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Ghost story

(Originally published on Aug. 17, 1986) It wasn't until the evening of July 9, when they all ended up sleeping on the front lawn, that the residents of a fourplex at 73 La Fresa Court realized they had a ghost problem.

For months each of the four families thought it was the only one hearing the unexplained running Noises or voices from the closets. Not until two neighbors happened to be in the same apartment And saw the kitchen cabinet doors opening and Slamming shut by themselves did they realize they were not alone.

Terrified, they ran to the front yard. Soon the whole building had emptied out, and the families started trading stories as they put blankets down to spend the night outside.

Bob Orozco in apartment 1 had thought he was going crazy because he kept hearing voices coming from closets or the attic. Sometimes he heard someone running on the roof. He would often dash outside, hoping to catch the culprit. He never found one.

Patty Trejo in apartment 2 had felt "something was watching me" in the bedrooms, and took to sleeping on the couch downstairs. Sounds like "children running back and forth every night for three weeks" in the upstairs bedrooms had bothered her, too.

Regina Ware in apartment 3 had heard someone running up and down the stairs inside her home, and finally fled to the front yard with her husband after she walked past the linen closet and "something shook the door like it wanted to get out."

And in apartment 4, Larry and Sandra Wilke had not only seen the kitchen cabinet doors move by themselves, and the lights flick off and on, but they had seen blood stains appear on their carpet and later disappear.

Trejo was in the Wilkes apartment July 9 when the kitchen cabinets started swinging. They also heard pounding noises, and when they knocked on Ware's door and asked her if her family had been hammering on the walls, she told them, "I thought you guys were doing that."

The next day, after the parapsychologist came and described the murders, they didn't feel so crazy.

But sitting there in the front yard and the darkness, with curious and skeptical neighbors coming around, tt all seemed very bizarre. They were literally trading ghost stories, And it wasn't until 2 a.m., when chilly temperatures finally overcame fear, that anyone went back into his or her apartment.

A neighbor across the street took in the scene and thought maybe the newspaper might be interested in the strange events on La Fresa Court. It was certainly a situation that called for some investigating.

A reporter had called Robyn Cunningham, a professional "ghostbuster" with a master's degree In psychology from Pepperdine University, for an opinion. She Listened to the case and asked to visit the house.

When she arrived, she went straight to apartment 4.

There she detected "negative" forces. After walking around the rooms for several minutes, she described what she felt:

"A man and a woman were murdered in (apartment 4) five years ago. Their spirits remain. And I see that the man who committed the murders has never been caught."

Cunningham, who said the victims were stabbed, said the woman did not die immediately. "I see her as dying later."

She saw the female victim getting into a car and trying to drive somewhere for help. She did not reach her destination and her body was found dead in the car, Cunningham said.

The parapsychologist also saw the male victim being put in a truck and His body being dumped in an alley aAnd near a hospital "so that he can be helped if he's still alive."

She then announced she would "cleanse the house" of the ghosts. She sat cross-legged on the floor of the living room and shut her eyes for about 10 minutes, occasionally making motions with her hands.

Then she stood up and announced, "They're gone. You won't have any more trouble here."

Asked what she had done, she said, "To put it simply, I've sent the spirits back to the great beyond."

Three families said they have seen nothing strange nor heard voices or other noises since Cunningham's visit.

The fourth family, the Wilkes, moved out, vowing never to return. They stayed with relatives July 9, And went back the next day only to collect some of their belongings. That's when in one of the bedrooms they again saw stains on the carpet -- bloodstains, they said.

The Bee went back through its own files and police files but could find no record of any killings in any of the apartments at 73 La Fresa Court.

But it did find some curious connections.

On Feb. 11, 1981, Eldon "Dutch" Hilscher, 47, a former boyfriend of a woman who lived in apartment 4 at the time, was shot to death several blocks away. His killer was never caught.

Daniel Robida, who has lived next door to 73 La Fresa Court ever since it was built 16 years ago, recalled that Hilscher spent most of his time visiting the woman's apartment. She eventually broke up with him and had trouble keeping him away, Robida said.

A second, even uncannier killing occurred Feb. 23, 1979, in a fourplex across the alley from apartment 4. A self-styled private detective named Jessie James Turner, 30, was shot to death as he apparently slept on his couch in his apartment at 7392 Franklin Blvd.

