Skip to content

Blog: Slow Justice for Kathleen Noble

She lived in Mountain View in Santa Clara County, but her battered body was dumped in East Palo Alto, so San Mateo County legal authorities got involved in the decades-long investigation into the gruesome death of Kathleen Noble.
GettyImages-1173337473
dead woman

She lived in Mountain View in Santa Clara County, but her battered body was dumped in East Palo Alto, so San Mateo County legal authorities got involved in the decades-long investigation into the gruesome death of Kathleen Noble.

On February 24, 1989, Kathleen attended an informal dinner party with her boyfriend, Richard Schaeffer. The two got into an argument, and Kathleen stormed out of the house and drove away. It was the last time anyone would see her alive. Anyone except her killer that is.

Kathleen didn't show up for work or school in the following days, which wasn't like her. Schaeffer reacted to the news of his girlfriend's disturbing disappearance by taking an extended ski trip, a bizarre move that caused law enforcement to look at him with suspicion. Besides Schaeffer, the other person of interest was Kathleen's coworker and roommate, Mark Hensley.

Kathleen's body was found on March 5, 1989, on the 1600 block of Woodland Avenue in East Palo Alto. Her body was squeezed into her car, wrapped in blankets taken from her bed. This led police to believe that she had gone home after the dinner party and possibly been killed there. Crime scene investigators found blood stains in the bedroom, making this theory more likely. Suspicion then fell strongly on roommate Hensley. In his subsequent interview, he kept changing his story about whether Kathleen had been at their apartment on the night she went missing.

But the case went cold due to the volume of other cases that strained the slim resources of the local law enforcement. The year 1989 saw 18 murders in East Palo Alto in addition to Kathleen's that needed to be investigated.

Time passed. Then, 10 years after the murder, San Mateo County Sheriff Don Horsley received a letter from Kathleen's parents asking for the case to be reopened. "It was such a poignant letter," Horsley told the Oxygen television show Murdered by Morning, "that I thought we should re-investigate it."

The Sheriff's investigation gathered evidence, but it was all circumstantial. They never found the weapon that had beaten Kathleen to death. But they did come across a strong negative character witness: Hensley's ex-fiancee. She told the authorities that when she broke up with Hensley, he became so threatening that she had to get a restraining order. He broke that order, however, visiting the young woman at her home and getting into an argument that resulted in him choking her into unconsciousness. According to the Mountain View Voice, he later left her a voicemail, which she saved, apologizing: "I'm sorry I tried to kill you."

Hensley was found in Williamsburg, Virginia, and he was returned to San Mateo County. The May 2002 trial took place in the Redwood City courthouse. The circumstantial evidence presented, along with the ex-fiancée's graphic testimony, clinched a guilty verdict of first-degree murder and a sentence of 25 years. Soon Hensley scored a victory when a court of appeals changed the ruling to second-degree murder and sentenced him to 15 years to life.

He could be released at any time.


Douglas MacGowan

About the Author: Douglas MacGowan

Doug MacGowan has authored seven books and countless articles, mainly about history and true crime. He has been a resident of Redwood City since 2000.
Read more



Comments