The Golden State Killer And The 40-Year Manhunt To Find Him

Published March 5, 2018

The case of the Golden State Killer has baffled authorities for over 25 years and has been reopened in the hopes that fresh eyes will see what those before them missed.

Golden State Killer Sketch

Wikimedia CommonsVarious sketches of what the Golden State Killer may have looked like.

At the end of 1978, investigators in Danville, Calif., were at a dead end. Over the course of the last few years, 42 people had been attacked, several had been killed, and some had been raped. The only lead they had on the attacker was a generic sketch that changed with every victim’s description. Dubbed the Golden State Killer, it seemed that the murderer could get away with anything.

Then, on December 9, the investigators got a mysterious break in their case. Near the scene of the most recent attack, where a vehicle had been seen, three pages of notebook paper had been found. On one of the pages was a detailed sketch of a neighborhood, with the word “punishment” misspelled below it.

On another, were the words of their killer, written out in neat, practiced, cursive writing. The words described a sixth-grade teacher, who had a penchant for making students write lines. The anger at the lines, the writer claimed, was such that he’d hold on to it forever.

“This is a very sophisticated diagram that someone who has got a career along these lines has done,” said Contra Costa County DA investigator Paul Holes, according to Investigation Discovery. He also called him intelligent, and a “white collar guy,” adding to the mystique of the suspect.

These mysterious, anger-ridden pages were just one of many cryptic clues that the detectives on the case received throughout their investigation, that would make the case of the Golden State Killer all the most mysterious – and all the more chilling.

The case of the Golden State Killer has been one that fascinated and frustrated California law enforcement for over a decade, before running cold. Then, in 2016, it was opened up again, in the hopes that fresh eyes could uncover new evidence.

The case was one of the most complex ones that most detectives had ever seen. At first, they even thought the killer was two people, as there was no clear modus operandi. They branded him the Original Night Stalker, as he seemed to follow the killing patterns of serial murderer Richard Ramirez, whose crimes occurred after those of the Golden State Killer.

What scared detectives the most was that the killer seemed not to care, or even to know whether he was going to kill, rape, or simply bludgeon when he began his attack. Occasionally he would steal valuables from the home, or eat food from the fridge, but he never left behind any indication of who he was.

Golden State Killer Neighborhood Sketch

Wikimedia CommonsThe sketch found with the notebook papers, of an unnamed neighborhood.

However, in March of 1977, the Sacramento Police began to receive phone calls, from someone claiming to be their attacker.

Over the next 24 years, sporadically until 2001, the department and the occasional victim would receive phone calls from a man claiming to be the attacker. Sometimes the calls were threatening, and sometimes they were simply conversational as if the perp was more interested in talking about his day than harassing the authorities or his victims.

Most of the crimes took place in or around Contra Costa County, and eventually, the County DA and his investigators were able to piece together a modus operandi for the killer. His usual victims were women who were home by themselves or lived alone. He would pry open doors or windows, and tie the women up, usually with strips of fabric torn from their own bedsheets.

If a man were home, he would do the same, tying him up in an adjacent room. Then, he would stack breakables, such as teacups or plates, on top of him, telling him if he moved and any of the china broke, he would kill everyone.

Despite his phone calls, and the notebook pages which were found, the police never caught the Golden State Killer. Due to the cryptic nature of his crimes, and the mounting mystery behind him, dozens of communities exist online devoted to pouring over the evidence.

In one such community, author Michelle McNamara built a compelling case based off of FBI information released in 2016. Before her untimely and unexpected death, she compiled her information into a compelling true crime book, which was released posthumously. Her hope, her husband said, was that the information would lead to new breaks in the case. Since the book was published, Investigation Discovery has adapted it into a four-part, two-night special.

According to Investigation Discovery, the series features interviews with an original investigator, a survivor of an attack, a victims family member, and average citizens dedicated to finding the killer.

Watch the two-night special The Golden State Killer: It’s Not Over on Investigation Discovery, starting tonight at 9/8c.

Next, check out the chilling case of Gary Ridgeway, which serial killer Ted Bundy helped solve. Then, check out some of the best serial killer documentaries you can watch on Netflix.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That Is Interesting.
Close Pop-in
Like History Uncovered On Facebook

Get The Most Interesting Stories From History In Your Feed