Media Life: A spooky reminder on anniversary of grisly 1983 Auburn murder

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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Media Life's Gus Thomson can be reached at or 530-852-0232.


The cloud we know as the Internet has struck again - this time to remind that people are still remembering the senseless murder 30 years ago this month of 86-year-old Anna Brackett.

Brackett had let two teen girls into her Auburn Greens home in North Auburn and less than an hour later, was dead - stabbed to death in a slaying that was as much perplexing as it was horrific.

The girls - 14-year-old Shirley Wolf and Cindy Collier, 15, - apparently took some warped glee in stabbing Brackett 27 times before attempting to steal her car. They had only known her for a few minutes.

The diary entry of Wolf was chilling, when it was shared by authorities with a shocked community: “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.”

The murder took place on June 14, 1983, and the girls would spend several years in custody before being freed on parole - in 1992 for Collier and three years later for Wolf.

The story, covered by People magazine, among other media outlets, was eventually told in book form by then-Auburn resident and author Joan Merriam. Interest in the case of the girls, who in the parlance of the time became Auburn’s “baby-faced killers,” was renewed when Investigation Discovery channel showed a segment about it on Jan. 1, 2012.

While the 30th anniversary of the killing passed quietly in Auburn on June 14, the Internet was far from quiet on the subject. That week, the Journal’s website experienced two relatively seismic spikes in traffic for then-Auburn Journal Features Editor Krissi Khokhobashvili’s article on the Investigation Discovery channel’s show and Merriam’s book, “Little Girl Lost.”

Reached this week, Merriam noted that the murder anniversary might be the reason but she had heard nothing about any other media giving it any attention.

On both June 10 and June 15, page views on Khokhobashvili’s report rose from virtually none to 500 “hits” both days.

It’s a mystery - and a reminder, about one of Auburn’s most disturbing June anniversaries.


New programs, new times

Big changes at Capital Public Radio are in the air for Monday, July 1.

The changes were precipitated by National Public Radio’s decision to ax production of the call-in show “Talk of the Nation.” The show has been airing Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. Last broadcast day was this past Thursday.

Because of the change, NPR is adding three new programs to Sacramento-based Capital Public Radio’s lineup and changing programming weekdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Starting Monday, “Insight with Beth Ruyak” will move to 9 a.m. from 10 a.m. to provide a smooth segue from “Morning Edition.” “Insight” provides news of the day from around the region. Media Life and this writer will be representing the Journal for the first time in the new time slot on Tuesday as part of the regular “News Network” segment with Woodland Daily Democrat editor Jim Smith and Sacramento journalist Jared Goyette.

At 10 a.m. on Monday, Capital Public Radio will debut a new daily news magazine program “Here and Now,” hosted by Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. At noon, a new rotation of programs will include “TED Radio Hour” on Monday, “America’s Test Kitchen” on Tuesday, “Radiolab” on Wednesday and “This American Life” on Thursday.

“Science Friday” will continue to be heard every Friday at 11 a.m.

Finally, Fresh Air moves to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Capital Public Radio president and general manager Rick Eytcheson is especially enthusiastic about “America’s Test Kitchen,” which is also a popular PBS TV program.

“It’s been a show we’ve been interested in for a while,” he said. “It’s a great fit for our farm-to-fork region.”


Westling retires

The Tahoe National Forest’s link to the media - and through that funnel, to the public - is retiring after more than three decades on the job out of the Nevada City headquarters.

Ann Westling, the U.S. Forest Service Tahoe National Forest public affairs officer, has been providing fire information, tips on how to see the fall colors and breaking news on lightning strikes for 33 years. She’s had a 36-year career with the Forest Service and done a wonderful job providing the information reporters on deadline have needed to keep readers informed...

On the other side of the news business, the folks at KCRA 3 scooped up key Northern California Emmy awards at the 42nd annual presentation last Saturday. Kellie DeMarco took home the honor of best new anchor and the station won the prestigious award for “News Excellence.”

Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or 530-852-0232.