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kottke.org posts about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

A obsessive search for the Golden State Killer

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2018

At the time of her death, Michelle McNamara was in the middle of several years of research for a book on the Golden State Killer.1 After she died, her widower Patton Oswalt enlisted an investigative journalist and a researcher to comb through her notes and finish the book. The result, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, is not only a book about the killer but about McNamara’s descent into obsession. In a blurb, Stephen King wrote:

What readers need to know — what makes this book so special — is that it deals with two obsessions, one light and one dark. The Golden State Killer is the dark half; Michelle McNamara’s is the light half. It’s a journey into two minds, one sick and disordered, the other intelligent and determined. I loved this book.

A NY Times piece about the book describes how consumed she was by the case:

The research consumed her, and began to weigh on her. She suffered from insomnia and anxiety. Once, she panicked because she woke up to a scraping sound: A neighbor was dragging his trash can to the curb in the middle of the night, Mr. Oswalt said. Another time, when Mr. Oswalt tiptoed into their bedroom, trying not to wake her, she mistook him for an intruder and jumped out of bed and swung a lamp at his head. She felt an obligation to solve the case, and was devastated each time she developed a promising theory or zeroed in on a suspect but failed to find sufficient evidence.

“She had overloaded her mind with information with very dark implications,” Mr. Oswalt said.

Update: A suspect has been arrested in the GSK case.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who was taken into custody outside his home on Tuesday and charged with six counts of murder, had been living undisturbed a half-hour drive from where the 12-year rampage began. He was described as a former police officer, and his time in uniform partly overlapped with many of the crimes he is accused of committing.

The case was cracked in the past week, Sheriff Scott Jones of Sacramento County said on Wednesday, when investigators identified Mr. DeAngelo and were able to match his DNA with the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith in Ventura County in 1980.

This is a chilling in-retrospect red flag:

[DeAngelo] was convicted in 1979 for shoplifting a can of dog repellent and a hammer from a store in Sacramento County. The incident led to his dismissal from the Auburn police force. The arrest came amid the rash of rapes in the area.

Dog repellent and hammers are useful for breaking into homes and he likely shoplifted them because he didn’t want the purchase traced to him.

  1. If you ask me, the guy in the middle here looks a lot like a certain YouTube star who’s been in hot water lately…