Episode 342:

The Debras of the World

The Story of Stuart Alexander, another murderous "Sausage King"


The Disappearance of the Death Valley Germans


Episode 342: The Debras of the World

On today's episode, Karen tells the story of Stuart Alexander, another murderous "Sausage King" and Georgia covers the disappearance of the Death Valley Germans.

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The Story of Stuart Alexander, another murderous "Sausage King"

The Story of Stuart Alexander, another murderous "Sausage King" Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Rachel Clark on Unsplash

Other images:

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (via Alamy)

FSIS Compliance Officer Jean Hillery (via FSIS)

FSIS Compliance Officer Tom Quadros (via FSIS)

California Senior Investigator Bill Shaline (via FSIS)

California Food Inspector Earl Willis (via FSIS)


"On June 21, 2000, Jeannie Hillery and Tom Quadros, compliance officers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, made an unannounced visit to the Santos Linguisa Factory, a family-owned sausage plant in San Leandro, Calif. They were accompanied by Bill Shaline and Earl Willis, California state inspectors. The plant had shut down voluntarily the previous year after being cited for violations, but the owner, Stuart Alexander, wasn't happy. He had posted a sign complaining of government harassment.

Now the plant seemed to be up and running, illegally. It had neither federal nor state permits. The inspectors were wary. Quadros called into say that Alexander wasn't around. He arrived soon afterward. Two more calls were made: one by Alexander to ask the police to throw the inspectors out; one by the inspectors, asking for help. The police, considering it a non-emergency, didn't respond.

Within 18 minutes Hillery, Quadros and Shaline were dead, killed in a fusillade of 20 shots. Willis was fired at as he fled the premises. Alexander was arrested and charged with murder.

Marion Nestle mentions this incident in Safe Food, along with a number of others in which meat inspectors have been harassed or threatened. Food safety is serious business. It is serious for the inspectors trying to do their jobs in an often hostile atmosphere. It is serious for those who have suffered grave illness or even death from contaminated food. It is serious for consumers in a rapidly changing food world where it is increasingly difficult to know whom or what to trust. And it is serious for the heads of food companies who can find themselves entangled in a maze of seemingly arbitrary and capricious regulations, who cannot understand why processes that have worked well for generations are now deemed unsafe, and who feel pressured from all sides in a highly competitive environment where holding down costs is often the primary goal.

The events at Santos Linguisa were horrifying and tragic, but to those familiar with the tensions and conflicts surrounding food safety, they were not entirely unexpected. Food safety is a battleground. It should not be. In extending sympathy to the family and friends of the victims, Catherine Woteki, then the USDA's undersecretary for food safety, added that after speaking with the meat and poultry industry, she had reminded them that it was "time to lower the rhetoric on food safety issues and to find a way to work together to resolve these issues."

There is nothing more important than food. Beyond its nutritional necessity, it is a substance loaded with history, memory and cultural meaning. Eating is the most intimate of acts: What we eat becomes a part of our bodies. Trust -- that food suppliers and government regulatory agencies are doing their jobs -- is vital in taking that first bite..."

— Source: Washington Post article by Nicols Fox

The Disappearance of the Death Valley Germans

The Disappearance of the Death Valley Germans Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Carter Baran on Unsplash

Other Images:

Overlook of Panamint Valley in Death Valley National Park (Tom Grundy - Alamy)

Badwater Basin Sign, Death Valley National Park (JG Photography - Alamy)

Photo of found minivan. (Death Valley National Park Report via Strange Outdoors)


"The story of the “Death Valley German Tourists” that took place in July 1996, is a very sad and disturbing story of misadventure in California’s Death Valley, the hottest place on Planet Earth. The subsequent tireless efforts by Tom Mahood and Les Walker, two volunteer searchers who refused to give up,  finally led to the discovery of partial remains thirteen years later in 2009 and the end of the mystery.

On October 21, 1996, Death Valley National Park (DVNP) Ranger Dave Brenner was on a helicopter flying over the southern part of Death Valley.  He was involved in an aerial surveillance mission looking for illegal drug manufacturing labs. 

Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California, near the border of California and Nevada, east of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the northern Mojave Desert bordering the Great Basin Desert. It is one of the hottest places in the world, and the Badwater Basin within it, is the point of the lowest elevation in North America, at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. On July 10, 1913, the United States Weather Bureau recorded a high temperature of 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek in Death Valley and this temperature stands as the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth. It has an area of about 3,000 square miles  (7,800 km2).

In the late morning, Ranger Brenner spotted a vehicle in Anvil Canyon, about 2.4 miles downstream from Willow Spring.  He was surprised as it was a standard passenger minivan and not an off-road Four Wheel Drive, all the way down the dirt road. In most circumstances, it wouldn't have got far in the Canyon due to the terrain. Also, there was no official road down Anvil Canyon as of October 1994 as a result of the Desert Protection Act, which meant it was designated an official wilderness area, thus prohibiting public vehicles from using it.

Local miners had stopped using the road to access their attempts to mine gold, silver, borax and talc after the financial panic of 1907 slowed or stopped most mining activities in the area. According to the park service, virtually all metallic mining operations had shut down by 1915. New claims in Death Valley ended with the passage of the Mining in the Parks Act of 1976, but it wasn’t until the closure of the Billie Mine borax operation near Dante’s View that all mining finally ended within the park.