Turner's girlfriend, 17-year-old Tenner "Tina" Smith, was handcuffed to her bed and was shot in the head. Her assailant left her for dead.

Two days later, relatives found Turner's body on the living room couch. Police were called and discovered Smith barely alive in the upstairs bedroom.

The woman recovered and her testimony helped convict a man who is now serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life.

Smith moved to San Jose, where in 1980 she was found beaten and strangled in a motel room. Police said the slaying had no connection to the Sacramento case.

Cunningham, who said she was unaware of these cases before visiting La Fresa Court, was pleased to learn of the history because she felt it was somewhat similar to what she saw in her vision.

"I've been called on 50 to 60 cases of haunted houses and I've usually gotten rid of the ghosts," she said. "But no one has ever researched the history. This is the first time anyone's done that. The 1979 case sounds close to what I saw."

Cunningham said discrepancies between her divinations and actual events are not surprising since she must try to decipher images and "speak" with electrical masses in her visions.

Cunningham thinks she knows why the spirits were haunting the neighborhood. "The reason the disturbances jumped from house to house is because the spirits wanted attention," she said. "They wanted to be heard. Your spirit would be frustrated too if you had been murdered."

Cunningham said spirits feed off the emotional intensity being given off by humans. She said several of the residents of the fourplex on La Fresa Court, had a high degree of emotional intensity and very likely attracted the spirits.

Asked later to describe what she had done in the Wilkes' apartment, Cunningham said she had communicated with the spirits.

"I shut my eyes and I see the spirits," she said. "I talk to them through mental telepathy. I find out why they are still hanging around on Earth."

"I explain to them that they have no business being here. I tell them They can't accomplish anything More and that they need to go to the Hereafter.

"If they refuse to go, I use my Energy in an organized way to make Them go in the direction they need to Go."

Cunningham said she sees a glowing light in her visions that apparently is the "hereafter" and this is where the spirits must be guided. She said the "light" is neither heaven nor hell.

"It's not my job to send them to heaven or hell," she said.

Asked to explain how she can see And communicate with a spirit, Cunningham said, "The difference between a live and a dead body is the electricity in it. That electrical field is what makes the body work. I learn to encounter another person's electrical field and interpret what it means.

"A spirit is an electrical mass and theoretically, when I sent it away, I discharged and balanced all the electrical masses in the house. A person has a spiritual sense for every physical sense. So if you physically see, touch or smell, you can psychically see, touch or smell. I've been able to develop these senses."

She described the "ghosts" she had encountered in apartment 4. The male spirit "was in a state of rage, despair, anger and frustration."

"When he was caught in the bedroom, he was totally unprepared For the attack by the other man," Cunningham said. "He was unable to protect the woman he loved. He felt that he failed her.

"The woman was here for another reason. She was a heartbreaker. She was with a lot of men. She used them up. She wanted to hang around the earth because she liked the sensations here. The man was hanging around her because he loved her."

She said the man who did the stabbing seemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. "He is upset with the woman, he seems to have an abusive pattern," Cunningham said. "He's possibly an ex-husband. There's been a break-up And he no longer has rights to her."

The man who was stabbed crawled or staggered into the living room and died there, Cunningham said.

The reports of ghostly doings on La Fresa Court have not impressed William Donnelly, the owner of the apartment where Cunningham envisioned the "murders."

Donnelly has his own feelings About "ghosts" in his apartment: He calls it mass hysteria.

"Feeble minds will believe anything," he says. "It all boils down to whether you believe all that stuff or not. Frankly, I don't. I've had that unit for one year and I never heard anything about ghosts."

Donnelly added, "I certainly don't need this kind of publicity. I won't be able to rent the unit."

A reporter who visited apartment Thursday found that it had been rented, and that it was being cleaned for the new tenants.

Are the ghosts really gone?

At least one neighbor, Kelly Farias, thinks not. She said she and a friend went to apartment 4 out of curiosity one night last week.

"I took a candle with me and went inside," she said. "My friend stayed outside. I got to the hallway and was standing there when suddenly the candle blew out by itself. There was no draft inside. I ran out of there as fast as I could."