In the 1970s and 1980s, Northern California faced a rash of rapes and murders, all allegedly carried out by the same man: the Golden State Killer. For decades, the case remained one of the most notorious unsolved mysteries in history, but now, Sacramento police have arrested a suspect — and it might be thanks in part to Patton Oswalt’s late wife, Michelle McNamara.
The Sacramento Bee reported today, April 25th, that police have arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo in connection to the case. DeAngelo is believed to have raped 45 people and committed 12 murders throughout the state of California from 1976 to 1986.
McNamara, who was married to Oswalt until her death in 2016, had long been intrigued by the case of the Golden State Killer (sometimes called the East Area Rapist). According to The Guardian, she began compiling information about the serial killer in 2007, which she later used to write an article for Los Angeles magazine. At the time of her death, she had been working on a book about the case, and, in late February, Oswalt posthumously released it, titled I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.
The true crime book was a smash success, rocketing to the top of the bestseller charts. And now that Sacramento police may have caught the Golden State Killer, many, including the team behind I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, are lauding McNamara’s investigative reporting.
According to the Daily Beast, the Bee reported that DeAngelo’s arrest came in the wake of a “renewed push” to solve the case on the part of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Although it’s not clear whether or not the county’s decision was affected by McNamara’s reporting, the true crime book has had an undeniable impact.
Sacramento police will be holding a press conference at 12 p.m. PST today to discuss the arrest. And although McNamara won’t be there to see the efforts of her reporting come to fruition, Oswalt will be there in her place. On Twitter, Oswalt wrote that he would like to meet with DeAngelo face-to-face in order to read the suspected serial killer questions from McNamara’s “Letter to an Old Man” printed at the back of her book.
If DeAngelo is convicted, this will mean that one of the most horrific murder cases in history has been closed. We wish McNamara could have lived to see this moment, but thanks to her dedicated reporting, her legacy will live on.