Some crimes are committed by unknown persons. In other cases we know their names. Sometimes we discover their DNA and learn details about them without yet having a name. And some carry more than one name.
I knew the name “Night Stalker.” This name usually refers to Richard Ramirez who was on death row until he died in 2013. Click on his name to read up on him. I also knew there was an “Original Night Stalker.” However, he is also known under the names “East Area Rapist” and “Golden State Killer.” To complicate matters, he’s also called EARONS which stands for East Area Rapist Original Night Stalker.
When I met the daughter of one of his victims, Debbi Domingo at CrimeCon, we discussed how relatively unknown this man and his crimes are compared to some serial killers and mass murderers. I told her that the many names might just be one of the reasons.
There has not been one catch-all phrase/name for this man. However, a new name isn’t the solution as it will only add to the confusion. Clarity and timelines will make a difference. And that is where our guest blogger Kat Winters comes in.
The guest post below by Kat Winters introduces you to her book about the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer. I asked Kat to not just introduce the book and the cases but to highlight what made her write it, what made it personal.
Unmasking the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer
It’s not my favorite phrase. Like most kids, I was afraid of the dark. Well, not the dark, per se. Afraid of the “boogeyman.” And I had a sibling who loved to take advantage of it. She’d creep up behind me, quiet as could be, and then quickly grab my throat. “Gotcha!” she’d shout, and I’d cry and scream and carry on until a parent intervened.
To me, the boogeyman was no laughing matter. He was there… I was sure of it. Under the bed, in the closet, in the backyard, in the attic… everywhere. He was the omniscient embodiment of fear that kept me awake at night and caused me to jump at every noise. The catch-all figure onto which I projected my fear of a world I was too young to understand.
As a child, our nightmares and our dreams seem real to us. Children live in a world where boogeymen exist, but they also live in a world where every star in the sky is attainable. Children know in their hearts that they can grow up to be a writer or a detective or someone who gets to spend their days helping people. For some reason, as we grow older, we “learn” that this is “kids’ stuff” and we become indoctrinated into the world of practicality. We learn that there IS no boogeyman, and that everyday life means that we get a 9-to-5 job where we whittle away at mortgages and drop pennies into retirement accounts and work 60 hours a week to get promotions in jobs that wear us out.
But I’ve learned over the past year that the world of practicality is a mirage, and that my childhood self was right all along. Dreams can come true, and I can be a writer and a detective and I can spend my days helping people. On the flip side of that though, I learned that I was right about one other thing. The boogeyman does, in fact, exist.
About a year or two ago I learned about a criminal called the East Area Rapist (and later, the Golden State Killer). He got his start as a home-intrusion burglar/rapist, operating prolifically in a group of neighborhoods east of Sacramento in the mid-1970s. The typical East Area Rapist (or “EAR”) attack involved the victim(s) being awakened from a sound sleep in the middle of the night by a flashlight beaming into their eyes. They’d barely catch a fleeting glimpse of a masked intruder before their hands were bound tightly, their house was ransacked, and the woman was raped multiple times under a barrage of threats. He’d leave silently, his victims still bound tightly and in no position to summon help in a timely manner. He couldn’t be tracked, he couldn’t be spotted, and he couldn’t be identified. Police couldn’t catch him, and he flew under the radar so well that neighbors often shrugged him off. He was careful… so careful that in all the years that he offended, police weren’t sure if they even had his fingerprint.
He attacked for years without being caught, haunting the night like a spectre and only attacking vulnerable victims in situations where he was at full advantage. And as he moved into Southern California in 1979, it seemed he was no longer satisfied with simply raping his victims. He began killing, and this phase of the crime spree earned him the name “Golden State Killer” decades later. Despite herculean efforts by police, nothing substantial related to the killer’s identity could be uncovered. Because the offender kept moving around, the crimes weren’t even immediately tied together.
With over one hundred burglaries, fifty rapes, and possibly a dozen murders, the “EAR” / “GSK” was truly one of history’s most vile and heinous criminals. He had attacked a dozen communities over a five-hundred mile range and over a ten-year period. He went on a sudden hiatus in 1981, and then killed one more victim five years later. Aside from a few phone calls to former victims (the last one occurring in 2001), he’s completely vanished.
