Dressed in a miniskirt and bikini-style briefs, with a blouse discovered nearby, she had been brutally stabbed 29 times in the stomach, chest and arm in what appeared a sexually driven crime. Shoe prints and tire tracks were discovered close to where the young woman was found, opening up the possibility she was murdered elsewhere and transported to the area she was found.
Earlier that morning she had been dancing at Plumbers Hall, 5841 Newman Court in East Sacramento, with her last sighting alive at 43rd Street and 11th Avenue, about 2 miles southwest of Plumbers Hall. This sighting was only 3 1/2 hours prior to her body being discovered alongside Pleasant Grove Road, 15 miles north. Investigators concluded by examining the crime scene that she had been transported to the location she was ultimately found, and the perpetrator/s vehicle would have been heavily bloodstained. Therefore, the location of her murder was considered to lie elsewhere, possibly close to the area she was last seen alive.
A sexual component to the crime was fairly obvious because the young girl was clothed in only a blouse, with no other clothing found at the crime scene. Despite this, nothing conclusive could be determined from the autopsy by Placer County officials, other than she was likely dumped in the rice paddy shortly after her abduction from the bus stop.
The age of the victim, nature of her disappearance and location of her body would lead investigators to believe that Herman Lee Hobbs may very likely be responsible for her murder, based upon the circumstances discussed in the next case on this page - the murder of 13-year-old Terri Maree Pata. Despite lingering suspicions, the murder of Stephine Black remains unsolved to this day. Without any DNA collected in her case due to her being submerged in water, a likely resolution to her horrific murder will probably never materialize.
Many years later, DNA testing would eventually identify the murderer of Terri Maree Pata. Herman Lee Hobbs (57) was arrested at Pleasant Valley Prison in Coalinga (already in jail for rape) and brought to Sacramento County, before he was ultimately convicted of her murder, having lived close to Terri at the time of her disappearance and murder. He has been linked to many other rapes and murders, including Stephine Black, Brenda Ann Tucker, Katherine Harlan and Harriet Elizabeth Riley, the latter two of which both lived in North Highlands.
It is patently obvious that Herman Lee Hobbs was a deviant sociopath responsible for many more crimes than police could pin on him. During the 1970s, several girls near Pata's age were found murdered in the vicinity of North Highlands. In most cases, the bodies were so badly decomposed that detectives were unable to determine the cause of death or whether the victims had been sexually assaulted.
Fred Franklin Robinson (33) stood trial for the murder of Katherine Harlan, but despite investigators claiming he had admitted strangling the young 9-year-old girl he plead innocent at his trial. Several material eyewitnesses came forward vouching for Robinson's whereabouts at the time of Katherine's abduction, with the autopsy showing she was beaten to death. Charges against Robinson were eventually dropped by the judiciary claiming lack of evidence and nobody has subsequently been identified as the murderer of Katherine Harlan. Four of these murders (excluding Harriet Elizabeth Riley) have one striking feature in common, to which we shall turn to now.