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Episode 556: The Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders

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On the evening of February 4, 1972, middle school friends Maureen Sterling and Yvonne Weber left their homes with a plan to hitchhike to the Redwood Empire Ice Arena in Santa Rosa, California—it was the last time either girl would be seen alive. Nearly one year later, the bodies of Maureen and Yvonne were discovered at the foot of a steep embankment in a rural part of Santa Rosa, identifiable only by the jewelry Maureen had been wearing the night she left the house.

By the time the remains of Sterling and Weber were discovered, three other young women from the Santa Rosa area had gone missing or been found murdered, all of whom had been seen hitchhiking just prior to their disappearance. In time, law enforcement officials would link Sterling and Weber’s murders to the other three woman discovered in 1972, and three others that occurred in the year that followed, all believed to have been killed by the same man or men.

The Santa Rosa hitchhiker murders, as they’re informally known, are one California’s most perplexing cold cases in the state’s history. In addition to the eight women believed to be victims of the same killer, there are several others who disappeared under similar circumstances and could potentially be additional victims. Although there have been several theories as to who was responsible for the deaths, including Ted Bundy and the Zodiac Killer, there has never been any evidence to positively identify the killer.

Thank you to the brilliant David White, of the Bring Me the Axe podcast, for research!


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