Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mother Knows Best: The Story of Theresa Jimmie Cross


Robert continued to serve in the military, but his diminished abilities left him few options and he was forced to work as a burial escort.   The job wasn't without its perks, but it often required Robert to leave his family on a moment's notice and travel halfway around the country.  Theresa disliked Robert's new job and regularly voiced her opposition.  Just as she did with Clifford, she began accusing him of infidelity.  Tempers often flared and Theresa took her anger out on the children.  According to Dennis McDougal, author of the book Mother's Day, Theresa would often punish them by forcing them to sit on the floor without moving.  If they budged an inch or moved and eye, she would become angry and slap them.  Whenever that didn't work, she would lock them in a closet or force-feed them until they were ready to collapse. 

By June 1969, Robert could no longer take Theresa's allegations and sudden outbursts.   Leaving his children behind, he packed up what few belongings he had and moved out.  Theresa retaliated by filing for divorce on grounds of extreme cruelty, but a few weeks later they reconciled and she dismissed her charges.  Regardless, as much as Robert wanted to make the marriage work, it was far too late. One year later Theresa again filed for divorce.  In an ironic twist, Judge Charles W. Johnson, the same judge that presided over Theresa's murder trial, granted the couple a divorce on June 3, 1970.  Two months later, Theresa gave birth to her sixth and final child and named the girl after herself, Theresa Marie Knorr.  Following the divorce, Robert tried to visit his children, but Theresa did not want anything to do with him and repeatedly denied him the right to see them.  Robert eventually gave up and remarried. 

Theresa didn't stay single for long and soon began dating a railway worker named Ronald Pulliam.   In 1971 they married and shortly after purchased a house in east Sacramento.  To outsiders they seemed like a perfect family, but before long history began to repeat itself and Theresa began treating Ronald as a possession rather than a partner.  Just as she did with Estelle Thornsberry, Theresa began leaving her children at home with Ronald while she went out and partied.  Eventually, she stopped coming home all together.  Ronald was convinced that she was seeing another man and filed for divorce.  On September 27, 1972, with Judge Charles W. Johnson again presiding, the divorce was granted.

With her newfound freedom, Theresa spent the majority of her time drinking at the American Legion Hall in Rio Linda.   It was there that she met 59-year-old Chet Harris, a copy desk editor at the Sacramento Union newspaper.  The two seemed to hit it off well and were married on August 23, 1976, just three days after their first meeting.  It was immediately obvious to Theresa that she had made yet another bad mistake.  Shortly after moving in with her new husband, she discovered that one of his favorite hobbies was taking photographs of nude women.  In fact, his bedroom walls were covered with them.  He wanted Theresa to pose for him, but she refused.  While Theresa may have hated her new husband, her daughter Suesan grew close to him and the two would often spend hours together working on jigsaw puzzles and discussing mythology.  The relationship between her daughter and Harris angered Theresa.  While she wasn't particularly close to any of her children, she didn't feel that anyone else should step in and try to assume her role.  On November 22, 1976, two months after the marriage began, Theresa filed for divorce.  With Judge Charles Johnson once again presiding, the paperwork became final on December 17, 1976.  It was one of Johnson's last court appearances and he retired two months later.

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