The crime spree lasted 17 days in the fall of 1973, according to police reports Jack Earl complied in his research.
“They were riding a wave of drugs and paranoia,” said Earl of Willie Steelman and Doug Gretzlerr’s spree. “Willie insisted they had to keep running and leave no witnesses. But what they were running from wasn’t clear.”
Steelman was born and raised in Lodi to a family of farm hands. He got involved with drugs, couldn’t hold a job and skipped town. Gretzlerr was from New York City, and left his wife and child to drive across the country.
Steelman and Gretzlerr first met in Denver at a mutual friend’s house in Denver Colorado and began a grisly road trip. They first headed to Phoenix, and met up with Ken Unrein and Mike Marsh. They stayed with a couple named Yahfah Hacohen and Bob Robbins. Steelman, Gretzler, Unrein and Marsh got in a car and drove to California, then headed north. Gretzlerr and Steelman killed Unrien and Marsh, dumping their bodies south of Modesto.
The pair made a stop in Lodi for drugs, then headed to Sonoma County. There, they kidnapped Jim Fulkerson and Eileen Hallock then drive them to Mountain View and adandoned them.
Steelman and Gretzlerr stole a car, then drove to Monterey, where they picked up hitch hiking Steve Loughran. Now with three in the car, they made their way back to Pheonix. Hacohen and Robbins welcomed their friends back into their trailer, where they all partied for a few days. Then Loughran was stuffed in a sleeping bag and killed, and Robbins and Hacohen were dispatched on that same night. Steelmean and Gretzlerr traveled to Tuscon, and met Gilbert Sierra. Steelman and Gretzler took Sierra to the desert, and killed him.
The next day the duo were hitchhiking and realized they needed another car. Vince Armstrong was driving by and picked them up, then realized the two were trouble. Before he was forced to drive out of town, Armstrong dove out of the moving car and bolted away.
Next, Steelman and Gretzler decided they needed somewhere to lay low for a few hours, so they put a gun to Michael Sandberg’s head in his driveway and forced up the stairs to his condo. Later that night, the pair tied up and killed Sandberg and his wife, Patricia. They took the Sandberg car and drove up to Lodi with the idea of robbing United Market, owned by Wally and Joane Parkin.
On Nov. 6, the pair arrived at the Parkin house at the corner of Orchard and Dustin Road in Victor to find Debbie and Ricky Earl baby-sitting Bobby and Lisa Parkin. The took men too all four children hostage. Debbie Earl called her father in fear, and Richard Earl came over minutes later. He was soon joined by his wife, Wanda Earl and Debbie Earl’s boyfriend Mark Lang. When Wally and Joanne Parkin returned home, they too were taken hostage by Steelman and Gretzler. Steelman forced Wally Parkin to take him to United Market for money. The youngest children, Bobby and Lisa Parkin, were put to bed in their parents room. The adults were tied up and thrown in a large closet. Within hours, Gretzler would use 26 bullets to kill them.
Finally, the killers took what little money they had stolen and drove to Sacramento, where they holed up in a hotel for a day or two.
But law enforcement caught up wt. the pair on November 8. Gretzlerr was arrested in the Clunie Hotel, while Steelman was arrested in the nearby home of a girlfriend.