Senseless, Predictable Tragedy

Kate Tibbitts had every reason to live

By John McGinness
October 2021

Mary Kate Tibbitts lived a good life, one enriched by the love of family and friends.

She was the second oldest of five grown children of Douglas “Skip” and Mary Tibbitts. Kate lived in a beautifully manicured home on 11th Avenue in Land Park. A proud Sacramento State graduate and faithful member of Holy Spirit Church, Kate brought goodwill to those with whom she had contact.

She had a love for people and a magnetic personality.

Kate spent time as a volunteer with the Sacramento SPCA. Giving her time to lost or abandoned animals satisfied her desire to provide loving support to creatures in distress. She was the exact person you would want for a next-door neighbor.

All of this would change on Sept. 3. Life for the entire Tibbitts family was shattered in one violent, unforgivable and regretfully preventable episode. A man would forcibly enter her home, kill her dogs, sexually assault her, murder her and set fire to her home in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence of his criminality.

What kind of person could possibly direct this type of evil toward such a kind, decent and honorable person as Kate Tibbitts?

According to evidence developed by homicide detectives with the Sacramento Police Department, that person would be Troy Davis, 51, whose propensity for violent crime was well documented before Kate was murdered.

Davis had been arrested and convicted of multiple felonies in multiple counties since 2017. His crimes include assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to time in prison accordingly.

The execution of that sentence was the responsibility of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The state of California and its correctional agency failed their constituents. They failed Kate Tibbitts and failed her family and friends.

Troy Davis was released early as a part of the ongoing social justice effort to minimize incarceration, the theory being that such an effort would provide justice for the unfortunate.

In June, following his early release from prison, Troy Davis was found by the Elk Grove Police Department driving a stolen car. He was again arrested and booked into jail. But in a graphic illustration of yet another failure on the part of the social justice activist movement, Davis was not held in jail.

Rather, he was released, not on bail but on a simple promise to return to court several days later to face charges related to the auto theft. This zero-cash bail concept is yet another flawed idea that places the theoretical welfare of offenders over the real wellbeing of respectful and kind members of society—citizens exemplified by Kate Tibbitts.

The explanation from justice reform activists is that raising cash bail can be difficult for people who lack wealth and resources. This precept dismisses the purpose of bail, which is addressed in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and serves as a lawful means by which to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the defendant will show up in court to face the charges that warranted their arrest.

As the Tibbitts family began to prepare its final farewell to their beloved Kate, members of the California Legislature were busy trying to advance Senate Bill 262. The bill is an effort to expand the no-cash bail program in California.

Six days after Kate was murdered, the bill was withdrawn. State Senate majority leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) admitted the bill was tabled in response to Kate’s death. But even in retreat, Hertzberg was unapologetic about his determination to release more inmates without bail. He said, “We will come back next year. We’ve made extraordinary progress.”

Many of us would take exception to Hertzberg’s idea of progress.

Responsible Californians would be well advised to expend the energy to learn of the conduct of all three branches of state government—legislative, executive and judicial. Then it’s incumbent upon the electorate to demand public policy that addresses the wellbeing and safety of all Californians.

The horrific and tragic murder of Kate Tibbitts did not have to happen. Common sense and legitimate respect for victims of crime is a bedrock principle of an advanced society. Prioritizing the sensibilities of chronic offenders over the safety of the innocent represents the ultimate in flawed logic.

Paradoxically, had the rule of law been enforced, the defendant in this matter would be better off today. He would have spent September in jail, not wandering the streets of Land Park.

More critically, Kate would still be alive, bringing her charm, love and goodwill to family and friends.
Rest in peace, Kate.

John McGinness is the former sheriff of Sacramento County and host of the John McGinness Show, daily 3–4 p.m. on News 93.1 KFBK. He can be reached at (916) 921-1530.

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