Anna Brackett: Broken Innocence & a Tragic Murder

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12th November 2023  •  6 min read

On 14 June 1983, 85-year-old Anna Brackett was found stabbed to death in her home in Auburn, California. According to neighbours, two teenage girls had been knocking on doors the afternoon before, asking to use a telephone.


Anna Brackett: Broken Innocence & a Tragic Murder

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Born on December 14, 1897, in Burlington, Vermont, Anna Brackett shared a life and a son named Carl with her husband. Following her husband’s passing, Anna moved from Santa Monica to Auburn, California. By 1983, at the age of 85, she was enjoying her retirement as a seamstress on the peaceful Quartz Drive residential street. On June 14 of that year, her son, Carl, visited her at home with the intention of driving her to the hospital to visit their friend, James Wedgeworth. 1

Carl pressed the doorbell but got no response from his mother. Peering through one of the front windows, he glimpsed his mother lying on the floor amidst a pool of blood. Alarmed, he hurried next door, urgently requesting the neighbour to call for an ambulance. While awaiting the ambulance’s arrival, Carl broke a window and entered his mother’s home.

Anna was on the living room floor, but it was evident that she was far beyond resuscitation efforts. She had sustained 28 stab wounds to her neck, throat and back. There were defensive wounds to her hands and arms, but she had bled out rapidly when one of the stab wounds pierce her aorta. Two knives were found near her body — one with a broken handle and the other severely bent, attesting to the brutal nature of Anna’s murder. Adjacent to her lay a rifled-through purse.2

Detectives were immediately dispatched to Anna’s home, and they quickly learned from several neighbours that two teenage girls had been knocking on their doors the afternoon beforehand and asking for a glass of water. One neighbour, Richard Bertucci recalled, “I was siting on the couch when two girls knocked on the door. My wife answered. One girl stated to make a motion as to come inside, but saw me sitting on the couch. She turned around and told my wife they must have had the wrong house and left.”

None of Anna’s neighbours had let the girls in, but Anna was an exceptionally kind and compassionate woman, her family presumed she welcomed these two girls into her home. Detectives considered the possibility that these two unknown girls had killed Anna, and their suspicions intensified when another neighbour reported seeing two girls running from Anna’s home shortly before her body was found.3

Detectives urgently appealed to the public for any information regarding the two girls, and within hours, a substantial number of tips flooded in. Many of these tips identified 15-year-old Cindy Collier and 14-year-old Shirley Wolf. The two girls had crossed paths at a Fair Oaks foster group, where Wolf resided following her removal from home through an El Dorado County court order on May 11th. Collier, known for her recurrent runaway behaviour, had a history of arrests for narcotics offenses and theft. On the day of Anna’s murder, she had just been released from Juvenile Hall.4  

Anna Brackett: Broken Innocence & a Tragic Murder
Anna Brackett.

People familiar with Collier and Wolf described Collier as the more assertive of the duo. She had a criminal record, struggled with alcohol issues, and was an obsessive thief. One unnamed woman commented of her, “I used to tell my daughter she was a kleptomaniac. I never left anything laying around when she was here.” According to another woman, Vivian Tuloy, she forbid her daughter from seeing Collier because she had found out that the girls had skipped school together.

Wolf had come from an extremely abusive background, having been sexually abused since a young girl by her father, grandfather and uncle. Her disruptive behaviour at school caught the attention of teachers, who suggested psychiatric help, but their suggestion was ignored. Wolf began running away from home when she was just six-years-old. When she was nine-years-old, her father raped her for the first time. She later recollected, “I was really scared. I was really frightened to lose my virginity, plus my honour and my pride.” Wolf’s mother was aware of the abuse, but she opted to remain silent.

After Collier and Wolf were named, detectives made their way to Collier’s family’s home on Foresthill Avenue. It was about 2:30AM, when detectives arrived at the home. Collier and Wolf were found asleep in a bunk bed. They were separated and interviewed, while detectives came across blood-stained clothing in the bedroom and a diary. Inside, one entry ominously read: “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.”

