A new documentary will tell the story of the Golden State Killer, who managed evade authorities for more than 40 years, and the author who dedicated years to trying to hunt him down.
The six-part HBO series, titled I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, is based on Michelle McNamara’s 2018 book of the same name, which documented 40 years of the crime writer trying to unmask the identity of the most prolific serial murderer and rapist in US history.
McNamara made no secret of the fact had an obsession with the killer, stemming back to an unsolved murder in her hometown as a child.
‘I had a murder habit and it was bad,’ she wrote. ‘I knew I would be feeding it for the rest of my life.’
Dubbed the Golden State Killer by McNamara, the mystery murderer was given various different names for his crimes – the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker – before he was finally outed as Joseph James DeAngelo Jr in 2018.
DeAngelo Jr was a Navy veteran and former police officer who turned to crime when he began burgling homes in Visalia, California, in 1973. In just two years he’s thought to have robbed at least 120 homes, damaging homes, scattering women’s underwear around and committed at least one murder.
He then went on to rape, torture and murder many more, before seemingly disappearing off the face of the Earth in 1986, leaving his crimes unsolved.
One of his first victims, Kris Pedretti, recounts the night she was brutally attacked and raped by DeAngelo in her family home at the age of 15 while her parents were out at a Christmas party, on December 18, 1976.
She told the documentary:
I felt a knife at my throat, and then he told me in my ear, ‘If you scream or move, I will put this knife through your throat and I’ll be gone in the dark.’
DeAngelo went on to drag Pedretti down the hallway, through the garage and into her backyard, where he placed on a picnic bench and cut all her clothes off.
‘He would bring me inside and he would rape me. Take me back outside, then inside, rape me again, back outside and then another time,’ she said.
‘I was pretty numb but what I do remember is that he had moved the couch very close to our fire place but because I was blindfolded and couldn’t see I thought he had caught our couch on fire. That was really scary because I thought I was going to die and then he was gone.’
Sadly, Pedretti was one of 62 women who were brutally attacked in a similar fashion, before going on to cause the deaths of 13 more.
It wasn’t until McNamara presented 3,500 pages of evidence, contained in her book, that authorities were able to reopen the cold case and finally track him down.
Paul Holes, a retired detective who had worked on the case, told the documentary:
She had material that other investigators had never seen. Even though she never had a badge and a gun, Michelle was always one of us.
Unfortunately, McNamara never got to see the day DeAngelo was finally brought into custody and charged over the heinous crimes, as she died of an accidental overdose on April 21, 2016. However, her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, commissioned two investigative journalists, Paul Haynes and Billy Jenson, to help finish her book and publish it in 2018.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark premiers on HBO on June 28, 2020.
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