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.”