Joan Rosenthal's Mysterious Murder Has Sleepy Town Wondering 'Who Done It?'

The California grandmother is the first murder victim in Tiburon in 40 years.

September 24, 2009, 2:31 PM

Sept. 24, 2009 — -- The residents of sleepy Tiburon, Calif., are coping with news that they haven't heard in nearly a decade.

Joan Rosenthal, a 75-year-old grandmother, was found dead in a pool of blood on Tuesday from a gunshot wound to her head on the front steps of her home 20 minutes outside of San Francisco.

"This is statistically one of the safest communities in the country," said Tiburon Police Chief Michael Cronin, who told that no suspects or motives have been identified in connection with Rosenthal's homicide.

The shooter also did not appear to have taken anything from Rosenthal's home, said Cronin.

According to Cronin, Rosenthal's murder marks only the fourth murder in the town's nearly spotless history.

In 1999, a 55-year-old man was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in his home. One of his sons was later convicted of the killilng.

Before then, Cronin said that a dead baby washed ashore in the town in 1988, and in 1979 a girl was brought into the state from Washington and was killed in a nearby pasture.

The local paper, the Marin Independent Journal, reports that the most common crime in Tiburon is theft, either of vehicles or from vehicles and homes. In 2008 there were 99 thefts, 20 burglaries and two car thefts, most of which were committed by people who did not live in the area, according to the paper.

Cronin said that over the past two days, more than 20 sheriffs have been investigating the latest murder, which he said was discovered by one of Rosenthal's friends who frequently checks on her.

Asked if there were any leads in the case, Cronin said, "No comment."

Rosenthal's friends paint a serene picture of the woman who they say was one of the kindest people on their leafy block. She was a grandmother of five, had a passion for reading, and no known enemies.

"This is extremely shocking," said Sally Shepard, Rosenthal's best friend for more than 40 years who is speaking on behalf of the Rosenthal family.

Rosenthal's husband, Ken, died in January after a long battle with Alzheimer's, and is survived by her two sons, Jeff and David.

Shepard said the family is anxious for authorities to find whoever is responsible for Rosenthal's death.

"She didn't have enemies and her boys are incredible young men," said Shepard. "[Rosenthal] was very involved in local community events like book clubs and writing clubs and helping with the library, but not in an ostentatious way."

Shepard describes Rosenthal as a "very private person" but said that she's always felt safe in the area, which has its own neighborhood watch.

Kathy Keating, who lives across the street from Rosenthal, said that while she still feels safe in the tony neighborhood, she's shocked a murder occurred right on her doorstep.

"When it first happened everyone just thought she had fallen and hit her head," said Keating. "Then we were told she was killed and it was a great shock."

"Everyone is talking about it. We're like a big family here," said Keating. "This is a very upscale neighborhood. This is out of the ordinary."

Barbara Westerhoff, a local store owner, told the Marin Independent Journal that Rosenthal's murder makes her nervous.

"It's horrible what happened to that woman," Westerhoff told the paper. "It's really scary. I find it petrifying."

"I'm just going to be very, very aware, looking over my shoulder until this person is caught. Why did this happen and why here?" she said.

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