Subscribe

Remembering the victim of Petaluma’s sad unsolved murder

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

TWENTY YEARS AGO

The badly decomposed body of a woman was found under a pine tree at the very end of Petaluma Blvd. South. It was discovered Friday by a CalTrans working helping to fix a damaged guard rail on nearby Highway 101.

An autopsy Monday did not reveal the cause of death of the person’s identity.

Glen Hayes, of Sebastopol, found the body about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, after he placed a ‘working” sign up next to the tree. The knot of police cars that quickly gathered caused a noticeable back-up in the northbound commute as people slowed to gawk.

Petaluma Police Officer Craig Seekon, first on the scene, verified the remains as that of a person and called in the County Sherriff since the address is outside of Petaluma’s City limits.

Monday’s autopsy revealed the woman had been dead for at least a week and perhaps as long as a month. She was black, between the ages of 18 and 40, approximately 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighed approximately 120 pounds.

She had long hair, braided in corn-row style.

August 26, 1997, Argus-Courier

Her name was Georgia Lee Moses.

But no one knew that yet.

When her body was found in a grove of trees in South Petaluma, on August 22, 1997, almost no one even knew she’d been missing. The troubled 12-year-old African-American Santa Rosa girl had disappeared from her Santa Rosa home on August 13, but no mention of her absence appeared in local papers until after the body had been tentatively identified. By the time we all learned her name, she was already long dead, her (presumed) kidnapping and subsequent murder a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

Twenty years later, many questions remain. Would Georgia Moses still be alive had news of her disappearance been widely disseminated? Was law enforcement slow to act because the victim was black, a middle school dropout, living with her disabled mother in poverty? Why hasn’t her murder been solved after all these years, her killer brought to justice?

Those answers may never come. Georgia Lee Moses’ name may never be much more than a sad statistic. According the Polly Klaas Institute – named, of course, for the local child who was kidnapped and killed in 1993 – many other kidnapped children have lost their lives in America at the hands of others since Polly Klaas’ death. On the Institute’s ‘In Memoriam’ page, the name Georgia Lee Moses is listed alongside 135 others from around the country.

As for Georgia Moses’ name, once it was learned, and the stark loneliness of her life and death had finally became known, the community of Petaluma claimed Georgia Lee Moses as their own. The place where her body was discovered instantly became a potent symbol of all lost and abandoned and neglected children, a makeshift memorial drawing mourners and supporters from all corners of the Bay Area.

Anchored by a metal sculpture of an angel, created by two Petaluma firefighters, the memorial remained until 2012, maintained all that time by volunteers moved by the story of Georgia Moses. When roadwork in the area forced the removal of the sculpture and other elements of the landmark, the sculpture was relocated to a spot under a tree outside of Petaluma City Hall.

In 2006, inspired by Moses’ story, Lia Rowley founded Santa Rosa’s The Children’s Village, a home for neglected and abused children. The non-profit lasted for ten years, but was closed in early 2006, having lost crucial funding resources.

In some ways, Moses’ most lasting memorial/legacy is the song “Georgia Lee,” written by then Petaluman Tom Waits, released in 1999 on his “Mule Variations” album. A spare, heartbreaking tribute to Moses’ herself, the song also serves as an elegy to forgotten children everywhere.

“Cold was the night, hard was the ground

They found her in a small grove of trees

Lonesome was the place where Georgia was found

She’s too young to be out on the streets

Why wasn’t God watching?

Why wasn’t God listening?

Why wasn’t God there for Georgia Lee?”

(Contact David at david.templeton@arguscourier.com)

TWENTY YEARS AGO

The badly decomposed body of a woman was found under a pine tree at the very end of Petaluma Blvd. South. It was discovered Friday by a CalTrans working helping to fix a damaged guard rail on nearby Highway 101.

An autopsy Monday did not reveal the cause of death of the person’s identity.

Glen Hayes, of Sebastopol, found the body about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, after he placed a ‘working” sign up next to the tree. The knot of police cars that quickly gathered caused a noticeable back-up in the northbound commute as people slowed to gawk.

Petaluma Police Officer Craig Seekon, first on the scene, verified the remains as that of a person and called in the County Sherriff since the address is outside of Petaluma’s City limits.

Monday’s autopsy revealed the woman had been dead for at least a week and perhaps as long as a month. She was black, between the ages of 18 and 40, approximately 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighed approximately 120 pounds.

She had long hair, braided in corn-row style.

August 26, 1997, Argus-Courier

Show Comment

Our Network

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine