Q: I would like to know the outcome of the kidnapping and murder of Stephine Black in October 1974 from her bus stop. Were the killers found and convicted?
Eva Parker, Sacramento
A: Stephine Black’s badly decomposed body was found in a Placer County rice field 18 days after she disappeared from her Rio Linda bus stop on Oct. 24, 1974.
Two teenage boys were rabbit hunting when they discovered the 11-year-old girl’s body about 25 feet from Jackson Road, behind a stand of cattails, according to an account in The Sacramento Bee. The condition of the body indicated she had been in the water since shortly after she disappeared, Placer County sheriff’s officials said. Black was wearing only a blouse, and no other clothing was found.
An autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death or whether she had been molested, but investigators determined that she had been murdered.
No one has been charged with Black’s murder, but when a second girl, 13-year-old Terri Maree Pata, a Rio Linda Junior High School student, was killed in January 1975, authorities said they believed there was a “strong possibility” that the two cases were connected. Eleven days after Pata went missing after leaving school, her fully clothed body was found stuffed head first in a culvert in a remote field about six miles from her home. Detectives said she had been stabbed and slashed numerous times in her back, face and elsewhere on her body.
In May 2004, Herman Lee Hobbs, a convicted rapist serving time in a California prison, was charged with Pata’s murder. Authorities linked Hobbs to the crime through DNA evidence.
Hobbs, who lived one block from Pata, emerged as the suspect after his adult daughter and an adult niece told investigators in December 2000 that Hobbs was responsible for the murders of “numerous children” including Pata, according to his probation report. But Sacramento County prosecutors and law enforcement officials in nearby counties said they could not find sufficient evidence to convict Hobbs of other murders.
Hobbs pleaded no contest to Pata’s murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Now 71 years old, he is incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino.