Crowdsleuthing

Date Published 03.26.13

The latest piece of evidence in the hunt for the Golden State Killer is a new audio file believed to be of the suspect’s voice.  This clip is from a Sacramento-area 911 call placed in late 1977 by an unknown male claiming to be the East Area Rapist.  Investigators would like to identify the man on this tape, and believe that his voice sounds similar to the “Is Ray there?” caller.  Several readers have chimed in to say they think the voices sound similar, with some adding that the caller’s speech patterns suggest a West Coast native.

 

The tips and insights coming in over the past few weeks have been fantastic.  I’ve categorized some of the ones I found most interesting.

 

The tattoo

 

A female child whose mother was a victim of the East Area Rapist reported to police that during the incident she thought she glimpsed a tattoo on the offender’s arm that resembled the Schlitz Malt liquor bull.  This young witness was the only one to report seeing such a tattoo.  Still, when I interviewed Larry Crompton, the former Contra Costa County investigator on the EAR Task Force who wrote Sudden Terror, he felt the witness was reliable and her account worthy. 

 

 

 

 

 

The other day a reader got in touch with me with an interesting possibility about the tattoo.  What struck him right away, he said, was that tattoos were relatively rare among young people in the 1970s.  But they were popular with sailors.  In fact, he said, he recalled that the Naval squadron VFA-37 had adopted the Schlitz Malt liquor bull as its mascot.

 

 

 

 

 

The unit is based in Norfolk, Virginia, the tipster wrote, but he noted that there’s a major Naval Air Station just west of Visalia (Lemoore), in California.  He speculates that the offender was a naval rating working on a flight deck serving the squadron.

 

“If he was in the Navy and this is his squadron he was on the USS Saratoga,” writes the tipster.  “The Navy ought to have a record of the crew of the Saratoga from that period.  And with that they would have blood types.”

 

Geography

 

In looking at a map of the attack sites up and down California one reader immediately thought of Amtrak. “If you look at a map from 1981 it rides the coast,” wrote the tipster in an email. “You could bring a bike on the train or steal a bike from a station and ride to any location. And ride back or take the bus or take a cab. This was also a growth time for Amtrak adding new cars to the lines mid 1970s-1980s.”

 

The map

 

A reader identifying himself as a “long time Dungeons and Dragons player” wrote to say that the style and conventions of the map looks very much like something a player of Dungeons and Dragons would draw.  

 

Another said with the confidence that the map artist is right handed.  “There is more detail on the upper left side of the map where a right-handed person would begin, and more smudges on the right side where his hand rested as he drew.”

 

The same tipster added, “The artist probably has trouble finishing any involved tasks. Note the finer details (including parking spaces) in the upper left hand corner where he begins, compared with the quickly drawn, rather sloppy areas found in the lower right portion of the map.  His drawing gives evidence of some training in architecture, but may not work in that field, as he can't be bothered finishing a task to the same standard when he loses interest.”

 

The tipster said it appears the artist was using an unusually soft lead such as 2B (iconographic lead), and in that time period the softer leads would have been more of a specialty item found in art supply or campus stores.

 

The fact that he was still using those pencils at the time of his letter might indicate that he was taking a class that required them, or that he used them in his profession.

 

“I would expect that he chose a job requiring some technical proficiency that allowed him to drive into neighborhoods and enter homes as part of his work.  For one specific example among many, IBM in Santa Barbara had several of such repair positions in the 70s and early 80s, fixing electronic typewriters in homes and businesses.  Individual IBM work areas ranged from Goleta to Ventura.  Workers were on a loose tether and not under direct daily scrutiny of a supervisor, and could freely drive around neighborhoods.  Transferring job locations was fairly easy.  I wouldn't be surprised if at least one murder victim had an item in the house that had recently been repaired in their home, or had a picture that had been framed and delivered, etc.  (Postal worker seems similar, but requires some seniority to transfer around easily.)  Jobs like construction worker or furniture mover may not be as likely for the killer, because such jobs are closely monitored (and workers are criticized), and perhaps too closely scrutinized for that writer's personal comfort.”  

 

His last bit of analysis about a victim having an item repaired, or “a picture that had been framed and delivered,” leapt out at me, and  I recalled a detail from the Janelle Cruz homicide.  Shortly before Janelle’s murder the Cruz family had a large mirror delivered and hung, and later it was recalled that Janelle and her mother had discussed in front of the man hanging the mirror how her parents were leaving soon for a trip to Mexico, and Janelle would be left alone in the house.  Janelle’s stepfather later had a small dispute with the man over the cost of the work.  The detail about the mirror worker wasn’t remembered until later, as initially it looked like police had a good suspect in Janelle’s murder, and even made an arrest, until that suspect was exonerated and released.

 

By the time the mirror man was remembered, they’d lost track of identifying details like the name of the company he worked for, and the lead, like so many others, went nowhere.

 

 

 



The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary: https://t.co/ijA8xHJ8Tm
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.