Update: In the Footsteps of a Killer

Writer Michelle McNamara shares the latest on the manhunt for the Golden State Killer


In the last week I’ve received dozens of responses from readers about my article “In the Footsteps of a Killer.”  Many emails contained insights about the evidence and fresh ideas for how best to catch the Golden State Killer, the elusive serial violent offender that from 1976 to 1986 preyed on victims up and down California.

The map drew the most ideas, with many readers contributing theories based on their professional or academic backgrounds.  One reader, a general contractor with experience with “golf planned communities,” felt the map looked like many of the communities he’d worked on.  The hand drawn paths, he said, resembled golf cart paths.

Another had a chilling insight into the detailed property lines. They’re indicating fence lines, the tipster wrote, because the mapmaker is showing barriers he would encounter while moving around in the dark.

One reader felt there was a clue in the “Mad is the word that reminds me of 6th grade” journal entry. The “6” in “6th” grade looked more like a “G,” she pointed out, adding that the writer clearly went back and inserted the word “the” before the “6,” as if changing what he was originally going to write, which in her opinion was probably the name of the town he grew up in.  A town, she surmised, which begins with “G.”

The “Mad is the word” evidence details the writer’s anger toward his male sixth-grade teacher.  More than one reader pointed out that male sixth-grade teachers were relatively unusual in the 1960s, when the writer presumably was in elementary school.

Another reader noted that Visalia, where the Golden State Killer may have started out as a younger offender, was home to many pilots from nearby Lemoore Naval Air Station.  The killer may have been the son of a pilot, the tipster theorized, as several other locations in the crime series are close to military air bases.

The emails I found most affecting were from people that had lived in Sacramento during the East Area Rapist attacks.  Many of them expressed shock at stumbling across an article about him; some hadn’t realized he turned into a serial killer.  All of them vividly recalled the climate of fear, the plainclothes detectives, patrol cars, and even, one wrote, neighborhood dads patrolling the streets armed and ready.  They remembered the obsession with checking for pry marks on window screens, the hushed whispers about who in the neighborhood was a victim.

That time was a nightmare, one reader wrote, and the memories still haunted her.  But, she concluded, “I’m thankful that he is not forgotten.”


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  • StaceyZ

    Tell us more! This story is incredibly gripping. He’s still out there. We must find him.

  • RyanJ_8489

    I have to say, the first thing that jumped out at me while looking at the map of his attacks was the bypass of Los Angeles. One of the biggest cities in the world, very easy for someone to be invisible, certainly a town that is no stranger to crime, especially in that era. But he went from Ventura to OC without stopping in between? I would wager that there are plenty of cold cases in LA with his name on them.

  • CarlG_1850

    Could he have attended Goshen Elementary school in Visalia?

  • CarlG_1850

    Do you have a more complete copy of the map sketch? It looks like it was cut off. My suspicion is that the map might have a freeway sketched in. That would make the area much easier to find.

  • ss1974

    I think the way the guy wrote 6th grade multiple times in his letter was concistent and did not really have anything to do with possibly revealing a town he lived in that started with a G just because he put the word “the” in front of it….

    Most people write, “when I was in the 6th grade” and not, “when I was in 6th grade”

    I do believe though that if you find the 6th grade male teacher, as male teachers WERE rare in the 60s….or if you find some of the classmates maybe they have insight and can point you in the killer’s direction.

  • RickC_1365

    I believe that an educated people with facts have an above average sixth sense. I think that the people that are knowledgeable about the GSK should be sent a questionnaire composed of about 10 questions. These are the questions that I would ask, I would narrow down the responses to multiple choice type questions and send them out again to the people that answered the original questions.

    The questions are in no particular order.

    1. What story do the shoes tell?

    2. Why did he stop killing?

    3. Where did he learn to tie knots?

    4. What was his family like? Single mother, etc

    5. What kind of personality does he have?

    6. How close have the police come to him…has he been questioned?

    7. Why did he kill…could he have killed several to cover a single murder?

    8. How close is he following the case?

    9. Where is he now…dead, married, single, gay?

    10. What do you know (feel) about this case that hasn’t been talked about?

    This is hardly scientific but it may cause a lot of people to relook at everything and then rethink their conclusions.


    • BH

      1. He needs to run to make a getaway. Running shoes.
      2. DNA profiling appeared in the mid 80s.
      3. A knot book.
      4. Probably Middle Class. He attacks there.
      5. Not like you or I. It is totally incomprehensible.
      6. Face to face, several times. He has been caught several times but fled.
      7. Killed to getaway. Killed to protect some details. Killed to fulfill his fantasy.
      8. 24/7
      9. Probably still alive.
      10. Nothing. Its all there. All we need is a piece of evidence to tie it all together.

  • JoshD_4067

    I saw that they held a town hall meeting to discuss the rapes that had been occurring. According to your article and other reports a man stood up and said how could this happen when there is a man at home in the house. Then a month later that same man who stood up was tied up while his female partner was sexually assaulted.

    1. Why did they not take peoples information when they came to the meeting knowing, or maybe not knowing, this guy would show up. If he did show up and decide not to give his ID then the police should have been on the look out for anyone who came and then turned away. … ALAS that is hindsight.

    2. I’ve seen pics of that town assembly. Are there more available? Is there a video of the assembly? If so then that could mean that he is there on tape or in pictures. Has anyone gone through those pictures and crossed off suspects or tried to identify who each person is in the pics?

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  • SP

    I have a question about the knot. Has it been considered that the suspect is a cowboy or ranch hand? The images of the knots tied do not give enough detail but the images look to have multiple knots on a single strand. A ranch hand specifically a Mexican or Hispanic one would have heard of a hackamore or rope halter that uses a single rope to create the halter. Also, the rope halter uses a fiador knot which looks similar to the diamond knot.