In late April, I had the privilege to read and review Michelle McNamara’s book about the man she named The Golden State Killer. Michelle’s book, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, was completed by her husband and others following her untimely death. I’m sure she would be happy to know to know that police finally caught the rapist/murderer, just eight weeks after the book’s publication.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a detailed, case-by-case record of the heinous crimes (at least 12 murders and 50 rapes) committed by one man in California in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.The book itself may or may not not have played a direct part in his capture so much as provided added incentive for a result.
That came about in the most arcane manner. Police lifted a used tissue from a bin outside the home of Joseph James DeAngelo in Citrus Heights, California. It provided the direct DNA evidence required to arrest and charge the one-time police officer with several of the 30- to 40-year-old atrocities.
How did this transpire? Through determination to crack the most frustrating of cold cases, and improvements in DNA testing. Evidence was collected at the time of the crimes, with testing performed as methods improved. DNA from a semen sample at one of the crime scenes eventually linked to a DeAngelo relative through a genealogy website. Once they established the link, detectives focused on making a concrete case, which they managed in relatively short time.
DeAngelo who, in a four-decade investigation, had never been a suspect, was the right age, had the right type of employment, and at the time lived in the areas of the crimes. In the weeks following the link, he was kept under surveillance. A swab was taken from a door handle he used in a shopping centre, but with so many others using the same handle, the evidence was skimpy. The final linking proof came from the disposed tissue.
Seventy-two-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested on April 25, 2018 and charged with several of the crimes, with police expecting numbers to increase. As Anne Marie Schubert, the local district attorney said, “We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew the needle was there.”
Ms Schubert is smiling as is, most likely, Michelle McNamara from beyond the grave.