One year later, Kirk Kimberly’s death remains unsolved

While the North Bay will forever remember October 2017 and the devastation that took place throughout the region, for the Kimberly family of Cotati and anyone who knew Kirk Kimberly, this October was a reminder of their own tragedy a year earlier. Oct. 17, 2016 was the last time Kirk’s family saw him alive, and two and a half weeks later, the 18-year-old’s body was found buried in a shallow grave on Sonoma State University’s campus. Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office investigators say someone stabbed the young man to death, but more than 12 months later no arrests have been made in connection with his killing.

The investigation to find Kirk’s murderer is still “very open and very active” said Kelly Kimberly, Kirk’s father, a Cotati resident.

While no new evidence has surfaced for some time, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Spencer Crum says investigators are still working to find Kirk’s killer. 


He said they have interviewed over 100 people in the past year. According to Kimberly, “It’s really personal when there’s a murder case with a knife, and the fact that he was buried, that says a lot about the person that killed him...They probably knew him.” 

Although neither the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office nor Kimberly said they could share any details of the progress of the investigation, Kimberly said he remains, “100 percent confident that they will not only find out, but arrest and prosecute successfully the people that did this to Kirk.” 

According to Kimberly, Kirk was an active young man. He was very popular and was able to accomplish a lot in his short life. Some 125 of his friends attended Kirk’s memorial service. Not only was he was an avid dirt bike rider and racer that spent his weekends camping and riding with his family; Kirk was also an experienced scuba diver. Because Jennifer Kimberly, Kirk’s mother, is a scuba instructor, Kirk was able to travel the world scuba diving with his parents. “Nobody was as close as Kirk and his mom,” said Kimberly. 

At first Kirk’s bicycle and speaker seemed key to the investigation. However, Kimberly now believes they are no longer very relevant. 

Kimberly feels that the perpetrators may have dumped his bike in one of the lakes on Sonoma State’s campus. While it would be nice to recover it, Kimberly contends that after a year it just doesn’t seem as pertinent to the investigation as it was initially.

“What’s interesting about this case is that it’s not every day we come across a buried body on a college campus,” Crum said. 

However, because it is likely that this was a personally targeted crime, Sonoma State students don’t need to be afraid that this might happen to them.

After researching and speaking with other parents of murdered children, Kimberly says the likelihood of a murderer to strike again is extremely low. Chances are that Kirk’s murderer struggles with his or her actions. “Whoever did this, they don’t sleep very well I promise you,” Kimberly said. “They probably wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats thinking about the horrible things they did.” 

Kimberly says he was unhappy with the way authorities released information about Kirk’s cause of death to the public.

“Only the sheriffs and the murderer knew how he was killed... we weren’t to tell anybody,” Kimberly said. “And then the next thing I know, I hear in the newspaper that the cause of death of Kirk Kimberly has been released.”

Many questions remain for the Kimberly family. Because his case is still open, Kirk’s parents still don’t know how many times or even where the culprit stabbed their son. However, these details aren’t nearly as prevalent as their desire to find justice for him. Kirk’s family visits his memorial on the corner of West Sierra and Cyprus every day to light candles and bring fresh flowers. Until his killer is found, Kirk’s memorial will remain on this corner. The YouCaring website has raised more than $14,000 in reward money at: 

Crum says the sheriff’s office, “will continue to accept any and all leads. If you have any new information please call, 707-565-2185.” While the Kimberly family continues to grieve on the first anniversary of their son’s death, Kimberly reminds us of, “the silver lining in this horribly, horribly dark cloud. There’s no guarantees in life. If you owe a friend a call, or a great-aunt a visit, don’t wait… If you’re thinking of someone, stop what you’re doing and pick up the phone, call that person and tell them you love them.”