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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: The Hippie Cannibal Satanist

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 9:53 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Editor's Note: This is the second installment in a two-part series exploring the brutal murder of Robert Salem in San Francisco in 1970. Click here to read part one.


SFPD homicide inspectors weren't quite sure if the April 1970 murder of lamp designer Robert Salem was the work of the Zodiac Killer or a twisted copycat. However, the arrest of two hippie Satanic cultists in a hit-and run gave police a suspect in the Salem murder — and another more heinous crime.

The hippies plowed the yellow Opel sports car they'd stolen into a truck off of Highway 1 just outside Big Sur on Monday, July 13, 1970. The Detroit tourist who was driving the truck wanted to get the hippies' insurance info. The hippies fled into the woods on foot. They didn't get far before Highway Patrolman Randy Newton caught up with them.

The hippies were Stanley Dean Baker, 22, and Harry Allen Stroup, 20, both from Wyoming. After being arrested, Baker was found with a recipe for LSD, a copy of Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible, and a human finger bone that had been gnawed on.

"I have a problem," Baker confessed to Newton. "I'm a cannibal."

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: The Zodiac Killer Answers His Copycats

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 9:53 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

There were trails of blood throughout what the San Francisco Chronicle called “an expensively-decorated hippie-style pad,” according to the paper's cover story on Monday, April 20, 1970.

The apartment at 745 Stevenson Street in San Francisco belonged to Robert Salem, 40, a notable designer of hurricane lamps. Salem was "a graying man who wore his hair long and apparently had an interest in gurus and health foods" according to the Chronicle. Friends of Salem broke into his live-work space on Sunday, April 19, 1970, when they hadn't seen him in several days.

They found him dead on one of his couches. Salem had been stabbed seven times with a very sharp knife. His head was nearly severed from his body. When decapitation proved too difficult, the killer cut off Salem’s ear. Investigators never found the ear.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: The NFL Crossbow Killing

Posted By on Fri, Jan 29, 2016 at 9:53 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

NFL teams are modern day medieval fiefdoms where ruthless barons, such as Mark Davis and Dan Snyder, preside over helmeted armies culled from the underclass. No team was more of a game of thrones than the Seattle Seahawks in 1989, when a dispute between co-owners led to an assassination using a weapon favored by the men who guarded Richard the Lionheart.

Mike Blatt was a Stockton-based real estate developer who ruled over vast lands, including apartment complexes in California, Arizona, and Nevada. His Blatt Development Co. oversaw $120 million worth of construction in its first 10 years. He also ran a successful sports agency, but all that wasn't enough.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: The Grave Robbers of Menlo Park

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 10:33 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Today, Menlo Park is known as the home of Facebook and tech workers who can't quite afford Atherton, but in 1944 this tree-lined suburb was the site of one of the most bizarre crimes in Bay Area history.

Dolores Sifuentes of Redwood City was just 21 when she died from tuberculosis at the Canyon Sanatorium on Thursday, April 6, 1944. She was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Menlo Park on the following Saturday. Strangely, this was only the beginning of the young woman's ordeal.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: Bodies in Barrels and the Killer Cop

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 10:58 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

The 55-gallon metal drums looked out of place. They were left in Golden Gate Park near a narrow jogging path about a mile from the ocean. Answering reports from concerned residents, mounted patrolman Bruno Pezzulich was the first to inspect the drums on May 3, 1983. He noticed that one of them was marked "Toxic Chemicals," and called the fire department.

When one of the firefighters moved one of the concrete-sealed barrels, blood began to ooze out.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Yesterday's Crimes: The Carpet King of Crime

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 9:47 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

“Wild-eyed” Leon Heskett was the self-proclaimed Bay Area “carpet king” in the 1960's and 70's. He ruled his discount empire from his bright yellow Carpet Coliseum store in Oakland, which was once described as “the most horrible thing I have ever seen” by an unnamed speaker during a Burlingame Planning Commission meeting in 1973. Heskett’s newspaper ads boasted “the West’s largest carpet inventory” over a publicity photo of Heskett standing proudly next to towering shelves filled with rolls of rugs.

