Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mother Knows Best: The Story of Theresa Jimmie Cross

Defending Dignity

While Theresa and Clifford's marriage had its ups and downs, tempers came to a boiling point on June 22, 1964.   Rather than spend the day with her and the baby, Clifford went out drinking with his friends.  Later that evening, he strolled in drunk and Theresa boiled over.  She berated him for neglecting his family and wasting their much-needed money on booze.  Clifford was in no mood to argue and ended her tirade with a single punch to the face. Theresa went to the police station and filed assault-and-battery charges against him, but when it came time to arrest him, she refused to sign the papers and the charges were dropped.

Whatever Mother Says by Wensley Clarkson
Whatever Mother Says by
Wensley Clarkson

According to the 1995 book Whatever Mother Says by Wensley Clarkson, Clifford had a huge argument with Theresa on his birthday, July 5, 1964.  Theresa accused him of infidelity and he decided he had had enough.  The following day, Clifford packed his bags and told Theresa that he was leaving her.  Unfortunately, he never made it out the door.  Theresa went into a rage, grabbed a rifle and shot her husband.  Clifford stumbled backwards and fell dead.

Galt Police Chief Walter Froehlich was one of the first officers on the scene. 

"I grabbed a gun to make him keep from hitting me and it went off," Theresa said.   Clifford's body was lying facedown in the doorway of the kitchen and on the opposite end of the room Froehlich found the rifle leaning against a wall.  Froehlich arrested Theresa and transported her to the Sacramento County Jail.  Baby Howard was then taken to stay with one of Theresa's relatives.

The headline on the July 7, 1964, Sacramento Bee daily newspaper announced MURDER CHARGE IS DUE IN GALT DEATH.  The first paragraph read: "Deputy District Attorney Donald Dorfman said he planned to file a murder charge today against 18-year-old Mrs. Theresa Sanders of Galt in the deer rifle slaying of her husband.  Clifford Sanders, 23, was slain yesterday morning in the couple's small Galt home.  Investigators reported the bullet apparently grazed off his left wrist and lodged in his heart."

On August 4, 1964, Theresa entered a plea of innocent by reason of self-defense in a Sacramento courtroom.  Her trial was scheduled to begin three weeks later in Judge Charles W. Johnson's courtroom.

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