Saturday, October 6, 2018

Book Review- I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

By Dark Sleuth

A single prolific criminal terrorized communities in Northern and Southern California.  He was a peeper, a burglar, a rapist and a killer.

For decades he remained nameless except for several monickers that, like his crimes, traversed the state.  
It started in the early 1970s in Visalia, California, where a man peeped, stalked and burglarized homes.  He earned the name the "Visalia Ransacker."  After moving north and making Sacramento County and the surrounding areas his hunting ground, he became the "East Area Rapist."  Later he targeted southern California, seemingly ending his crime spree in the mid 1980s in Orange County.  By then he was known as the "Original Night Stalker."    

What followed was silence.  Some believed that he had died.

But not Michelle McNamara, the writer and blogger behind True Crime Diary.  She predicted that he was still alive and would be found living a quiet, nondescript life.  

 In 2013, McNamara consolidated the previous monickers into one.  She rebranded the unknown perpetrator as the "Golden State Killer" in her Los Angeles Magazine article titled, "In the Footsteps of a Killer." 
Nearly 5 years later authorities announced the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo on April 24, 2018. He was a Navy veteran and former police officer.  DeAngelo was living in the suburbs near Sacramento.  The suspected Golden State Killer was caught when his DNA profile was uploaded to a genealogical database and it revealed a familial link.  

Sadly, despite all of her hard work on the case, McNamara passed away before her book was published and before police made an arrest. She died in 2016.

*   *   *

 I'll Be Gone in the Dark is a book meticulously researched.  True to its title, the book describes the author's growing obsession with the case.  In the beginning, McNamara tells of taking over her daughter's playroom at night as her family slept.  Surrounded by toys in a still house, she poured over details in online forums run by amateur sleuths.

Over time, McNamara gained the trust of investigators and was given extraordinary access to case files. 

It is strange to read the book after the news of the arrest.  As Rolling Stone reports, "The timeline for all these crimes significantly overlaps with DeAngelo's own history."  Even during the crime spree, authorities suspected that the perpetrator may have had military training and/or been a police officer.  

This is evident in a chilling eyewitness account McNamara describes of the "Visalia Ransacker" studying a target. 

One night, a young man was waiting for his girlfriend outside her home.  They were going out.  Inside his girlfriend was talking to her mom.  As he waited, he spotted a figure in the distance.  A dark-clothed man stared at the young man's girlfriend through the house's front windows.  The dark-clothed man seemed entranced.

The boyfriend stayed in his position, not visible to the voyeur. He watched as the man dropped to the ground and began a military crawl, quickly approaching the house.  When the man stood up, the boyfriend made his presence known.  It spooked the voyeur and there was a chase.  It ended with the Visalia Ransacker getting away- he seemed to be armed.

Even in his earliest cases, long before he escalated to rape and murder, the Visalia Ransacker/Golden State Killer, was using his military training to reconnoiter.  Practicing his approach, gathering information until he could strike.  Gaming the advantage. 

As McNamara had predicted, the perpetrator would eventually be found among the same communities he targeted: middle-class suburbs.  

The title I'll Be Gone in the Dark refers to something the Golden State Killer said to threaten a victim.  He was right, of course.  After each attack he was gone, protected both by the darkness and his knowledge of military and police procedures.