Unsolved murder of Lisa Norrell as part of Pittsburg serial murders examined by Crime Junkie

Lisa Norrell smiling in a family pic
Teenager Lisa Norrell was strangled to death as she walked home. Pic credit: Pittsburg Police Department

Crime Junkie is examining the murder of teenager Lisa Norrell, who was killed as she made her way home from a dance lesson in Pittsburg, California.

On November 6, 1998, 15-year-old Lisa attended a Quinceanera dance rehearsal in the neighboring city of Antioch. She left the dance hall at about 10:30 pm to walk home along the Pittsburg-Antioch Highway. Sadly, she was never seen alive again.

Lisa’s mom contacted the police later that night when she realized her daughter was missing. Police officers from Antioch, Pittsburg, and the FBI immediately sprung into action. Lisa had no history as a runaway, so she was instantly treated as a missing person in danger.

The following day, police bloodhounds searching along the Highway found Lisa’s garment bag, dress shoes, and Quinceanera dress.

However, it would take another eight days before her remains were discovered at a nearby landscaping business along the same stretch of the highway. Lisa was found lying face down with her fists clenched. She had been asphyxiated.

Pittsburg and the surrounding area were then rocked by four more murders in the space of two months; the further deaths of three women and one man led many to believe a serial killer was living in the area.

The remains of 24-year-old Jessica Frederick, 32-year-old Rachael Cruise, and 27-year-old Valerie Dawn “China” Schultz were all found in the Pittsburg area. The body of 29-year-old Michael Tan was also recovered in nearby Bay Point.

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The Pittsburg serial murders and the killing of Lisa Norrell are unsolved

The cops suspect that some of these murders were likely committed by the same person, and they became collectively known as the Pittsburg serial murders. However, all these murders remain unsolved.

Two months after Lisa’s murder, the cops arrested two unemployed men from Antioch, Garry Lee Walton and David Michael Heneby, on suspicion of killing the teenager. But they were both subsequently released.

In 2018, on the twentieth anniversary of Lisa’s death, Detective Jacob Stage of the Pittsburg PD spearheaded a fresh appeal for public help in the case.

At the time, Detective Stage told reporters, “Any case that I get assigned is important to me, but this one does have special meaning because this poor 15-year-old girl was killed walking home, and her mom never got to see her again. All those other women had children and they didn’t get to see them grow up. They’re all horrible.”

Pittsburg police hope for a DNA break in the Lisa Norrell murder case

Stage also hoped they could get a breakthrough using updated scientific procedures around DNA evidence. But unfortunately, six years later, it seems Lisa’s murder is no closer to being solved.

In 2018,  former Contra Costa County District Attorney Inspector Paul Holes said of the case, “I’m convinced that you have at least one serial killer who was at work that killed some of these women, but I can’t say that one person killed all of them. It’s sad to think it’s the 20th anniversary. … I know there has been a lot of effort put in to solve that case, and unfortunately, it hasn’t panned out just yet.”

MURDERED: Lisa Norrell is available to stream now on Crime Junkie.

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