Michelle McNamara obsessed over wanting to solve the case of the East Area Rapist (who would later become known as the Golden State Killer), and it was a pair of cufflinks that finally got her closer.
Based on McNamara’s book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” HBO’s docuseries of the same name chronicles her sleuthing deep into the night of the rapist and killer. She realized that the East Area Rapist (EAR) would steal things from people’s homes that were of sentimental value to his victims, whether they were valuable or not.
In one instance, the EAR, who ended up committing 13 murders and more than 50 rapes in California from 1974 to 1986, stole gold cufflinks monogrammed with “N.R.” Stumbling upon this item, she asked detectives investigating the case whether they had ever looked up stolen items on eBay — which they hadn’t. So, of course, McNamara took it upon herself to do so, and what she found astounded her: items for sale on the shopping website that were identical to the ones in police documents… with the same inscription.
“I think I found him,” McNamara, who died in April 2016, told her husband at the time, Patton Oswalt.
And that’s not where the episode ends. We’ll have to wait until next Sunday to see where that lead took her.
Ultimately, years later, in 2018, authorities charged 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo with eight counts of first-degree murder, based on new DNA evidence. While he cannot be charged with rapes or burglaries from the ’70s because of the statute of limitations, he was charged with 13 related kidnapping and abduction attempts. He appeared in court last Monday to plead guilty to 13 charges of first-degree murder and 13 charges of kidnapping to commit robbery. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In Sunday’s episode, McNamara also explained where her passion for true-crime came from. When she was 14 and living near Chicago, a neighbor of hers was murdered. The case remains unsolved.
She became so invested in her investigations that they would consume her, and even give her vivid dreams, Oswalt says in the documentary. One time, she ran out of the house. Another time, she was laying in bed when Oswalt walked in, and she threw a lamp at his head. Thankfully, she missed it.
New episodes will air every Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO GO, HBO NOW, and on HBO via HBO Max.