New HBO documentary in six parts I will go in the dark tells the still intertwined stories of the late author Michelle McNamara and Joseph James DeAngelo, the man she nicknamed the Golden State Killer. D’Angelo, 74, is expected to plead guilty June 29-13 to murder and kidnapping each, an agreement that will see him serve his life without parole and avoid the death penalty. He should also admit guilt for more than 50 rapes committed throughout California in the 1970s and 1980s.
It’s a strange timing seen I will go in the dark preview the day before DeAngelo’s guilty plea. The documentary, directed by Liz Garbus, focuses on the work of McNamara as a true crime writer who became obsessed with the case and died in 2016 of a fatal mix of prescription drugs while working on a book on this subject. This book, also titled I will go in the dark, was completed posthumously by her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, and two of McNamara’s colleagues. It became a bestseller in 2018, published just two months before the police finally caught DeAngelo using an online family DNA database, a tactic that McNamara had suggested to detectives working on the case after have tried the popular 23andMe service.
For those unfamiliar with the life and work of McNamara or the Golden State Killer, a nickname she created by researching her crimes, here is an introduction to their stories and how they converged. If you plan to watch I will go in the dark, be aware that the documentary does not present this story in such a chronological order, rather mixing the details of the Golden State Killer case with the investigation of McNamara to discover his identity.
Joseph James DeAngelo, the gold killer.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP / Shutterstock
Joseph James DeAngelo was born in 1945, the son of an army sergeant. Before his family finally settled in California, they spent time at an Air Force base in West Germany where DeAngelo witnessed the rape of his 7-year-old sister by two soldiers, according to his son. According to the documentary, their father locked DeAngelo and his siblings in closets, forced them to eat food on the floor and beat them, Joseph receiving the brunt of the violence.
DeAngelo then served in the Navy in Vietnam, working as a damage control man on a warship, then enrolled in Sierra College, a community college in Rocklin, California, to study police science. There he met Bonnie Colwell, who described him in the documentary as being sexually aggressive and urging her to join him on illegal hunting trips. They got engaged in 1970, but she broke up when he asked him to help her cheat in her abnormal psychology class.
In a story told by Colwell in Los Angeles Time Podcast The man in the window, a few nights after the breakup, she woke up with DeAngelo knocking on her bedroom window, pointing a gun at her and demanding that she go with him to Reno to escape. She ran to her father, who told him to hide in the bathroom while he was talking to DeAngelo. The incident was never reported to the police, and Colwell believes it was because his father might have wanted to protect DeAngelo’s chances of joining the force.
It is theorized that this could have been DeAngelo’s breaking point, because in one of his subsequent sexual assaults, the victim reported his attacker saying, “I hate you, Bonnie! ” As Man in the window reports that during the year of their separation, there were reports of a voyeur and a cat burglar looking at windows without pants, crawling inside to touch women during sleeping and killing families’ dogs.
In 1973 DeAngelo married Sharon Huddle and became a police officer assigned to the burglary unit in Exeter, a year before a serial thief began a series of crimes in the nearby town of Visalia. The Visalia Ransacker had the same MO as Rancho Cordova’s burglar, investigators noting that he would climb fences, open windows or sliding doors, and use paths and ditches to enter and exit crime scenes. In 1975 DeAngelo shot a university professor, Claude Snelling, who discovered the criminal who was trying to kidnap his daughter. That same year, the Ransacker was arrested by a detective and pretended to surrender, only to shoot and injure the cop before escaping. All told, he committed approximately 120 robberies and break and enters in less than two years.
In June 1976, DeAngelo committed his first confirmed rape, 1 of 50 sexual assaults that would have taken place in the Sacramento area in the next three years, leading him to be dubbed the East Area Rapist, or EAR, by a local newspaper. Many victims later said they suspected their homes had been robbed in advance, DeAngelo unlocking windows and doors and leaving ropes, laces and other fasteners. He started by targeting single women at home, then attacked aggressive couples, ordering the woman to tie her male partner, then piling plates on the man’s back, saying he would kill them. he heard them fall. The assaults could last for hours, with the DeAngelo wearing a mask taking food and beer from their fridge, stealing photos and souvenirs, and sometimes calling his victims afterwards to brutally taunt them.
