Who is Polly Klaas?

Polly Hannah Klaas was a twelve-year-old girl from Petaluma, California. Polly was a pretty, brown-eyed, fair-skinned youngster with dimples. She wore her wavy, dark hair past her shoulders and 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. Her father, 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.”

School photo of Polly Klaas

According to loved ones, Polly 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.”

On the night of October 1, 1993, Polly was having a slumber party when a strange man holding a knife snuck into the Klaas family home and entered Polly’s room, frightening Polly and her friends. He then tied up all the girls and put pillow cases over their heads. The intruder then took a sobbing Polly off into the night.

Her friends stood back-to-back trying to untie themselves. When that didn’t work, one girl was able to bring her hands under her feet to free herself. The girls then awakened Polly’s mother, who immediately called the police.

People in her home town and throughout the world helped search for her and two months after her abduction, she was located deceased.

Polly’s body was found on December 3, 1993 and by that time over 2 BILLION images of Polly Klaas had been distributed worldwide.

From the very beginning the search for Polly Klaas was conducted using the Internet, which had never been done before.

Previously, missing child posters were blurry reproductions that were photocopied, faxed, and hand distributed.

But this was 1993, the dawn of the “Information Super Highway.” The day after Polly was kidnapped, two Petaluma residents, Gary French and Bill Rhodes, contacted the police department to inform them that Polly’s missing child poster could be digitized, resulting in a crisp recognizable image.

French and Rhodes were joined by a third person, syndicated computer columnist Larry Magid, who contacted several Internet networks with world-wide clientele of more than 20 million users.

Polly’s crisp, recognizable, missing child poster soon received a far wider distribution than any previous missing child poster, which is one of the reasons why so many people know about Polly Klaas.

Polly was very close to her family but especially her father, Marc Klaas, the founder of the Polly Klaas Foundation.

Marc Klaas, Polly's father

Photo of 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.”

The Polly Klaas Foundation is a national nonprofit dedicated to the safety of all children, the recovery of missing children, and public policies that keep children safe in their communities. Since the founding in 1993, the Foundation has used our compassion, experience and professionalism to help more than 7691 families find missing children.

Click here to read the abduction and murder of Polly Klaas