Was Jim Mordecai Behind the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders? His Granddaughter Thinks So

After he died, Jim Mordecai's stepdaughter found a mysterious jewelry box filled with jewelry that clearly belonged to teenagers.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Feb. 15 2024, Published 3:01 a.m. ET

Jim Mordeca
Source: Warner Media (video still)

Jim Mordecai

On March 6, 1972, residents of Santa Rosa, Calif., opened up their copy of The Press Democrat and were met with a horrifying headline. Slain Woman Found, it said in large font that dwarfed the ghastly story beneath it. The body of a woman was discovered on Enterprise Road by two high school students, one of whom initially thought it was a mannequin. Unfortunately this was only the beginning, as six more dead women would soon be found.

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These deaths would eventually be known as the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders, and as of this writing they remain unsolved. However, a new suspect has been suggested in a February 2024 Max docuseries titled The Truth About Jim. In it, Sierra Barter searchers for answers to questions about her sadistic step-grandfather. Could Jim Mordecai have been the man responsible for these crimes? Here's what we know.

Judy Mordecai and Jim Mordecai
Source: Warner Media (video still)

Judy Mordecai and Jim Mordecai

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What makes Sierra Barter think Jim Mordecai could be behind the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murders?

Barter's grandmother Judy was Mordecai's third wife. They met because he was a teacher at her daughter Shannon's school, but what Judy didn't know was that Shannon already had several upsetting run-ins with him. "Everybody knew he was off. He was bad," said Shannon in the docuseries. One day while sitting in his class, Mordecai called Shannon to the front of the room and said to the rest of the students, "Let's grade Shannon's a--." Sadly, that was one of his more tame incidents. Things only got worse.

Not much is revealed about Mordecai's first wife, but his second, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, fell for his nice guy persona. When they met at a Methodist church, she had two children from a previous marriage. Soon after their wedding, Kirkpatrick said he became a "sexual deviant," seemingly getting off on the danger of being caught. He was very into violence and chaos which manifested itself when he sexually assaulted Kirkpatrick's daughter Christi in 1964 when she was just a teenager.

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They would go on to have two children of their own while Mordecai continued to torture Christi for several years. When Kirkpatrick worked up the courage to ask for a divorce, Mordecai threatened to kill her, saying, "If you try to get the girls, I will slit their throats." Assaulting young women was a pattern which extended to students at the school where he taught.

In an effort to understand a man who Christi described as a narcissist and bully, Barter began doing research about Mordecai and the people he hurt. Along the way, she made shocking discoveries which led her to believe he could be the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Murderer. Specifically, he would frequently threaten to hog-tie women and "throw them into a ditch." Upon googling that phrase, Barter stumbled across crimes in which that occurred.

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Sierra Barter in 'The Truth About Jim' on Max
Source: Warner Media

Sierra Barter

Did Jim Mordecai fit the profile of someone who could commit these crimes?

Several times in the docuseries, Mordecai is described as a serial rapist. Barter says that it stands to reason not all of his victims lived to keep that secret. Three of the seven Santa Rosa Hitchhiker victims had been sexually assaulted, two had been hogtied, and three had been bound in some other way.

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Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the docuseries is a missing jewelry box Barter's mother Shannon found while cleaning out Mordecai's things after he died. Inside were pieces of cheap jewelry that looked as if they could have belonged to teenagers. In December 1972, a single earring was found by one of the Santa Rosa bodies. It's described as "gold or brass, with a filigree lace-like pattern from which several clear, orange beads are hanging," per The Press Democrat. Shannon remembers seeing a single earring that matched that description.

Barter brought the evidence she gathered about Mordecai to FBI profiler Raymond Carr who carefully looked things over. Without knowing anything about Mordecai, he laid out a profile that sounded shockingly familiar to Barter and her mother. He didn't see anything that suggested Mordecai couldn't be a suspect. In fact, he clearly stated, "I think it's very possible that Jim Mordecai is the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker killer."

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