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'I'll Be Gone in the Dark': When the Golden State Killer Went From Rapist to Murderer

TheWrap logo TheWrap 7/13/2020 Beatrice Verhoeven
a person holding a sign: Golden State Killer I'll Be Gone in the Dark © TheWrap Golden State Killer I'll Be Gone in the Dark

The Golden State Killer wasn't always a killer. He first terrorized California's Bay Area with burglaries and rapes, taking on the name of the East Area Rapist. It wasn't until 1979, after he migrated to Southern California, that "murderer" was added to his moniker.

Episode 3 of HBO's "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" delves into the Golden State Killer's murder victims, as well as Michelle McNamara's journey into publishing her book about her investigation into his criminal activities. McNamara was a true-crime fan, who spent a lot of time investigating the case and took it upon herself to solve it — eventually, she would write a book titled "I'll Be Gone in the Dark."

Two years after McNamara's death in 2016, authorities charged 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo with eight counts of first-degree murder, based on new DNA evidence. While he cannot be charged with rapes or burglaries from the '70s because of the statute of limitations, he was charged with 13 related kidnapping and abduction attempts. He appeared in court last month to plead guilty to 13 charges of first-degree murder and 13 charges of kidnapping to commit robbery. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

As revealed in the episode, the Killer's first murder occurred in December 1979 in Goleta, California, after a botched attack two months earlier. There, he killed Robert Offerman and Debra Manning when Offerman escaped his restraints and charged at the man now known as DeAngelo. Three months later, he murdered Charlene and Lyman Smith in Ventura, California. It was the first time he murdered for "psychological relief" rather than as "self-defense," an investigator says in the documentary.

The murder of Keith and Patrice Harrington in a gated community in Dana Point, California, came five months later — authorities believed meant he was "honing his craft." He killed again in 1981, and his fifth murder in 1981 of Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez was called "very violent" by law enforcement. In fact, an officer in the documentary says one of her colleagues was "still greatly disturbed by the amount of damage done to [Domingo]."

Although Northern California authorities believed the attacks had stopped, he had just migrated south. In fact, the task force investigating the "East Area Rapist" was shut down.

While his murders are explored, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" also chronicles how McNamara's book came about. After her Los Angeles Magazine article was published, it exploded on the internet, and McNamara was thrust into the spotlight. That's when she got a call for a book deal.

But as she continued to write, she became more and more paranoid about leaving doors unlocked or her daughter, Alice, unattended for even a minute. To quelch her fears, she and her husband, Patton Oswalt, bought a gun.

A quick update on our last post about Episode 2, titled "When Michelle McNamara Thought She Found the Golden State Killer."  In episode 3, McNamara reveals that the cufflinks she found on eBay weren't the ones stolen from a home burglary.

New episodes will air every Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO GO, HBO NOW, and on HBO via HBO Max.


Video: Residents react to police presence at shooting site (Associated Press)

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