Feb 23, 2019
A Collegian archive from 1980 shows the report of a student who was murdered. The case remains unsolved today. (Archives)

Campus Column: Questions about campus safety are longstanding

The other day, I was browsing some of the Associated Students Inc. candidate statements and noticed campus safety is one of the big issues this election. No surprise, given the recent shooting across Shaw Avenue from the Student Rec Center and the motorcycle chase through the center of campus last week.

Current students might be surprised to learn campus safety has been a perennial issue, sparking rallies and pressure on administrators, as well as endless discussions all over campus and plenty of ink in the Collegian. Today’s students might be shocked that a Fresno State student was found murdered across the street from campus in December 1980.

That murder prompted rallies in the free speech area and plenty of pressure on campus administrators to improve personal safety. Better lighting was installed, vegetation was cut down or removed, and an improved emergency phone system was installed.

But, here’s the backstory. Around 11:30 p.m. on December 2, 1980 Fresno State student Krista Hambrock was found unconscious in a doorway at Shakey’s Pizza at Shaw and Chestnut avenues, where Dog House Grill is presently. She had been stabbed once. Paramedics took her to Saint Agnes Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.

Hambrock left the Baker Hall room she shared with her sister to take a walk in the wet and fog around 10:30 p.m.  She was last seen alive walking along Shaw Avenue near where the Kremen Building is now 10 minutes later. About 15 minutes later (at 10:55 p.m.) several people working on a broken-down car in one of the nearby parking lots heard screams coming from behind Joyal Administration.

A witness later told police he saw someone with long hair walk away from a car in front of the pizza parlor five minutes after the screams were heard. He said the person was staggering and disappeared around the side of the building. A Shakey’s employee found Hambrock as he was closing for the night.

The autopsy showed Hambrock died from a stab wound in the abdomen. Homicide investigators concluded she had been stabbed somewhere else and then left at Shakeys. She was fully clothed and there were no signs of sexual assault. Although no evidence was ever found to support the theory, many people believed Hambrock was kidnaped and possibly killed on campus.

At the time, there were persistent reports of rapes on campus and in student housing in the campus area. Police repeatedly said there were no reports to support the claims of campus feminists. In the aftermath of Hambrock’s murder, then campus housing director John Wetzel told the Collegian that he was satisfied with the security measures already in place to protect students and he had no plans to “reinforce security measures in the housing complex.”

Then campus police Chief Bill Anderson wound up having to defend the number of officers on campus. He said the size of the department was constrained by its budget and he did what he could with the money at hand.

Three days after Hambrock was killed, students led by Jim Watson (who’s currently a lieutenant with Fresno State university police) and Scott Tait rallied in the free speech area. A petition also circulated, pressing administrators to increase police patrols and improve the lighting in the parking lots and along the perimeter of campus.

In response to the petition and rallies, administrators beefed up patrols, extended the time lights were left on in campus buildings to between dusk and dawn, set up a ‘rumor control’ phone line, and established a citizens-on-patrol style and campus escort program using criminology students. However, money remained a stumbling block.

The murder remains unsolved nearly 38 years later. Equally unresolved are the concerns about personal safety on campus

Dan Waterhouse writes The Collegian’s Campus Column, which prints on Wednesdays. Waterhouse  is a lifelong Fresnan. He has written for the Fresno City College and Fresno State student newspapers over the years, including other local publications. Follow him on Twitter: @WaterhouseDan

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