You’d think that something so sweeping and tragic would be more well-known, but it’s not. You’d think that information about it would be well-organized, but it wasn’t. The case happened during an era of lackluster communication among police jurisdictions and a limited availability of technology and computers. “Time” became an enemy of this case, and as the years went by and victims, witnesses, and detectives began to die off, it even started to run the risk of being somewhat forgotten. The efforts of a handful of dedicated Law Enforcement officials, researchers, and survivors were the only thing that kept it alive over the past several years.
But even though “time” has been an enemy to the case, it’s been a friend, as well. DNA technology came onto the scene, which tied several of the murders and attacks together. Recently, officers from different jurisdictions, retired detectives, and previously-unknown witnesses have come forward with new clues. New eyes have looked at the case, and in 2016, the FBI became involved. The crimes are finally getting the attention and manpower it deserves in the modern era, and we now have the luxury of hindsight, history, and cutting-edge technology. Thousands of clues are available to us now that just couldn’t be aggregated at the time of the actual offenses.
When I learned about this case and saw the raw potential of these dizzying, convoluted segments of information, I knew right away that I could help and that I had the drive and the skill set to dive into the case with a carving knife and craft it into something that the general public could consume, understand, and assist with. The learning curve for this complex case was way too steep for the general public. I wanted to smash it flat.
My first course of action was to create the most straightforward, fact-based online resource possible for people learning about the case. I gathered a team together and we made it in short order. People were hungry for this no-nonsense approach, and the day that https://www.coldcase-earons.com started getting over 1,000 unique hits was surreal. The amount of e-mail, information, tips, and correspondence we were receiving was even more surreal. As the website got going and its usefulness increased, I was appointed to a moderator position at the main EAR/GSK discussion forum, and several victims, survivors, and even past/present Law Enforcement officers generously spent their time assisting with me with our work and research.
We had simply set out to clarify the facts of the case and present them in a useful, informative manner, but clearly my obsession had become much more than that. Through the popularity of the website and the e-mail/discussions I was involved in, I suddenly found my finger on the pulse of the case in a unique way. The different vantage points that I could see the case from gave me a real sense where the knowledge gaps were, how the interplay and dynamics among the different parts of the cold-case ecosystem worked, and gave me a concrete sense of the evidence and materials people were looking for when they started to learn about the case.
I could also clearly see that my goal of streamlining all of this information for everyone had not yet been met, and that there was an entire segment of the population that needed an off-web presentation. So I thought long and hard about it, and even though I was worn out from creating the website and dedicating so much time to the case already, I decided to take yet another dive in the deep end. I started writing a book, aiming at making the most comprehensive and accessible piece of work on the EAR/GSK that could be produced.
As I forged the chaos surrounding his crime spree into an organized litany of facts and narrative, the nightmares and dreams of my youth met each other, shook hands, and marched in step. At the end of the journey, I had assembled 186,000 words together and crafted what became my first True Crime book: Case Files of the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer.
The goal is to raise public awareness, provide researchers with a solid set of facts to explore, and to ultimately identify this nameless, faceless “boogeyman” who has haunted more than his allotment of nightmares.No one was more surprised than me to see this book breaking into the Top 20 on some of the Amazon charts. If you measure success by the metrics we use, though, only time will tell.
Take it from me. The boogeyman exists, and I just spent three months writing about him. However, since we’re arming ourselves with public awareness, knowledge, DNA evidence, and tenacity, we’re lifting the mask off of him inch by inch. As the effort to identify this criminal intensifies, it’s now WE who have become a sort of “boogeyman.” It could be any day now that some detective or intrepid reader will find a way to put “two and two” together. It’ll be one of us who figuratively or literally pops out from around the corner and startles him.
And as the police bind his wrists with handcuffs, just as he bound so many helpless victims’ wrists, there will only be one thing left to say. A phrase that I’m sure I’ll learn to love.
Kat Winters is a True Crime writer and researcher. Her blog (coldcasewriter.com) debuts later this month, and she runs a website at coldcase-earons.com. She recently released her first book, Case Files of the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer with Keith Komos, a social media forensics expert.