first “I do” at the age of 16 when she and Clifford Clyde Sanders signed the covenant for life. Soon afterward she became pregnant with Howard Clyde, her first son. The marriage ended after she fired a gun at Clifford and killed him. At that time she carried her second child, Sheila, and gave birth to it shortly after the trial ended, and she was acquitted.
A few months later Theresa started dating and moving in with an Army veteran named Estelle Lee Thornsberry. The relationship began to have problems because she abandoned her children with him for a long time to go drinking. Lee broke up with her when he discovered that she was cheating on him with his best friend.
Her next relationship was with Robert Knorr, whom she married in 1966. Theresa Knorr had her third child, Suesan, with him. They welcomed three other children named William, Robert, and Theresa together. Their marriage ended in 1972.
Theresa married her third husband Ronald Pulliam in 1973, but their parties, alcohol consumption, and infidelity accelerated the decline of their marriage. They were divorced a year later, after which she married her last husband Chester Harris. Their marriage lasted from August 1976 to November 1976.
Theresa Knorr’s Life of Crime
Theresa was not only a bad mother but also a cruel and abusive one. She physically attacked her children, verbally abused them, and played all kinds of harmful emotional games with them. With each day she became more malicious, more bitter, and more irascible. She raised her children with fear and terror and forced them to beat and torture each other. Most of Theresa’s cruelty was directed against her daughters.
After Suesan ran away to escape her abuse and was brought back home by the police, Theresa increased her punishment by handcuffing her, beating her severely, and making the other children take turns beating her. She withdrew all her children from school to limit her contact with outsiders. Her anger at Suesan grew worse day by day as she claimed that the girl was using witchcraft to make her fatter.
During one of her moments of anger, she shot Suesan in the chest and the bullet settled in her back. She then left her to bleed out and die in the bathtub. Fortunately, she survived and her mother forced her into prostitution. Months later, she fell deathly ill from sepsis and infections after her mother performed a procedure on her to remove the bullet in her back in exchange for letting her move out.
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When her condition deteriorated, Theresa Knorr drove her far away from the house with the help of her sons and burnt her alive at the side of the road. With Suesan dead, Theresa went after Sheila with the full force of her anger. She repeated the patterns of abuse that Suesan suffered until the day she claimed Sheila had transmitted an STD to her through the toilet seat. Theresa beat her up badly, tied her up, and locked her in a small, airless closet. She then instructed the other children not to feed her or let her out. Weeks later, Sheila died of dehydration and starvation in the closet and Theresa left the body to decompose for a few days before placing her in a cardboard box which she dropped close to an airport.
Theresa fled the apartment and began hiding, while her remaining children abandoned her except Robert. Terry went to the police to report her mother’s crimes, but they did not believe her until she involved the media. This kick-started an investigation that helped uncover Thersa’s crimes, leading to her eventual arrest and convictions for the murders of her daughters. She is still serving her two life sentences and won’t be eligible for parole until 2027, meaning she will probably die in prison.