‘I’ll Be Gone In The Dark’: The True Story Behind HBO’s Docuseries

One of the most shocking true crime cases in recent years is getting the premium documentary treatment. This summer marks the premiere of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, director Liz Garbus’ six-episode deep dive into the Golden State Killer and the surprising woman who indirectly led to his arrest.

Every part of the Golden State Killer’s case is gruesome and fascinating. But Garbus deftly intertwines the monster at the docuseries’ center with the story of the unspoken hero who dedicated her life to bringing him down. Here’s what you need to know about the case, and why Michelle McNamara is such a big deal.

Who Was the Golden State Killer, aka the East Area Rapist?

He was known by three names. The first was the Visalia Ransacker back when his crime spree was limited to burglaries. He then progressed to the East Area Rapist or the Original Night Stalker once his heinous appetite increased. He was finally and most chillingly known as the Golden State Killer.

Between 1974 to 1986 this mysterious figure haunted the state of California. He would often spend days scoping out his targeted house, always focusing on quiet and deceptively peaceful suburbs. Initially when he began raping his victims he avoided houses with large dogs or husbands. But even that changed once the media tried to summarize his habits. As if to prove he was paying attention to the endless reports about him, the EAR started to target couples later in his crime spree. Many of the stories were the same. He would bind and blind these couples before stacking dishes atop the man. Before he assaulted the helpless women he would warn that if he heard a single dish rattle he would murder them both. Eventually he moved on to do just that.

Though the EAR terrorized an entire state for over a decade, he was far from a prolific criminal. The Golden State Killer would often take trinkets from his victims, and it wasn’t unusual to find distinctive shoe prints at the scene of his crimes. This sloppiness speaks to one of the true tragedies of the EAR case. This case was always solvable. But because it spanned so many different police precincts during a time when law enforcement didn’t regularly share information with other officers in many ways this horrifying monster fell through the cracks.

Who Was Michelle McNamara?

If you love true crime there’s a very good chance you already know McNamara’s name. The writer first started to gain fame through her blog, TrueCrimeDiary. Most true crime writing falls into one of two categories. Either it’s hopelessly dry or it’s so sensationalized it feels gross to read it. McNamara’s writing never fell into these traps.

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TrueCrimeDiary added humanity to its crime stories. It rarely turned these criminals into heroes or antiheroes as often happens but always kept the victims and survivors front and center. McNamara brought that remarkable style to her book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. Half a story about her own fascination with true crime and the EAR case in particular, half an actual attempt to identify the Original Night Stalker, the book is unlike anything else in the genre.

Sadly, as praised as McNamara’s book is, it was never supposed to be released in the manner it was. While working on the book McNamara overdosed on a combination of medications. She died in April of 2016 at the age of 46. She is survived by her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, and their daughter Alice.

What Is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark?

That’s the name of McNamara’s book. Released in February of 2018, the book has been largely praised. There’s also a good case to be made that I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and McNamara’s tireless work on it led to the arrest of the actual Golden State Killer. While researching material for the book, McNamara worked closely with several detectives, highlighting details and connections they overlooked in this cold case.

The chilling title of the book and the docuseries were taken from the killer and rapist himself. The Golden State Killer reportedly said to one of his victims, “You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

Was the Golden State Killer Ever Found?

He certainly was. Roughly two months after the release of McNamara’s book Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested. A U.S. navy veteran and former police officer, DeAngelo’s life and moves throughout California almost perfectly match the EAR’s crime spree. He was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder based on DNA evidence as well as 13 kidnapping counts. The police were able to find him due to the recent surge of DNA ancestry testing, something that McNamara long suspected would eventually bring him down.

Earlier this month it was reported that DeAngelo would plead guilty to 13 murder and kidnapping charges and just as many rapes. This admission will be part of a deal to avoid the death penalty. DeAngelo is supposed to confess his guilt on June 29.

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Watch I’ll Be Gone in the Dark on HBO

Source: New York Post

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