After evading capture for more than a decade, killer was sentenced to death

Joseph Michael Nissensohn, 62, was sentenced to death for the cold case murders of three teen girls.
Joseph Michael Nissensohn, 62, was sentenced to death for the cold case murders of three teen girls.

Joseph Michael Nissensohn, 68, is one of those on death row affected by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on the death penalty, resulting in the El Dorado County District Attorney’s April Facebook post detailing his disposition.

He was convicted in 2013 and sentenced to death in 2014.

Niessensohn evaded capture for more than a decade, and was brought to trial for the murders after serving a 25-year prison sentence, the district attorney said in a press release. Nissensohn was transported to El Dorado County in 2008 and charged for the murders of Monterey County teens Tammy Jarschke, 13, Tanya Jones, 14, and South Lake Tahoe resident, Kathy Graves, 15. He was convicted in October 2013.

In an agreement with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, El Dorado County consolidated the three cases.

Jarschke and Jones met Nissensohn outside a Denny’s restaurant in Monterey where he then drove them to remote area of the Los Padres National Forest, more than 100 miles south, according to the press release. He took them to Chews Ridge and killed them, the district attorney said. Two days after Jarschke and Jones disappeared, their bodies were found.

Jones was found hung naked with an electrical cord wrapped around her neck, and Jarschke was found nearby, stabbed in the chest with a screwdriver, the district attorney said.

For eight years after the murders, Nissensohn continued on a spree of sexual assaults, including the rape of a 15-year-old-girl when she attempted to cooperate with police during an investigation, according to the press release.

“40 years later, the victim of that violent assault still suffers deeply from that trauma,” the district attorney said.

In 1989, Nissensohn was in Tacoma, Wash., when killed Sally Jo Tsaggaris, 46, strangling and stabbing her. He fled the state and traveled to South Lake Tahoe where he met his next victim a few months later.

In August, Graves, a South Lake Tahoe teen, was looking for a job and ran into Nissensohn and his girlfriend as she was coming out of a Hallmark Store, the district attorney said. Graves knew Nissensohn from the trailer park where she lived with her father, and likely got into his van “to go for a ride.”

He drove her to a forested area near the Mount Tallac Trail Head and she was never seen alive again, the district attorney said. Her partial skeletal remains were found more than a year later.

Nissensohn fled again and settled in Florida where he obtained a commercial truck driver’s license, driving across the country.

Nissensohn was arrested in 1990 for the murder of Tsaggaris. He was convicted and served a 25-year sentence. Before he was released, the El Dorado County District Attorney filed charges against Nissensohn for the deaths of the three girls.

This story was changed on June 12, 2019 to correct when Joseph Michael Nissensohn was sentenced to death and why the El Dorado County District Attorney posted details about his case on Facebook.

Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.