For most of us, the relationship between mother and child is a sacred one. We love our children, put their needs above our own, and will do anything to protect them and promote their happiness. But mother of six Theresa Knorr didn’t feel any such love or devotion for her children, least of all her two daughters Sheila and Suesan.
Theresa wounded her daughter Suesan with scissors and a gun. When she wasn’t dead after a few weeks, Theresa tried to remove the bullet herself. The attempted surgery left Suesan near death. As her condition worsened, Theresa bound Suesan’s arms and legs, covered her mouth with duct tape, and ordered her sons to help her take the girl to a deserted road and burn her alive, dousing her with gasoline.
Theresa Knorr forced her other daughter Sheila into prostitution. After a few weeks, she accused Sheila of becoming pregnant and passing on a venereal disease through the family toilet seat. She beat Sheila, hogtied her, and locked her in a hot closet with no ventilation. Once Sheila’s body began to decompose, Theresa ordered her sons to dispose of her.
It took several years for Theresa to be brought to justice. During her trial, the public learned that she had been acquitted in the murder of her husband decades earlier. Her remaining youngest daughter, Terry, was the one to finally get the authorities to investigate her mother and believe what she was telling them: Theresa was a cold-blooded killer who had enlisted the help of sons in the murders of her own daughters.
As we discuss the disturbing crimes of Theresa Knorr, we will dispel the belief that a mother’s love is always selfless, always unconditional. Theresa was a dangerous and cruel mother, but the myth of all mothers putting their children first worked to silence those who had chances to stop her. Where were the good people in this story who could have saved her children? Theresa didn’t strike out of nowhere. She calculated and carried out her abuses over a period of years, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs and clues that were clearly ignored.
Theresa’s abuse could have been stopped but nobody moved to stop her. It was a legal system hesitant to believe her capable of murder, along with a society intent on minding its own business, who let her get away with the murder of two of her children and the nightmarish abuses of the remaining four.