He goes by many epithets — the Golden State Killer, the Original Night Stalker, the Diamond Knot Killer, the East Area Rapist — but no one knows the real name of the man behind at least 12 murders and 45 rapes in California between 1976 and 1986. The man has never been identified, let alone found.
The decades-old mystery is the subject of a flurry of media attention these days. In February, HarperCollins released I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, a book by true crime writer Michelle McNamara, the late wife of actor Patton Oswalt. And on March 18 at 9 p.m. ET, HLN will debut Unmasking a Killer, a five-part series investigating the serial killer's reign of terror.
Plus, just last year, the FBI and Sacramento law enforcement held a press conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the killer's first attack. "Obviously, with the 40th anniversary, this is a time we want to take to acknowledge this serial offender who was probably one of the most prolific, certainly in California, possibly in the United States, but also to let the victims know that we'll never give up," said Sergeant Paul Belli, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department detective assigned to the case, according to SFGATE.
The Golden State Killer likely started small, SFGATE reports, probably breaking into empty houses. Then, however, he started breaking into houses with the residents still inside. He'd target and stalk single women who lived in single-floor houses — often prepping for the crime by learning the layout of the houses, disabling lights, and taking bullets out of guns. If the woman had a man in the house, he would tie up the man, put him face-down on the floor, and stack dishes on his back. He would tell the man that he'd kill both him and the woman if he heard a plate rattle or drop. Then he'd rape the woman, sometimes pausing to get food from the refrigerator. One victim told police she heard him sobbing "mummy" over and over again. Another heard him chanting "I'll kill 'em, I'll kill 'em." (It wasn't always an empty threat: He apparently murdered Robert Offerman and Debra Alexandria Manning in 1979 because Robert had broken free of his restraints and had made a move.) He would also terrorize former victims by calling them afterward, sometimes years after the attack.
This man started in the Sacramento area before venturing elsewhere in California over his 10-year spree. Then, in 1986, he vanished. The police are still on the hunt, however. They say he's white and probably around 70 years old. At the time of his attacks, he had light-colored hair, stood at 5-foot-9, and was in good physical shape. Anyone with information is urged to call the FBI's hotline at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or to submit a tip online.