“Why don’t you get the hell out of my life!” were the final haunting words, wrote Michelle McNamara, that Debbi Domingo yelled to her mother Cheri as she slammed down the phone. The next day Debbi learned her mother had been bludgeoned to death.
The East Area Rapist (EAR) that was terrorizing suburban Californians in the late 1970s had evolved.
No longer were detectives following the slither of a trail left by a peeping Tom planted in front of a young woman’s window with the imprint of a tennis shoe, but rather a monster under a ski mask that studied his victims, their homes, calculating the area, before committing rape and brutal murder.
For over a decade communities felt unhinged as the elusive serial (EAR) rapist turned Golden State Killer picked off his victims – first startling them awake with a flashlight in the darkness and then paralyzing them with fear before he slipped away into the dead of the night.
A true crime journalist Michelle McNamara became hooked on the case. She created a popular website called True Crime Diary determined to breathe new life into old clues and dead ends that had left detectives baffled and frustrated, while all the time trying to help them locate the violent psychopath.
The faceless killer dominated McNamara’s life. She cultivated relationships with investigators both active and retired, interviewed victims with empathy, studied police reports, reached out to witnesses, revisited the neighbourhoods, and tapped into online communities obsessed with the case.
McNamara gained trust with detectives across numerous jurisdictions with her unflinching perseverance for justice, not glory. In the pages of ‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ she brought to life a handful of the crimes with impeccable research, the flair of a natural storyteller, and skillful poise handling the victims’ privacy and suffering.
Photographs of victims, various sketches of the killer, reports, and maps are included within the pages of this absorbing (adult) nonfiction, which is a must-read for any armchair detective or lover of a fresh contribution to the literature of true crime.
The Golden State Killer raped more than 50 women and murdered at least 13 people. It was one of the coldest cases, filled with twists, false hopes, and dead ends. Time was running out.
In April 2016, McNamara died suddenly.
When she died, McNamara was midway through writing I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The lead researcher for McNamara called Paul Haynes and acclaimed investigative journalist Billy Jensen helped tie up the loose ends of her material. Gillian Flynn wrote the introduction of this book, and McNamara’s husband Patton Oswalt added the afterword.
McNamara lived in Los Angeles and is survived by Oswalt and their daughter Alice.