Who killed this Sacramento family three decades ago? Police offer $50,000 for clues

Detective describes emotional triple homicide cold case involving a Sacramento family

Sacramento Police Detective Pat Higgins discusses the cold case triple homicide of the Jacobs' family and why this case has stuck in investigators' minds.
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Sacramento Police Detective Pat Higgins discusses the cold case triple homicide of the Jacobs' family and why this case has stuck in investigators' minds.

Sacramento police Friday announced a $50,000 reward for information about a triple homicide that left a mother, father and their 9-year-old daughter dead inside their Land Park home almost three decades ago.

Marcy and Michael Jacobs and their daughter Jennifer were shot to death in their two-bedroom house on Robertson Way on Sunday, Jan. 14, 1991.

Sacramento police cold case detective Pat Higgins said the department has multiple people "of interest" in the killings, but not enough evidence to make any arrests. The brutal slayings were described in media reports at the time as "Sacramento's Charles Manson case."

Speaking at a joint press conference with the California Attorney General's Office, Higgins said he hopes the passage of time combined with the reward will bring new information to light.

"It appeared that nobody actually witnessed the crime, so what we are looking for is people that know about it because they were friends and families of the suspects or they may have heard something," Higgins said. "It has been 26-plus years. People don't have the same friend group that they did back then. They don't have the same loyalty. And we're hoping those people will think back and remember things and come forward."

Marcy Jacobs, 31, was an administrative employee with the California Department of Justice who was attending Sacramento City College and studying to become a crime scene investigator. Michael "Mick" Jacobs, 33, was a carpenter for Fargo Construction. Jennifer was a fourth grader at Crocker Riverside Elementary School.

Police said the family was stabbed and shot during an apparent robbery. Police also said at the time that it was likely the family knew their killers.

Jennifer was shot in the face while lying in bed holding her favorite doll. Her mother was found in the doorway of the bathroom, shot and stabbed multiple times. Police previously said there was evidence that she had tried to fight her attackers and shield herself with the bathroom door.

Michael Jacobs was found in the garage, shot four times in the head "execution style," according to media reports.

Near his body was an open safe, its contents gone.

Higgins said police believe the couple had been holding the safe for a childhood friend, Richard "Ricky" McCarthy. The Jacobs had know McCarthy since their youth in South Sacramento.

Higgins said McCarthy was believed to be involved in "nefarious" activities. Police said at the time they thought McCarthy may have been involved with the drug trade and motorcycle gangs. McCarthy was a convicted felon.

The Jacobs were not suspected of any criminal activity, but autopsies did find methamphetamine in both of their systems.

One theory is that associates of McCarthy discovered the Jacobs were holding money for him, and killed the family during a robbery. The safe is believed to have contained a large sum of money, possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, and maybe gold, police said. They believe it could have been some of the proceeds from McCarthy's illegal activities.

In 1992, the Sacramento police detective working the case, Lt. Ken Walker, told The Bee that Michael Jacobs had told a friend that two men he identified as "Dave and Gary" had called him. They had asked if they could come by the house a few days before the killings to discuss money McCarthy may have left with the Jacobs.

Michael Jacobs "was surprised that they were aware he was storing McCarthy's money," Walker said at the time.

McCarthy disappeared in October 1990 after serving 120 days in Yolo County jail for possession of methamphetamine and carrying a concealed weapon. He was never seen again, Higgins said, and is presumed dead.

At the time, police searched his home at Folsom and 56th Street and found his possessions in order and untouched. McCarthy had a 13-year-old daughter who lived with his parents, according to media reports, and she had not heard from him.

Higgins said police don't believe McCarthy was involved in the killings, which happened about three months after he was last seen.

Higgins said police believe there were multiple killers — at least two — in the Jacobs case. He said some of the people of interest in the case remain in the area, and none are currently in custody.

More than one weapon was used, he said. Police retrieved bullets of different calibers from the victims, according to media reports.

DNA evidence also was collected from the crime scene and has been tested multiple times over the years, according to media accounts.

Higgins said Friday that the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo in the East Area Rapist case — through improved methods for testing and tracking DNA — was of interest to his investigation, but he didn't want to discuss any specific "strategy" for fear of alerting suspects.

He stressed that the investigation was "not strictly a DNA case" and that police needed more information to make an arrest.

Higgins said he has been working on the case since 2009. He retired from the department in 2015 after nearly a dozen years as a homicide detective, but came back as a reserve officer to help solve cold cases.

Higgins said in the Jacobs case file is a photo of Jennifer dead on her bed, holding her doll. That photo hits him hard, he said.

"It's just chilling to see a picture like that," he said. "It makes the hairs on my arms stand up to this day thinking about that picture and that little girl. ... We just hope that people will come forward and do the right thing for this family."

The police are asking anyone with information on this case to call 916-264-5471.