Cara Knott Memorial Garden
The 1986 murder of twenty year-old Cara Knott by California Highway Patrol Office Craig Peyer was a case that shook the San Diego region like an earthquake. It frightened women young and old, it horrified parents who wanted to believe their daughters were safe in our community, and it engendered a gut level distrust of police that persists in many to this day. It still evokes a visceral reaction from hundreds of thousands of San Diegans, and it was every bit as shocking back then as was the Chelsea King murder that brought the region to its emotional knees a quarter of a century later.
One tangible manifestation of the Knott tragedy is the San Diego Crime Victims Oak Garden located near the site where Cara’s body was dumped just northeast of the intersection of Interstate 15 and Mercy Road. To reach the park, exit Interstate 15 at the Mercy Road/Scripps Poway Parkway exit, go east and make a U-turn at Scripps Highland Drive 300 yards from the freeway, take the first right into Cara Way and proceed north to the park.
The creative force behind the oak garden concept was Cara’s grieving father Sam Knott who lobbied for the better part of a decade to have the area dedicated to his daughter. His work reached fruition in 1996 when the site was dedicated as the Cara Knott Memorial Oak Garden. It was re-dedicated in 1999 as the San Diego Crime Victims Memorial Garden, undoubtedly with the blessing of the Knott family. In that year, Sam Knott transplanted scores of Oak saplings that the family had grown from acorns in their back yard.
Since its dedication the park has grown into an oasis where the lives of dozens of victims of crime and violent death are commemorated. It is the gathering point for periodic events in which family and friends of those who are remembered here gather and continue the process of recovery. It has also become something of a destination for followers of paranormal phenomena.
Personal Experience: I’ve lived in this area for much of my life and have driven on Scripps Poway Pkwy numerous times each month. I am quite familiar with the Cara Knott case and was also aware of the memorial created in her name. I had briefly searched for the location in the past but was unable to find the location. When I finally did find it, I was shocked to find this seemingly hidden road right before the 15 North freeway, called Cara Way. This area is both beautiful and also brimming with pain. The story of Cara and her father is heartbreaking and you can feel the grief everywhere. I recommend that if you do visit this area, to come with something to help make it more colorful and beautiful. It doesn’t seem to receive too much upkeep, but could definitely use the love.
Hidden below the 15 freeway is this smaller bridge. This is the bridge that Cara Knott was thrown off of after a patrol officer strangled her:
The memorial garden is difficult to walk through, although a beautiful tribute to so many lives lost: