In Memory

Maria Jane Weidhofer - Class Of 1976 VIEW PROFILE

Jan 20 1958 - Nov 16, 1990

BERKELEY / $10,000 reward put up in 15-year-old slaying / Woman, 32, raped and strangled on trail in Tilden Park

by Jim Herron Zamora, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Published 4:00 am, Thursday, Sept 8, 2005

Maria Jane Weidhofer was a free-spirited artist and baker who loved life and worked hard to stay healthy by jogging every day in the East Bay hills.
But one of her daily runs in Berkeley's Tilden Park ended horribly when she was raped and strangled and her body left by the side of her favorite route, the popular Nimitz Way Trail near Inspiration Point.
Nearly 15 years after her unsolved death, police and relatives of Weidhofer, who was 32, offered a $10,000 reward Wednesday in hopes of sparking new interest in the investigation.

"For us as a family, this has never been a cold case," her mother, Jane Weidhofer, 77, of Pine Grove (Amador County) said at a news conference Wednesday at the trailhead. "We are denied her friendship, her companionship and the chance to see her develop and share our lives with her."

The mother and the victim's two brothers joined the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation in announcing a $5,000 reward, which the park district has agreed to match.

"This family has been waiting for 15 years for answers," said Kim Petersen, executive director of the foundation. "It only takes one phone call."

Maria Weidhofer, who was experimenting with textile art and design at the time, was last seen during the late afternoon of Nov. 15, 1990, before she left home for a jog. When she did not show up for her shift at the Organic Cafe and Macrobiotic Center in Oakland that night, her boss called her roommates, who reported her missing.

Weidhofer, a native of Claremont (Los Angeles County) who settled in the East Bay after receiving her art degree from UC Davis, regularly jogged the Nimitz trail. Police soon spotted her 1982 blue Toyota pickup truck with white camper shell parked at Inspiration Point.

Her body was found along the trail early the next morning near a redwood grove about 1 mile northwest of Inspiration Point.
Detective Sgt. Dale Davidson said investigators had been able to lift her attacker's DNA from her body. But so far, the California Department of Justice has not been able to come up with a positive match.

A $5,000 reward offered by the district in 1991 did not yield any good leads. Several witnesses were interviewed at the time of the killing, but no suspects were arrested.

At one point, investigators released a composite sketch of a man who was a possible suspect, but authorities said he was no longer under consideration. Investigators also ruled out any possibility that Weidhofer had known her killer. They believe that someone targeted a woman trail user that day.

"It's been a long frustrating case," said park district Police Chief Tim Anderson, who as a rookie cop in 1990 distributed flyers to trail users in hopes of finding witnesses. "We would really like to get some help from the public."
The trail is one of the more popular among the district's 59 parks, used heavily by joggers, hikers, bicyclists, skaters and casual strollers of all ages, Anderson said.

Maria Weidhofer's death is among the few fatal attacks in the East Bay parks system. Most of the other homicides reported in the district in the past 20 years were people killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped in remote areas of the regional parks, Anderson said.

Her family said Weidhofer had retained a childlike exuberance well into adulthood. She was the second of three children, the only one who followed their painter father Karl's footsteps and became an artist. She didn't limit herself to traditional art forms and considered cooking and baking to be types of creative expression.

"Free spirit really describes her to a T," said her brother, Hans Weidhofer of Angels Camp (Calaveras County). "She was really lively, a lot of fun to be around."

Jane Weidhofer said she was inspired to rekindle the investigation after watching a TV show describing how police solved a similar cold case. She contacted officials from the Sund/Carrington foundation, who reviewed the case and agreed to help.

"I still feel a lot of anger; every parent does in something like this. I miss my daughter every day," Jane Weidhofer said. "This deranged individual must be caught and punished for the trauma he has brought to us."

How to report tips:
Anyone with information on the killing of Maria Weidhofer may call the East Bay Regional Park District's hot line at (510) 544-3129.

Click here to see Maria Jane's last Profile entry.