Based on the evidence found inside the bedroom, Collier and Wolf were arrested. They were ordered to undergo psychiatric examinations before further court proceedings against them. During the brief court hearing, Judge Wayne Wylie explained how the evidence would be presented against them. While doing so, he was interrupted by Wolf, who asked, “Do you have any?” The judge replied, “I don’t have any” but then added that it would be the District Attorney’s Office job to prove the case against her. She shot back, “Can they prove it now?”5

While Wolf was questioning whether there was any evidence against her, following their arrests, both of them had made a full confession to the murder of Anna. They detailed the scenario, telling detectives that on the day Anna was killed, Collier had visited a friend at the foster group when she met Wolf for the very first time. When Collier left, Wolf left with her, slipping out under the watchful eye of the staff. From here, Collier and Wolf travelled to Quartz Drive. They lay by the pool for some time, and made a plan. If they wanted to get away from Auburn, they needed a car.

They strolled through the neighbourhood, going from door to door. Anna’s home happened to be the fifth one they approached. Politely, they requested a glass of water when Anna opened the door, and she graciously invited them into her home.6 Anna engaged in conversation with Collier and Wolf for more than an hour and a half. Upon the ringing of Anna’s phone, it dawned on Collier and Wolf that she intended to leave the house. They made a swift decision to take action. Upon Anna’s return to the living room, they told her they were going to kill her.

Collier handed Wolf two kitchen knives, and she was the first to unleash the attack on Anna. She said to detectives, “So I just stabbed her in the neck, so because if she lived or what, she, you know, know who we are and report us… I just cut the side of her neck, because it only takes 20 seconds before you’re dead.” However, Anna wasn’t dead. Collier took over and punched her several times before stabbing her in the neck. As she said to detectives, “she was not dead yet.”7

During the murder, Anna begged Collier and Wolf to stop, telling them that she was dying. Wolf told detectives she turned to her and said, “good.”8 After killing Anna, Collier and Wolf tried to steal her car, but they were unable to get it to start, so they took off on foot and ran back to Collier’s home.

During the confessions, Collier said that the murder was so “enjoyable” that “we wanted to do another one.”  She said that they wanted to go out and celebrate, telling the detectives, “To honestly tell you the truth – this goes for me and Shirley both – we didn’t feel any badness. We felt good inside. We wanted to go out and celebrate. We were just full of laugher and were just like it was fun. We enjoyed it.”

As the psychiatric examinations were underway, Collier and Wolf were held at Placer County Juvenile Hall. They had threats to staff, warning that they were going to escape, commit suicide, or “take down” the staff. As a result, they were put on 24-hour suicide watch, and kept locked in their cells with leg chains.9 They were both found competent to stand trial.

Ultimately, Collier and Wolf were convicted of Anna’s murder. Collier served nine years at the California Youth Authority facility in Ventura, earning her junior college degree with a focus on law. Released on August 20, 1992, she now resides in northern California, and has four children. Wolf, enduring twelve years of incarceration, attempted to reconnect with her family throughout that period but received no response. Eventually reaching her father, she discovered her mother had left the family. Despite initial contact, her father ceased communication after two months. Following her release, Wolf encountered legal troubles but has reportedly undergone a positive transformation in her life..10

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Footnotes:

  1. Oroville Mercury Register, 15 June, 1983 – “Girls Held in Woman’s Stabbing”
  2. Auburn Journal, 15 June, 1983 – “Elderly Auburn Woman Apparent Murder Victim”
  3. The Press-Tribune, 15 June, 1983 – “2 Girls Held in Auburn Slaying”
  4. The Sacramento Bee, 17 June, 1983 – “Girls Admit Killing Elderly Woman”
  5. The Sacramento Bee, 18 July, 1983 – “Two Girls Accused in Woman’s Death Will Undergo Tests”
  6. The San Francisco Examiner, 19 June, 1983 – “Teen Girls Accused of Murder and a Community Recoils”
  7. The Sacramento Bee, 29 June, 1983 – “Girls Said They Killed Woman for a Car”
  8. The Sacramento Bee, 30 July, 1983 – “Girl’s Confession to Killing”
  9. Auburn Journal, 1 July, 1983 – “Teen Murder Suspects Under Suicide Watch”
  10. https://www.joanmerriam.com/little-girl-lost-1

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