Recent Sonoma County killings highlight face of parricide

Two separate slayings with a shockingly similar theme have played out in the Sonoma County courts recently, although experts maintain the brutal crimes remain a rarity nationwide.

Parricide — the act of killing one's mother or father — was a factor in the case of Houston Herczog, the 22-year-old Santa Rosa man found not guilty by reason of insanity last week in the slaying of his father.

It's also a critical detail in the stabbing death of a Sebastopol woman earlier this year, allegedly at the hands of her adult daughter, Julia Franzen, 24.

Homicide Investigation In Sebastopol


Despite resemblances between the two killings — which happened about 15 miles and two years apart — parricide accounts for only a fraction of all homicides across the country.

The most recent FBI statistics covering a 25-year period show that just 2 percent of all slayings were either patricide or matricide.

But in the rare times when children kill their own parents, people take notice.

"It's a very small number of people who do this," said Dr. Sara West, a forensic psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "They make headlines because it's unusual."

Aside from Herczog and Franzen, there have been few Sonoma County cases in recent years that are alleged to involve parricide. But they are not unheard of.

Dennis Hughes, 41, of Rohnert Park, beat his mother to death with a baseball bat last year after she forced him to move out of their house. He was shot to death by San Francisco police. And in 2007, Ezra Hoyt, then 33, also of Rohnert Park, was charged with stabbing his mother to death with a 45-inch sword. Hoyt was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

West, who has conducted dozens of sanity evaluations for the courts, said perpetrators tend to be young men who, like Herczog and others, have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. They are generally single and living at home, often with their mothers, West said.

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