The first murders during this period of DeAngelo’s crimes took place in February 1978. Brian and Katie Maggiore had gone out to walk their dog at Rancho Cordova when they met him, possibly entering or leaving a house . Whatever argument happened, they fled and DeAngelo shot them. At the time, the case was suspected of being linked to the rapes, a fact later confirmed by DNA evidence. At the time of the last EAR attack in July 1979, DeAngelo was working at the Auburn Police Department and was dismissed after being arrested for shoplifting a hammer and a can of dog repellant.
At this point, DeAngelo has become a full-blown serial killer, shifting his trip to Southern California, presumably to vary his patterns and avoid detection. He almost got caught once: while attacking a couple in Goleta, Santa Barbara County, the woman screamed, driving DeAngelo off on a bicycle. A neighbor of the FBI agent sued DeAngelo, but lost him as he jumped over a fence. The footprints left by DeAngelo would link him to his first known murder in the region, the shooting of Robert Offerman and Debra Manning in December 79. DeAngelo has killed seven other people in the next two years, usually raping women and clubbing him. victims to death with various objects, including a log fire. Only one victim, Manuela Witthuhn, was alone at home, her husband then being hospitalized.
DeAngelo did not kill again before the massacre of Janelle Cruz, 18, in 1986. The gap of several years between the murders is attributed to the fact that DeAnglo became a father and took his young cousin for a time. Long after Cruz’s homicide, police dubbed him the Original Night Stalker when they realized his murders had occurred before that of Richard Ramirez, whom the press dubbed the Night Stalker for a series of rapes and murders in 1984 and 1985. When DeAngelo’s crimes were finally linked by DNA in 2001, he became known as EAR / ONS, an awkward acronym that will remain until McNamara calls him Golden State Killer in 2013 Los Angeles magazine article, “In the footsteps of a killer”.
From that moment on, DeAngelo did not commit any crime other than a 1996 gasoline theft arrest. He lived in Citrus Heights, worked as a truck mechanic until his retirement in 2017 and was known as a strange man who shouted desecrations in his backyard and once threatened to kill a neighbor’s dog to bark too much strong. “If you don’t close this dog, I will deliver a death charge,” DeAngelo said in a voice message, the neighbor said in 2018.
Michelle McNamara was born in 1970 and raised in Oak Park, Illinois, the youngest of six children. His fascination with crime began in his teens with the 1984 unsolved murder of a local woman, Kathy Lombardo. In a 2012 blog article titled “Origin Story,” McNamara described visiting the crime scene and picking up pieces of Lombardo’s broken yellow Walkman, writing: “Never again would I listen when the words” homicide ” or “missing” or “mystery” came on the news. ”
After graduating from Notre Dame and obtaining her MFA in creative writing from Minnesota, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met Oswalt in 2003. The couple married in 2005 and gave birth to their daughter, Alice , in 2009. In 2006, she launched the True Crime Diary website, which presented her lyrical and personal writings on unresolved cases that fascinated her and pushed her to become part of the world of “citizen detective”. This predominantly online community involves amateurs who deal with police records, newspaper clippings, message boards and everything else they can use to resolve cases. Some are borderline conspiracy theorists, while others take it seriously – and have solved several homicides and other mysteries over the years, finding overlooked details or using the power of social media for crowdsource advice.
McNamara’s interest in the EAR / ONS case started with the 2010 book Sudden terror by Larry Crompton, a retired detective from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department who investigated the original rapes of DeAngelo. McNamara quickly began to investigate the case for herself, visiting crime scenes and speaking with witnesses and the police who handled the case. She gained the respect of detectives by finding on eBay a pair of cufflinks corresponding to the description of those that DeAngelo had stolen from a victim. The track didn’t work, but they accepted it as someone who knew his stuff.
