Marc Klaas to close foundation 3 decades after daughter, Polly, killed in Petaluma

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

OAKLAND, Calif. – After 30 years of searching for America’s lost and missing children –  inspired by the kidnap and murder of his own 12-year-old daughter, Polly – Marc Klaas said he’s finally shutting down the Sausalito-based KlaasKids Foundation. 

“We kept Polly’s memory alive in people’s minds because everything we’ve done was to keep a legacy in Polly’s name, to create meaning out of her tragic death, and to use her as an example of America’s child,” Klaas told KTVU in an interview Wednesday. 

The 74-year-old Klaas said he’s closing KlaasKids, which he co-founded in 1994 after his and his wife’s succession plan “fell apart.” 

So, after hitting the 30-year mark, the couple decided they would “rest on their laurels.” 

“I think we’ve done a hell of a job, quite frankly,” he said. 

Klaas’ daughter was kidnapped at knifepoint in Petaluma during a sleepover in 1993 at her mother’s home and later murdered by convicted killer Richard Allen Davis. 

Richard Allen Davis, 69, admitted to strangling Polly and was eventually tried and convicted for her murder. He was sentenced to death in 1996.

It’s a case that has forever rocked the quiet city of Petaluma and spawned the Three Strikes Law in California, which Klaas pushed for and was enacted a few months after Polly was killed. 

In his grief, Klaas founded the KlaasKids Foundation, which has been instrumental in mobilization efforts of other missing children cases, such as 15-year-old Sierra Lamar, a South Bay teen who disappeared in March 2012. 

“Everything we’ve done was to build a legacy in Polly’s name. To create meaning out of her tragic death, and to use her as an example of America’s child, just like any other child in America that can go missing under whatever kind of circumstance,” Klaas said. “To be counted and to be, protected.” 

KlaasKids fingerprinted and photographed more than 1 million children around the country, and helped more than 1,500 families search for missing children. The foundation also trained more than 1,600 search and rescue volunteers. 

The Press Democrat also noted that the KlaasKids president, Brad Dennis, left two years ago, and that the rising costs of plane trips, food and lodging have made fundraising a challenge. 

Despite the closure, Klaas said that his phone will always be on, and he’s always available to help individuals.

“But I don’t have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars every year anymore,” he told KTVU. “And I don’t have to run a foundation anymore.” 

At the time, Klaas also told the newspaper that the political climate of criminal justice reform also hampered his efforts, putting criminals back on the street. 

“I don’t like what I see going on in California, in the criminal justice system,” Klaas said in his interview with KTVU. “And, we’ll continue to advocate for the changes that I think are necessary to create the safe society that we almost have always had.” 

Klaas doesn’t plan to keep totally quiet though.

Last month, the 69-year-old Davis asked a judge to overturn his death sentence, which was declined.

“I realized that I’m in a position that very few people are in,” he said, adding that he can bring attention to this sentencing consideration. 

He asked the California Department of Corrections how many people are on that list and was given 9,500 names. He’s now planning to try to contact the family members of those 9,500 victims to give them a “heads up” if the convicted criminal is up for sentence reconsideration.

The organization will continue operations through the end of the year. 

The Polly Klaas Foundation, a nonprofit separate from KlaasKids, is still continuing operations on finding missing children throughout the U.S. This foundation states that it is not associated with Marc Klaas. 

Looking back, Klaas said that the foundation helped him just as much as he’s helped others. 

“It’s my therapy,” he said. “It’s always been my therapy, our therapy. It’s really difficult to to recover from something. The trauma of something, like Polly’s tragedy. And, by trying to keep her name alive, trying to create her legacy, working with all of these families, having success in many of the efforts that we were involved in, has been terribly therapeutic for us. And it’s given us legions of new friends that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.” 

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.