Profile of a Killer - CityThink - Los Angeles magazine

Profile of a Killer

A sketch of the attacker in the 1970s, one of the few derived from rape victims' descriptions

The Golden State Killer (known as the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker by authorities) is an unidentified violent offender whose DNA and m.o. link him to 50 rapes and sexually motivated attacks in Northern California (1976-1979) and to ten murders in Southern California (1979-1986).

There is probable cause to believe the offender is responsible for the 1978 murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore in Sacramento.  Authorities also believe he’s connected to more than 100 sexually motivated burglaries, attacks, and the murder of a man in Visalia, from April 1974 to December 1975.

Physical description:


  • White male
  • Five feet seven to five feet ten (most often described by witnesses as five feet nine)
  • 18 to 30 years old in 1976
  • Athletic build
  • Light eyes
  • 8½ to 9 shoe size

Previously unreleased evidence:


Signature behaviors/clues:

  • Frequently traveled by way of creeks, greenbelts, and drainage ditches
  • Prowler
  • Proficient cat burglar, but robbery appears to be his ruse to allay victims’ fears of a greater physical attack and isn’t the primary motive
  • Crank calls to victims before and after crimes
  • Ski mask and gloves
  • Tennis shoes
  • Used shoelaces, twine, drapery cord, and torn towels to bind victims
  • Sometimes cut or disabled phone lines in victims’ homes
  • Would stack dishes on bound male victim’s back as alarm system
  • Liked to throw a towel over lamp or illuminated television for lighting
  • Sometimes used stolen bikes to get to and from crime scenes
  • Frequently used hand lotion for sexual lubrication
  • Consistently masturbated and had the female victim stimulate him with her hands bound behind her back
  • Spoke in a whisper through clenched teeth
  • Used a knife and/or firearm to exert additional control over victims
  • Often consumed food and/or drinks taken from victims’ kitchens


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  1. Rudy posted on 05/20/2013 01:49 PM
    AWESOME collaboration between LA Magazine and Michelle McNamara, one of my favorite journalists. I think this collaboration, and the way in which it is laid out on-line, will set a sort of benchmark for what journalists and publications can do together with today's technology. On a separate note, I am having trouble looking at the individual items from the "Previously unreleased evidence" frame. When I click on the letter, only 3 lines from the letter appear zoomed-in; I can't scroll up and down the letter. The items slideshow also doesn't pause, and I can't look at the individual items by themselves. These are minor issues(which are probably mine), but I would appreciate any help with this. Thank you for this great journalism.
  2. Doc Sierra posted on 03/07/2014 09:44 PM
    Does anyone know where the journal and the map were found?
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