While business appeared to be boom through the 70's, it all went up in smoke (literally) on Feb. 17, 1982, when a six-alarm fire gutted Heskett’s flagship Oakland store. According to UPI, it took 85 Oakland firefighters to combat a blaze that was even visible from San Francisco.

“What the hell can you say?” Heskett told UPI. “When you work for 30 years to build a business, and it's gone in 30 minutes.”

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: The Strange Death of the Crooked PI Who Took on Jim Jones

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 at 2:15 PM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Editor's Note: This is the third installment in a multi-part series exploring post-Jonestown life for former Peoples Temple members in the Bay Area. You can read parts one, two, and three here. 


Joseph Mazor was like a character out of film noir. He was a con man who’d served time for passing bad checks before somehow getting a private investigator's license and opening his own San Francisco detective agency. He sometimes wore an eye patch and was prone to fits of violence.

However, this grizzled anti-hero spent nearly two years working to free children from Reverend Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana before the mass murder/suicide there on Nov. 18, 1978.

Although he failed to rescue many children before the deadly Kool-Aid knockoff was served, Mazor’s life took an even more tragic turn after Guyana.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: The Tragic Schoolyard Shooting Linked to Jonestown

Posted By on Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 10:22 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Editor's Note: This is the third installment in a multi-part series exploring post-Jonestown life for former Peoples Temple members in the Bay Area. You can read parts one and two here. 


Tyrone Mitchell was a member of Peoples Temple in 1978, but he didn't make it to Guyana. His fiancée, Marylou Hill, had problems with her passport, and Mitchell stayed behind with her. His entire family had already joined Rev. Jim Jones at his Jonestown Agricultural Project, carved out of an unforgiving tract of South American jungle.

Mitchell's parents, his four sisters, and a brother all died at Jonestown on Nov. 18, 1978. They were among the mass of bodies captured in aerial shots on network news and in Time Magazine.

Mitchell was already a disturbed man before the Jonestown Massacre. He became even more so after it.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: Jonestown Was Just the Beginning for One Peoples Temple Family

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 9:40 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

Editor's Note: This is the second installment in a two-part series exploring post-Jonestown life for one former Peoples Temple family in the Bay Area. Click here to read part one. "Yesterday's Crimes" will take a break for Thanksgiving but will resume on Dec. 3 with another post probing Peoples Temple.


Jeannie and Al Mills and their children left Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in 1974. Jones and most of his followers died in the biggest murder/suicide of all time in Guyana on Nov. 18, 1978. But even with Jones dead in the jungle, Jeannie Mills never felt safe. Jones still had followers in California who hadn't "drank the Kool-Aid."

On Feb. 27, 1980, Jeannie’s worst fears came true. She and her husband were found murdered in their suburban Berkeley home. Their 15-year-old daughter, Daphne, was rushed to Alta Bates Hospital, only to die two days later. All of them had been shot execution-style in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Yesterday's Crimes: Peoples Temple Hit Squads and Jonestown's Last Victims

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 10:09 AM

RANDY HEINITZ/FLICKR
  • Randy Heinitz/Flickr

It’s November 18, 1978.

The tape is running. Reverend Jim Jones is rambling into a microphone, dictating a suicide note on behalf of nearly a thousand people. Death is all around him, in the air and on the ground; death that he commanded. People are drinking grape Flavor Aid from a vat. It’s laced with potassium cyanide.

Before Jones, standing on a pavilion in front of his wailing congregation, shoots himself in the head, he issues a warning to a “Deanna Mertle.”

“The people in San Francisco will not be idle,” he says. “Now, would they? They’ll not take our death in vain.”

The following day, 913 people — many of them children — are found dead in the cleared-out patch of Guyana jungle called Jonestown.

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