What is this about?: This is the story of the investigation into the search for the GSK from the POV of the cops that took on the search in their spare time to catch this killer, decades after he first started. It’s about their desire to do right by the victims, despite the dead ends they kept going down. Paul Holes was the cop that spearheaded this search, but this book references the men and women that he worked with to find the GSK.
What else is this about?: This is the cops’ story, who persevered through the decades to find the killer. Victims are given a voice here too, and yes, I cried at the end bc they had given up hope and Paul Holes and his team gave it back to them.
The Golden State Killer. The East Area Rapist. The Original Night Stalker. The Visalia Ransacker.
The monster who preyed on Californians from 1976 to 1986 was known by many aliases. And while numerous police sketches tried to capture his often-masked visage, the Golden State Killer spent more than 40 years not only faceless, but nameless.
For his victims, for their families and for the investigators tasked with finding him, the senselessness and brutality of the Golden State Killer’s acts were matched only by the powerlessness they felt at failing to uncover his identity. To be sure, the chances of obtaining closure—or any form of justice—after so many years were slim to none, at best.
Then, on April 24, 2018, authorities arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo at his home in Citrus Heights, Calif., based on DNA evidence linked to the crimes. After a decades-long hunt, a suspect was behind bars. Could it be that evil finally had a name?
Delivering all-new details about the investigation and a stunning final act to the events of Michelle McNamara’s haunting bestseller, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, this is the true story of how the suspected Golden State Killer was captured, as told, first-hand, by those closest to the case:
Paul Holes—the forensic criminologist and retired Costa County detective who spent 20 years trying to crack the Golden State Killer case, and finally did.
Jim Clemente (Host)—a retired FBI profiler and former New York City prosecutor who has investigated some of the highest profile criminal cases in U.S. history, including the Unabomber.
Please note: This work contains descriptions of violent crime and sexual assault and may not be suitable for all listeners.
Yesterday I reviewed I’ll be Gone in the Dark, which I read earlier this year, and didn’t get around to posting. Which I’m kind of glad for now, because as much as that is the story of Michelle McNamara’s passion for finding the truth about the Golden State Killer (GSK), this gives voice to the people she was writing about, she was in contact with while putting together her book. And it gives victims a voice too, which makes it all the more powerful.
This is an Audible original show, so think of it as a documentary for your ears.
The show delves into the history of the GSK, and right from the beginning begins to give voice to his victims.
Please don’t ignore the warnings this book comes with.
From the history, it introduces listeners to Paul Holes, a now retired detective who found the case files for the East Area Rapist (as the he was called then) one day when he opened a dusty file cabinet. From there, he followed the case, searching for suspects through 24 years as a cop, pretty much right up until the day he retired.
In the show, he takes listeners and his interviewer to the houses where victims were attacked, reminding us how different life was then, and what effect the EAR/GSK had on life back then. They also discuss the cops — the good and the bad of the time: the cops who did everything they could, and those who preferred to keep their clues to themselves in order to be the one to find the EAR (as he was then) instead of pooling their knowledge and considering a different POV.
It’s hard to describe the difference in this book to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, but I think it comes down to it having a different kind of intimacy to the one that book offered by letting listeners hear from the investigators and the victims. These victims talk about what happened to them, about talking to the cops after and their experience of what it was was to be a rape victim at that time.
What I respected about this show was that it also shared what happened to the people left behind, forever affected by what GSK did. The one that I can’t quite shake is the story told of Debbi Domingo who lived with her divorced mum and like all teenagers do went through a rough patch with her that resulted in her leaving home for days at a time until she returned. Except, during one of those times, her mum and Greg an on-off boyfriend Debbi adored, were murdered in her home. Debbi describes fighting with her mum, being so angry with her — and realising that’s the last conversation she’d ever have with her.
The focus might be the nuts and bolts of the investigation, but these stories are the heart of the investigation.
One of the things that struck me were the dead ends Paul ran into, when he thought he had surely, surely found the killer. These leads consumed him… until the man in question was exonerated. The depression (not sure if it was clinically defined as such) that followed after was something that he had to drag himself out of, readjust his thinking and figure out where he had gone wrong.
I feel like I’m not actually doing what spending one to two years of his life chasing both suspects (at separate times) actually meant to him — deep down, he was certain he’d found the right guy, only to be proven wrong. How agonising would that be knowing the victims and the people wanting an end to their torture — and being so close, only to be proven wrong?
He also mentions working with Michelle McNamara on her book, and an article she was writing at one point and about the relationship they built as friends and colleagues on this search. He describes a message he got from her, only to find out the next day through an email from someone else that she had passed in her sleep. It speaks to the lengths she went to maintain the accuracy of her book, and the relationships she forged in her pursuit of this case.
The show also delves into how he and his team caught the killer, by uploading the DNA they had to an ancestry website, and using publically available information found themselves with a pool of suspects they had to whittle down to find a viable suspect — Joseph James DeAngelo. Keep in mind, computers could not do anything like they can now, and DNA was in it’s infancy — so what his team was doing, was building family trees to see who would fit what they did know about the suspect.
So, this is the part that gets interesting and confusing because the details of the science did make my ears/eyes glaze over, but mercifully this part is only a couple of minutes in about 6 hours-ish of an absolutely riveting story.
I cried at the end — at the relief in the victims who were part of this show when DeAngelo was caught. He continued to terrorise his victims long after he had raped them, trying to make them fear he would come back. Now, with his arrest, they were free after decades of living in fear.
The methods used to catch GSK have already resulted in other arrests in other cases, which maybe says where crime is going these days in finding new ways to catch criminals.
And Paul Holes — he is happily retired. On the same day that DeAngelo retired himself from his job.