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'Wicked' local crime documented

Discovery Channel interviews defense attorney about 1994 case
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A show documenting “wicked attractions” rolled into town Wednesday to relive a 1994 murder case involving a highly abusive mother and the torture she inflicted upon her children The Discovery Channel television show, “Wicked Attractions,” started its day of taping in Auburn at defense attorney Mark Berg’s office located across the street from the Historic Courthouse in Downtown. The case of interest centered on a Sacramento mother named Theresa Knorr. Knorr is serving a life term in state prison for murdering two of her daughters. Her daughter Susan’s body was found burned in Placer County. This was after Knorr had attempted to perform rudimentary surgery on Susan to remove a bullet Knorr had shot into her daughter, Berg said. Knorr’s other daughter, Shelia, was found near the border between Placer and Nevada counties. Shelia was “essentially hog-tied,” put in a closest and starved to death before her body was dumped, Berg said. “This was a horrific case,” Berg said. “It was the ultimate abuse — unimaginable.” In 1994, Berg defended one of Theresa Knorr’s sons, Robert Knorr, who was either 15 or 16 years old at the time, Berg said. Berg said he “basically stood alone” in the fight to move the case to Sacramento County. He said the fact that one body was confirmed to be found in Placer County was the only connection for the area. “The defendant was from Sacramento, the victims were from Sacramento and the witnesses were from Sacramento. Why should Placer County spend resources on the case?” Berg recalled asking. The case was ultimately transferred to Sacramento County. Berg said he credits then-Placer County District Attorney’s Office Deputy District Attorney Dan Gong for ultimately seeing the legal issues of the case and moving it out of the county. The murder charge against Robert Knorr was dismissed, but he did plead to an accessory-after-the-fact charge. He ended up serving time in a Nevada penitentiary for an unrelated murder. Berg said the last time he heard from Robert Knorr was in 1995 when he called to thank Berg. Field producer John Kavanaugh said Berg’s on-camera interview will go through his experience, what he did, what he can speak about in terms of what he was told and his reaction. Producers also planned to interview John Fitzgerald of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, who was the first law enforcement official to take the youngest daughter’s — and survivor — claims of abuse seriously. Unfortunately, the youngest daughter, Terry, died a few years ago, Berg said. “No one listened to Terry about the gruesome murders except for John,” Berg said. “This police officer listened to a young girl almost 10 years after the murders and put the case together. I compliment him for the work he did.” Kavanaugh said the show launched last summer and each episode involves families or couples. He said a team of research reporters and producers search “high and low” to find stories. He said one of the most interesting parts of the show is profiling the criminals. “You really get inside what’s motivating these people,” Kavanaugh said. “Usually, it’s pretty twisted and an ugly landscape.” He said the show follows step by step how the story unfolds. Once they have completed interviews of involved parties, the production company hires actors to recreate scenes the crew was unable to film. He said in total, it will take about five to six days to shoot the show, including “fairly extensive” interviews, for a total one-hour show, minus about 20 minutes for commercials. He added that show will air in the spring. “It’s a very fast-moving program,” Kavanaugh said. “It’s cut really well and it moves along quickly.” “Wicked Attraction” airs on Investigation Discovery. For more information, visit investigationdiscovery.com. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.