In her Los Angeles magazine story – the one in which she decided that EAR / ONS should be called the Golden State Killer because “at the very least, this identification is more memorable” – McNamara shared evidence that had never been made public before and got a lot of new attention on DeAngelo. crimes. The article was such a sensation that it ultimately turned into a book contract, which drove her deeper into her obsession with finding the killer. With the help of citizen investigator Paul Haynes, she was able to access dozens of boxes of files on the case, while professional detectives Larry Pool, Paul Holes and Crompton, among others, remained in regular contact with her to discuss leads and theories.
Tragically, the pressure of the book’s deadlines and the nightmarish stressors of examining the Golden State Killer case led McNamara to seek treatment. She used Adderall to focus and Xanax to sleep, and eventually started using opioids, a habit no one close to her has detected. Her friends and family thought she was just exhausted, which is understandable, as shown by the use of the HBO documentary of heartbreaking text messages between her and Oswalt. In a sleepless night, she wrote a chapter, “Letter to an old man”, in which she imagined how DeAngelo would be taken: “” You will be silent forever, and I will be gone in the dark “, you threatened a victim time. Open the door. Show us your face. Step into the light. ”
McNamara died on April 21, 2016, following an autopsy report determined to be an accidental overdose.
DeAngelo when he was indicted in the Sacramento County Superior Court in April 2018.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / AP / Shutterstock
While still in pain, Oswalt decided that McNamara’s book needed to be finished, so he sought help from Haynes and Billy Jensen, himself an author and citizen detective. Using his notes and detailed plans, they continued the investigation and writing, eventually publishing the book in February 2018.
In a section, McNamara postulated that using a 23andMe-style genetic database, as it had been used for pleasure, would be a means of catching the killer, thinking that the popularity of these services would lead someone one of his family to have tried it outside. Holes, a Contra Costa county investigator with training in biochemistry, agreed and ultimately uploaded DNA samples to the public GEDmatch database.
What Holes and his colleagues found was a number of people who had the same great-great-great-grandparents as the killer. They meticulously narrowed down the list, searching for all the records they could find to create family trees, trying to find a male relative who could match the killer’s description and match the chronology and locations of the crimes. After several dead ends, they found DeAngelo in April 2018.
Everything seemed to be right: the physical attributes, the places, the background to law enforcement. Thus, the detectives first obtained a DNA sample from DeAngelo from the door handle of his car. This was not entirely correct, as many people could have touched this same surface, but it was close enough to be sure to have their man. Then, after testing a discarded tissue they found in DeAngelo’s trash can, they got their confirmation – a 100% DNA match.
DeAngelo was arrested on April 24, 2018. He was only charged with the Maggiore murders in the first instance, while different jurisdictions have determined how to proceed and who is liable to prosecution under the limitation periods. As the documentary shows, Oswalt, Jensen and Haynes were in Chicago at the time, exchanging messages late at night after first learning that the Golden State Killer had finally been caught. “I think you got it, Michelle,” Oswalt tweeted the next morning. Later that day, when police at the press conference denied that McNamara’s work had helped, Oswalt wrote: “Yes, but #MichelleMcNamara didn’t care about being shined. She was concerned that the #GoldenStateKiller was behind bars and that the victims were relieved. “
D’Angelo eventually appeared in court, handcuffed in a wheelchair, appearing weak to several of his victims. As Rolling stone reported, many women were breathless when they heard him speak, recognizing his voice all those years later. Over the next two years, prosecutors added the remaining 11 murder charges, requested the death penalty, and entered into a plea deal that will put the 74-year-old gold killer in prison for the rest of his life. .
As McNamara wrote in her letter to the man she chased, but could never see brought to justice: “This is how it ends for you.”