by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
It always begins with a girl—usually nameless, always dead.
How she died doesn’t matter so much as the fact that she met a violent fate because she made a perceived mistake of some kind: her clothes were too tight, she went out alone at night, or caught a ride with the wrong stranger.
Her story is told over and over again, evolving with each retelling—until she’s just another restless spirit in just another ghost story, resurrected just in time for Halloween when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.
Let me introduce you to her.
On the last night of her life, Krista Ann Hambrock went for a walk, and never came back home alive.
Around 10:30 p.m. on the night of December 2, 1980, the twenty-year-old Fresno State University junior left her dorm room at Baker Hall to go for a stroll on that cold, clear night. Bummed about failing an exam earlier that day, she just needed to clear her head, Krista told her younger sister and roommate Karla, eighteen.
As Baker Hall’s president, Hambrock was well-known and well-liked around the dorms, a born leader responsible for organizing dorm activities, always ready to lend an ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on.
Krista promised Karla she’d be back in a few minutes, clad in a blue nylon jacket against the chill night air, over a white sweater and jeans. Her long caramel hair fell in feathered waves about her shoulders, and round eyeglasses framed her large, expressive eyes.
She walked north along Shaw Ave., passing classmate Richard Tracy, twenty-one, around 10:40 p.m., as he was escorting his girlfriend back to her off-campus apartment. He waved to Hambrock, warning the business major to be careful while out walking alone at night.
“Just getting some fresh air,” she assured him.
Screams pierced the crystal-clear night, echoing across campus around 11 p.m.
They reverberated past the Joyal Administration Building off of Maple Ave., on the east side of campus, and hovered over Shaw, lingering in the ears of residents at the apartment complex near Shaw and Chestnut Avenues, near Shakey’s Pizza Parlor.
The terrified cries seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Drawn to the bloodcurdling sounds coming from down below, one resident peered out the window of his upstairs apartment, only to see a long-haired silhouette stagger away from a car parked in front of Shakey’s, then around the east side of the pizza parlor.
After losing sight of the lurching figure, the witness watched from his window as the car slowly pulled away from the curb, heading eastbound on Shaw.
The night of Tuesday, December 2, had been a slow one at Shakey’s Pizza—only a couple of customers had come in for a bite that late. Nobody there had heard anything out of the ordinary, of course, the pizzeria’s loud music most likely drowned out the screams.
Attempting to push open a door on the east side of the building, around 11:30 p.m., one Shakey’s employee found that the door would not budge. An uneasy feeling made her retreat to the front of the restaurant to ask one of the remaining customers to help her with the back door. And together they managed to shove it open.
And sprawled on her back was Krista Hambrock, pale and unmoving, bleeding from a stab wound to her left side.
Fresno police were on the scene shorty after Shakey’s employees dialed 9-1-1. And true to the pizza parlor’s moniker, that night would leave every single person touched by the incident—from the investigators to the bystanders—shaken to the core.
There was no evidence of a struggle at 2787 E. Shaw, Detective Danny Martin found. Only two spots of blood were discovered where Hambrock lay, and a later search of the surrounding area would turn up no other traces of blood or evidence linked to the slaying.
Was it possible Krista had been stabbed somewhere else? There were no signs of robbery or sexual assault; the victim was fully clothed, with both her eyeglasses and jewelry still in place. So what could possibly have been the motive, then?
Officer P.J. Marez found that Hambrock, though unresponsive, still had a weak, but uneven, pulse. A single stab wound to her upper left abdomen had sliced through her liver, spleen, and other vital organs, with internal bleeding severe enough to snuff out her life fairly swiftly.
At this point, she would be gone in only a matter of minutes.
Krista Ann Hambrock was taken by ambulance to St. Agnes Medical Center, and pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m., less than an hour after she’d been attacked. Manner and cause of death: homicide by stabbing.
She was fifteen days shy of her twenty-first birthday, and her murder has never been solved.
Shakey’s Pizza Parlor, at Shaw and Chestnut Avenues, went out of business not long after Hambrock’s killing. By the mid-1980s, a Round Table Pizza had set up shop at 2787 E. Shaw, and in the ensuing years, a ghost story was born.
Rumors of a haunting began to circulate soon after Round Table’s opening: whispers of ghostly sightings, involving a young woman who would enter the restaurant and disappear into the ladies’ room, never to come back out.
First-hand accounts of unearthly encounters surfaced in a July 28, 1994, Fresno Bee article by Bee reporter Christ Branam, who spoke with longtime Round Table employee Sean Parker about his experiences.
An old-timer, who had worked at that particular Round Table since around 1985, Parker, told of opening up the restaurant one morning with another employee, when he heard the back door slam shut.
Already near the back of the pizza parlor, he went to investigate, thinking it was his coworker, but no one was there.
He discovered his shaken colleague out front, who told Parker he had seen a girl walk through the restaurant, heading towards the back.
Upon further investigation, the two men could find no one else on the premises.
On a separate occasion, Parker and several others were hanging out at one of the dining tables after closing up for the night, when they all heard a microphone click on, then a faint female voice coming through the speakers.
But no one in the group could make out what the woman was trying to communicate.
Thinking it was a customer still in the building, Parker and his coworkers made their way to the rear of the restaurant, only to discover the mike unplugged, the back room dark and silent.
Was it the ghost of Krista Hambrock attempting to make contact from beyond the grave? The problem was her voice only carried so far.
The building at 2787 E. Shaw was long gone by 2003, and sports bar Dog House Grill now stands near the very spot where Krista Ann Hambrock met a violent fate outside Shakey’s Pizza Parlor one cold, clear December night in 1980.
Galvan, Louis. “Motiveless Murder.” The Fresno Bee, Thursday, Dec. 4, 1980. https://www.newspapers.com/image/704444658. https://www.newspapers.com/image/704444731. Accessed Sept. 8, 2021.
Armbruster, Shirley. “Slaying Shocks FSU Students.” The Fresno Bee, Thursday, Dec. 4, 1980. https://www.newspapers.com/image/704444743. https://www.newspapers.com/image/704444750. Accessed Sept. 8, 2021.
Galvan, Louis. “Did Killer Kidnap Student at FSU, Drop Her at Restaurant?” The Fresno Bee, Friday, Dec. 5, 1980. https://www.newspapers.com/image/704445328. Accessed Sept. 8, 2021.
Steinberg, Jim. “Clues Still Scarce in 1980 Slaying of FSU Student.” The Fresno Bee, Sunday, Oct. 9, 1983. https://www.newspapers.com/image/704803346. Accessed Sept. 8, 2021.
Donnelly, Bill. “FSU Slaying Still Baffling: Student’s Killer Never Found.” The Fresno Bee, Sunday, March 22, 1987. https://www.newspapers.com/image/705670648. https://www.newspapers.com/image/705670676. Accessed Sept. 8, 2021.
Branam, Chris. “Ghosts Said to Occupy Local Haunts.” The Fresno Bee, Thursday, July 28, 1994. “Northeast Neighbors,” p. 10.
Pollock, Dennis. “Things that Go Bump in the Valley Night.” The Fresno Bee, Sunday, Oct. 30, 1994. “Life,” p. F1.
Tehee, Joshua. “Fresno Landmarks are Rumored to be Haunted.” The Fresno Bee, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003. “Neighbors Cityview.”