17 infamous crimes in Sonoma County history

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Throughout Sonoma County history several crimes have been so unthinkable, they stay with us - a haunting reminder of what man is capable of at his worst.

Like the tale of Dr. Willard Preble Burke, a noted Santa Rosa doctor who ran a Mark West area sanitarium. In 1910, he placed dynamite under the cabin of his mistress, LuEtta Smith, who had recently given birth to their son. The pair survived and Burke continued to “care” for LuEtta, treating her wounds with arsenic.

Or the story of three San Francisco men wanted in connection with a gang rape who were hiding out in Santa Rosa. After a 1920 shootout left Sonoma County Sheriff Jim Petray and two San Francisco lawmen dead, an angry mob broke into the county jail and lynched the trio in the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.

Closer to modern times, there was the 1970s serial killer who stalked young women in Sonoma County, murdering at least seven, but was never caught.

And who can forget Richard Allen Davis, whose murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas is scarred in our memories.

Click through the gallery above to see some the most heinous crimes in Sonoma County history.

Show Comment

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine