Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Killing of Polly Klaas

Profile of Polly

Polly Hannah Klaas was born on January 3, 1981 in Fairfax, Cal., to Marc and Eve Klaas.  Her parents divorced when she was only two-and-a-half.  Marc Klaas was later to remark that the couple had "an unsuccessful marriage but a successful divorce" because the two remained friends and, while Eve got custody, Marc faithfully visited his only child.  

Eve and Polly would move around a great deal while she was growing up.  That may be one reason that people often described Polly as "shy" and say she had trouble forming friendships.  

Her mother next married Allan Nichol.  Allan had three kids from a previous marriage.  He and Eve had a child together, Annie, in 1987.  Polly appeared to get along well with her stepsiblings and little sister, but she had a certain amount of conflict with her stepfather.  When one of the other children challenged his authority, Allan Nichol would accuse them of "pulling a Polly."

Polly Klaas
Polly Klaas

Polly liked actor Mel Gibson and football player Joe Montana.  A photograph of the latter was tacked on her bedroom wall.  She liked to read Archie comics and Judy Blume books.  Popcorn and hot fudge sundaes were among her favorite treats.  She had two cats, Spooky and Milo.

Although often withdrawn, Polly had a dramatic streak.  She very much enjoyed being in school plays and cherished the dream of acting professionally someday.  Music was a major interest, and she was active in the school band.

She had a good sense of humor and enjoyed dressing up like an old lady and hobbling about with a cane, which she would use to suddenly whack someone on the behind.  She also enjoyed making people laugh by imitating a chihuahua by sticking her tongue out and rolling her eyes.  Friends thought she did a good Elvis Presley imitation.  Polly also had a sarcastic streak.  Once when the family was trying to eat dinner through little sister Annie's loud crying, Polly commented, "Gee, that's relaxing."

Marc Klaas, Polly's father
Marc Klaas, Polly's father

She was close to her paternal grandparents, Joe and B.J. Klaas, who took her on trips to places that included Mexico and Yellowstone Park.  She was even closer to her dad, Marc Klaas.  Barry Bortnick wrote in Polly Klaas: The Murder of America's Child, "Polly spent most holidays and weekends with her dad, who ran a Hertz rent-a-car office in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel.  Wherever Polly's family moved, Marc Klaas was there.  He worked as a teacher's aide in some of Polly's schools."  Joe Klaas said, "They had an incredible relationship" and remembered that "If anyone made a joke about Marc, she would jump to his defense."

As she grew close to her teen years, Polly was a pretty, brown-eyed, fair-skinned youngster with dimples.  She wore her wavy, dark hair past her shoulders.  

Polly had a lifelong fear of the dark.  She could not get to sleep unless there was a little light on.  She was scared of a mysterious bogeyman and of the possibility of being kidnapped.  It was something she had discussed often with her parents.  Marc Klaas would recall with bitter irony how he had assured his daughter "that everything would be all right, I would always be there to protect her."



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