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Clayton CA 1968: Five Dead By Fire Five siblings murdered in Clayton, killer still on the loose after 42-years —claycord CLAYCORD.com

Five siblings murdered in Clayton, killer still on the loose after 42-years

You can contact Sgt. Michael Finney at 925-671-3220 Concord PD
Related: Fire Pandero Court

December 8, 2010 10:30 am · 62 comments
It was just after midnight on Sunday September 8, 1968. Six siblings on Panadero Court in Clayton were tucked into bed. Their parents were on their way home from a function at John Muir Hospital, when all of a sudden, somebody threw an explosive device through the front window of the home, which immediately engulfed the house with smoke and flames. The family would never be the same again.
42-years-ago, that one explosive device killed five young brothers & sisters, and today, the murderer is still on the loose.

The blaze happened at 1042 Panadero Court in Clayton, which is near Pine Hollow & Mitchell Canyon.
After a thorough investigation, arson investigators determined the fire was deliberately set. They found flammable liquid in the living room of the home and several explosions were heard by neighbors. They say other pieces of evidence proved the fire was arson, as did the burn pattern inside the home. Further investigation revealed a device was thrown through the front window, which landed on the couch and immediately sent thick black smoke and flames throughout the large ranch-style home.

The $45,000 home belonged to building contractor & Clayton City Councilmember Richard Walker, and his wife, Jean. They lost five of their six children in the fire. The one who survived, 6-year-old Carolyn, was saved by two neighbors, 20-year-old James Hanson and 20-year-old Dale Cross.

Those who died in the fatal blaze were 6-month-old Mary Ann, 3-year-old Theodore, 9-year-old Cariton, 13-year-old Cynthia & 20-year-old Linda.

42-years-later, a few people have been questioned, but nobody has been arrested and charged with the murder of the five brothers & sisters. A large reward was offered by the family shortly after the death of their five children, but the case remained unsolved.

Despite the fact that the area’s largest homicide case happened in Clayton, the City of Concord Police Department is the lead investigator on the case, which is still actively being researched.
Sgt. Michael Finney says he’s been working on the case for several years, and says the family had no known enemies. Sgt. Finney says and only one man has been considered a possible suspect throughout the past few decades, his name is John Sapp.

John Sapp is a Concord native, and attended Clayton Valley High School in the 60’s, but Sapp has a new home, he’s spent the last 25-years on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison for the murder of three people, two of whom were killed and buried in Lime Ridge Open Space. Sapp is also a possible suspect in several other unsolved murders in Concord and throughout California.

Sapp has been interviewed many times regarding the arson fire in Clayton, most recently in 2003, but every time, he’s denied any involvement.

Sgt. Finney says investigators received information from people in the late 90’s who said Sapp told them he was responsible for the 1968 Clayton murders, but those informants have since said they lied about the tip and are unwilling to cooperate. Sgt. Finney says those informants notified the police many years after they claimed Sapp told them about his involvement.

One possible theory, if John Sapp was involved in the arson, is that he hit the wrong house. Sgt. Finney says just before the fire, Sapp was released from juvenile hall when he was in his mid-teens. Sgt. Finney tells us the Contra Costa Superior Court Judge who sent Sapp to Juvenile Hall lived only a few doors away from the Walker family, whose house was hit with the explosive device. Sgt. Finney says Sapp also lived within walking distance of the crime scene, and was a heavy drug user at the time of the murders, and had been for several years. Finney says it’s possible Sapp was trying to burn down the Judge’s house, but hit the Walker house by accident.

Currently, the Concord Police only have circumstantial evidence against Sapp, and not enough to convict him of the worst murder case we’ve ever seen in CLAYCORD, which hasn’t made the news since the late 1960’s.

The father, Richard, died 33-years after the fire, in 2001. His wife, Jean, is still living in Northern California, and Carolyn, the only child who survived the fire, is also still alive. Richard died not knowing who was responsible for the murder of five of his children.

Despite the fact that it’s been 42-years since the murders, somebody must know something. If you have any information on this tragic blaze, which not only killed five young victims, but changed the lives of dozens of their friends and family members, please let somebody know. You can contact Sgt. Michael Finney at 925-671-3220. This family needs justice, so please, if you know anything at all about this case, no matter how small it is, tell the police.

UPDATE: After our story was posted, a local resident came forward with information on another possible suspect in this case. The Concord Police are currently investigating this man, but no more information can be released at this time.

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