It’s 1976. You’re getting home late after spending the long northern California summer day at the river. All you want to do is take a shower and crawl into bed. Passing through the dark kitchen, you quietly swear at the milk and bread on the counter you were sure you put away that morning, tossing both in the garbage on your way to the bathroom. You don’t notice the pictures in the hall subtly askew or the side window slightly ajar. As you reach for the door, you hear a man’s voice. “Make one move and you’ll be silent forever and I’ll be gone in the dark.” Joseph James DeAngelo’s victims don’t have to imagine this – they have each experienced a variation of the nightmare inflicted by the Golden State Killer.
A lover of true crime since a teen, Michelle McNamara coined the name “The Golden State Killer” in 2013 after tracking the psychopaths moves for roughly six years. In 2006, she launched her blog, titled “True Crime Diary” and quickly became fascinated with the unsolved cases of the Original Night Stalker, East Area Rapist and Visalia Ransacker. She gained access to 37 boxes of case files and gathered over 3500 digital files over the years – all detailing seemingly unconnected rapes, murders and burglaries from Sacramento to Dana Point. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was an incredibly intimate journey of the terror experienced in California for over a decade and McNamara’s devotion to finding connections that would ultimately aid in the conviction of the Golden State Killer.
I loved every page of this book and the dedication McNamara obviously had to her research. The advancements in technology and DNA evidence that she detailed was fascinating yet bittersweet knowing it would ultimately lead to a conviction after her death. 4 years and 4 months after Michelle McNamara passed away, I watched the live stream of Joseph James DeAngelo receiving multiple life sentences on August 21, 2020. He was a frail, old man wearing a mask with a bald head and dead eyes. You can watch the family statements and full court hearing on youtube. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has since been adapted into a documentary series available on HBO.
This is how it ends for you. “You’ll be silent forever and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once. Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.Michelle McNamara, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark -Letter to an Old Man
I found a used copy of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark at Powell’s in Beaverton and listened to the audiobook through the public library, I recommend either or both.