When the helicopter landed, Brenner checked the car and the surrounding area. The vehicle was a green-colored, desert dust-covered, 1996 Plymouth Voyager with California license plates.  It was locked and it looked like it had been there for some time. It was stuck, with the axles deep in the sand. The front left and two rear tires were flat and tracks in the sand looked like it had been driven some distance with these flat tires. 

Checks on the license plate with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) revealed the minivan was reported stolen by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on September 10, 1996.  It was owned by Dollar Car Rentals and had been rented to a group of four German tourists in Los Angeles on July 8, 1996.

This group of German Tourists was Egbert Rimkus, 34, his son Georg Weber, 11, Egbert’s girlfriend Cornelia Meyer, 28, and her son Max Meyer, 4. 

The minivan had been due back in Los Angeles on July 26, 1996, but had never been returned to the renters.  Dollar usually waited at least 30 days before reporting one of their cars stolen to police.

Further investigations showed the group, lived in Dresden in Germany, and they left the country from Frankfurt Airport and traveled to Seattle, Washington State, in the United States on July 8. They then immediately flew on to Los Angeles, California,  where they picked up their rental car.  Cornelia Meyer was recorded as the driver.  They had plane tickets on TWA to return to Germany on July 27, but they failed to board the plane back..."

— Source: Strange Outdoors, “The Disturbing Disappearance and Death of the German Tourists in Death Valley”

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. San Francisco Magazine article by Bud Hazelkorn  “The Sausage King”
  2. KCBS Radio podcast by Natalia Gurevich,  “The Sausage King” podcast
  3. Food Safety and Inspection Service / U.S. Department of Agriculture “Our History”
  4. Associated Press, “’Sausage King’s’ Own Surveillance tapes in His Factory Prove His Guilt in Murders”
  5. Washington Post article by Nicols Fox “Watching What You Eat”
  6. Associated Press article by Mary Ann Lickteig, “3 Shot Dead at Calif. Sausage Site”
  7. Associated Press article by Jessie Seyfer, “Sausage Maker Held in Killings”
  8. Los Angeles Times article by Rone Tempest “’Sausage King’ Dies in Prison”
  9. East Bay Times article by Jason Sweeney “Where San Leandro’s ‘Sausage King’ Snapped”
  10. United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Remarks of Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Richard Rominger, Memorial Service and Tree Dedication, August 8, 2000, Washington, DC”
  11. SF Gate article by Tilde Herrera, “Sausage Maker Thrives on Link to Portugal / An old home recipe grew into a factory in San Leandro”
  12. East Bay Times article by Glenn Chapman, “Alexander’s past will be on display”
  13. Associated Press, “Sausage Plant Killer Phoned Police Beforehand”
  14. Associated Press article by Kim Curtis, “Surveillance tape shows San Leandro sausage factory shootings”
  15. San Leandro Bytes, “Santos Linguisa Factory – Scene of Triple Homicide”
  16. San Francisco Chronicle article by Jaxon Van Derbeken, Mark Martin, Benjamin Pimentel, “East Bay Factory Rampage – 3 Slain”
  17. Food Safety News article by Dan Flynn, “Ceremonies Honor Meat Inspectors Killed in 2000”
  18. Mashed article by Amy Hamblen, “What is Linguica and What Does it Takes Like?”
  19. Food Safety News, “Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak – 25th Anniversary”
  20. Retro Report, “E. Coli Outbreaks Changed Food Production, But How Safe Are We?” 
  21. The Seattle Times article by David Holbrook, Scott Marshall, “Suspect held grudge on rules, some say Factory owner often battled regulations”
  22. Bay Area News Group article by Glenn Chapman, “Victims’ loved ones testify in Alexander’s sentencing”
  23. CNN Library, “Scott Peterson Trial Fast Facts”
  24. Shouse California Law Group, “Special Circumstances in California Murder Cases”
  25. United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, “In Memoriam”

Georgia's Episode Sources

  1. National Park Service, “Death Valley National Park”
  2. U.S. Depart of Interior Blog, “12 Things You Didn’t Know about Death Valley”
  3. Strange Outdoors, “The Disturbing Disappearance and Death of the German Tourists in Death Valley”
  4. OtherHand Blog by Tom Mahood “The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans”
  5. Pahrump Valley Times article by Robin Flinchum, “Twentieth Anniversary Of One Of Death Valley’s Baffling Mysteries”
  6. Pahrump Valley Times article by Robin Flinchum, “Interest continues in 20-year Death Valley mystery”
  7. Associated Press, “Death Valley bones linked to German tourists”
  8. Associated Press, “Remains May Be Tourists Missing 13 Years”
  9. The Local, “Death Valley skeletons solve riddle of missing German tourists”
  10. Los Angeles Times, “Van of Missing German Tourists Found in Death Valley Park”
  11. Los Angeles Times, “Search Ends for 4 Missing German Tourists”
  12. Los Angeles Times article by Teresa Watanabe “California: Bones May Solve Mystery: Death Valley Hikers Find What May Be Tourists’ Remains”
  13. Sierra Wave Media article by Tom Woods “Children Still Missing in 1996 German Tourist Case”
  14. Wikipedia, “Death Valley Germans”