Young Cally Jo was just 12 when she was savagely slaughtered – for disturbing a burglar.
One afternoon in April 1999, Cally Jo Larson had just finished school and arrived back at home.
But instead of the empty house she was expecting, she found 29-year-old burglar Lorenzo Bahena Sanchez as he was ransacking the place. Terrified she’d turn him in to the police, Sanchez decided to end Cally Jo’s life…
Cally Jo Larson was the kind of kid that made everyone around her smile.
She loved being silly and playing games with her older sister Jayme.
‘She was cute and brave and fun. She was just a sweetheart,’ her mum Connie Larson said.
On 20 April 1999, Cally Jo, 12, got off the school bus at 2.55pm, just like she did every day.
She skipped down the path towards her beautiful family home in Waseca, Minnesota, and let herself in.
She was expecting an empty house – her sister was going to be late home from school that day, and her mum was at work.
But, instead, she came across Lorenzo Bahena Sanchez.
He’d decided not to go to work that day. But to go on a stealing spree instead.
At about 2pm, he found his way into the Larson home via a concealed basement door. He slowly worked his way through each room, hunting for things to steal, like money or rings.
When he’d taken all he could carry, he made a quick exit before anyone could discover him.
But when he got home, he realised his ID was missing.
What if he’d dropped it at the scene of his crime?
It would be the perfect way for police to trace him once the burglary was discovered…
So Sanchez returned to the Larson family home in order to look for it.
As he was prowling around the house, Cally Jo was turning her key in the door.
The two were about to cross paths, sparking a turn of events that would destroy a family and shake a community to its core.
When Cally Jo discovered Sanchez rooting around upstairs, he was taken by surprise.
‘I didn’t expect it,’ he admitted.
But instead of fleeing, Lorenzo Bahena Sanchez’s mind immediately turned to violence.
He grabbed Cally Jo and tied her up so she couldn’t move.
He could have left there and then. But he didn’t.
Instead, he made his way to the kitchen and grabbed a knife.
Then he went back to Cally Jo and, ignoring her screams and the look of terror in her eyes, he stabbed her in the chest.
But even that wasn’t enough.
He then went down into the basement to get an electrical cord. He tied one end around Cally Jo’s neck and used the other to hang her limp, bleeding body from the staircase.
Only then was Lorenzo Bahena Sanchez satisfied there was no risk of Cally Jo reporting him for burglary – and he finally fled.
An hour later, Cally Jo’s sister Jayme, then 16, arrived home.
The moment she opened the front door and stepped inside, she was confronted by a scene too horrific to comprehend.
There was her little sister, dead, and hanging from the stairs, her blood puddling beneath her.
Jayme grabbed the cordless phone and ran back outside to call her mum, Connie.
All she could manage to say was something bad had happened.
Her mum told her to hang up and wait outside.
Minutes later, the police arrived. They asked what was wrong.
‘Go inside,’ was all Jayme could manage to explain.
As police were confronted by the bloodbath inside the family home, Connie arrived home.
Jayme watched as her mum tried desperately to get inside the house – but officers refused to let her in, trying to save her from the sight of her daughter hanging dead.
‘Connie, she’s gone, Cally’s gone,’ an officer told her.
At that, Connie held Jayme.
Shortly afterwards, a murder investigation was launched.
But days turned into weeks, weeks into months. Still Cally Jo’s killer couldn’t be found.
The local community was left petrified. Doors were locked and double locked. Kids no longer felt safe coming home to an empty house, and teens gave up their babysitting jobs.
Finally, Lorenzo Bahena Sanchez was arrested. But not for murder. He was picked up by accident on suspicion of burglary.
It was only when his home was searched, and police found CDs belonging to Cally Jo and Jayme, he became their prime suspect.
Initially, he denied any wrongdoing but, eventually – as part of a plea deal – he admitted his guilt.
‘I didn’t want her to turn me in,’ he said. ‘I grabbed her. I didn’t think things over. I took a knife and stabbed her.
‘And to make sure she was dead, I hung her… I just stabbed her, hung her and left.’
His confession avoided putting the Larson family through a heart-breaking trial, and ensured justice would be served.
Lorenzo Bahena Sanchez was handed a mandatory life sentence for first-degree murder.
‘This brings closure for Connie and her family,’ said Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp.
‘We wanted to see the killer found and proved guilty and we’ve accomplished that. We’re relieved.’