Patton Oswalt on Golden State Killer suspect arrest: ‘this is bittersweet’

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I was glued to my computer all day Wednesday after it was announced that an arrest had been made in the Golden State Killer case. For the briefest of backstories: In various parts of California, from about 1976 to 1986, there were a serious of horrendous crimes attributed to several serial offenders. After years of investigation, DNA linked one man as the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, the East Bay Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Diamond Knot Killer. This individual killed 12 people, raped 50 and burglarized 120 homes – all of those numbers could prove to be much higher when all is said and done. One of his signatures was to shine a flashlight in his victims’ eyes before he attacked them. Another sadistic move he’d pull is to call his victims both before and after he’d attacked them, just to continue to torture them. I was terrified. The whole state was terrified.

True crime writer Michelle McNamara wrote an article for LA Magazine in 2013 called In the Footsteps of a Killer, in which she called the the Golden State Killer. Her passion about this case led her to write the novel I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. Unfortunately, Michelle died before the book was released. Her research partners, Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes, teamed up with Michelle’s widower, Patton Oswalt, to finish the book. The book was released two months ago. The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, Jr. was arrested two days ago, 32 years after his last known crime.

You can only imagine what Patton was going through. Patton was in New York promoting his new show, AP Bio, when the news broke.

I haven’t read Michelle’s book yet, I’m on the waitlist at the library for it, but everyone on my Twitter feed was crediting her for it. And like everyone else, my heart sank a little when Sheriff Scott Jones denied that the book led to the arrest during the press conference. Not as much as Patton’s, I’m sure:

I get it, after everything Patton has been through, losing and grieving Michelle, the success of her book and now the arrest, he’s processing this all at once. But at the same time, there have been 40 years of police work put into this case – that has to be acknowledged. And Patton did bring up a very good point in his next tweet- simply by calling the criminal by the name Michelle assigned him, she was being acknowledged:

By the time Patton appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers as scheduled, he’d obviously run the gamut of emotions. During his segment, he admitted he did not want to take anything away from the police who had worked the case and said the book had “amped up all the interest and in the case and put a lot of focus on this.” I don’t know if he was asked to say that or if he came to that on his own but either way, it was gracious and respectful. He also gave credit to the co-writers who finished the book while he was, “neck deep in grief”. Lastly, he said that Michelle “would be beyond excited about this. I think is the definition of ‘bittersweet.’”

I don’t exactly believe in an afterlife but when things like this happen, I want to. I want Michelle to look down and watch this killer being led off in handcuffs. But even if she isn’t, it sounds like she knew it would happen anyway. The epilogue of her book was a letter she’d written to the suspect in which she described the scene when the arrest was finally made:

Of course, the most important people are the victims and their families who finally have justice.

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53 Responses to “Patton Oswalt on Golden State Killer suspect arrest: ‘this is bittersweet’”

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  1. ichsi says:

    I’d never heard of the killings before yesterday, but this guy is a monster and I’m so glad he’s still alive and will have to face justice.

    • Muffy says:

      This guy was so sick he actually called one of his victims to wish them a Merry Christmas. There was a town hall meeting about the rapes—GSK had been targeting couples. One man stood up and said he would never allow his wife to be attacked that way. GSK got his house a few nights later. I’m so happy they caught this sicko.

      • Anni says:

        Germany here: I had no idea who this perp was until you mentioned the scene at the town hall meeting. I remember watching a true crime series Forensic Files or Cold Cases, something like that, where that scene was described. Man, that episode haunted me and I was so irritated about the killer not being identified. I never realized how HUGE the arrest was (because I thought I never hears of this guy and his crimes) until I realized the GSK is the same as the guy in that episode (called the original night stalker in the episode).

      • LooseSeal says:

        @Muffy, it was actually several months later that he attacked the couple from the town hall. I want to correct that because the level of meticulousness the EARONS/GSK brought to his attacks was one of the most terrifying things about him. Just a few nights wouldn’t have given him enough to plan the attacks the way he did.

    • Yeahright says:

      I have a very srong feeling he’ll die before this goes to trial. Hope I’m wrong though.
      Her book is excellent btw but it rubbed me the wrong way that Natty Gann felt the need to insert herself in the narrative tweeting that she’s promised to keep her memory alive through Patton’s daughter.

      Shut up you! You can be supportive in silence.
      I’m glad Alice has a stepmom who loves her but ffs!
      You needn’t voice EVERYTHING you think for kudos.

      • Thelma says:

        Totally agree. She’s so over the top.

      • Nina says:

        Yeah…I’m glad that she and Patton are so happy together, but sometimes I just find her draining. She’s a grown woman, but her tweets read like those of a 13-year-old most of the time. She’s just too much.

  2. smee says:

    Even if the cops don’t credit Michelle McNamara with his capture, she definitely brought attention to the case and created interest. And he’s right – she NAMED the killer “Golden State”, so….what a crazy end to their story, that’s for certain.

    • Millenial says:

      I think you are likely right. For them to arrest him two months after the book was published makes me think renewed interest in the case helped. Maybe someone who knew something read the book and was prompted to come forward. They said they used a “discarded DNA sample” which means they had their eye on this guy — after this long has passed, my guess is someone very recently came forward to point the finger at him.

    • Erinn says:

      I don’t really understand how this took so long. The guy was ex law enforcement, fired for being a sketchy f— and stealing dog repellent and a hammer (which are kind of redflag items). But some of those police sketches are DEAD ON for the guy. How did nobody think “boy that looks like DeAngelo”.

      I guess it’s easy to say that after the fact though. I’m just glad they caught the guy – it’s a shame Michelle never got to see it happen.

  3. Onerous says:

    Her book was magnificent. I read it when it first came out and even then was haunted by the knowledge of her passing. That she was such a brilliant author and we would be deprived of more of her work, that she would never know how the story ended – just incredibly sad.

    I love true crime and had anticipated her book coming out. Even though I take in a lot of disturbing information, nothing has impacted me the way her book and this case has – I’ve lost sleep, I’ve started closing all the curtains at night, I double and triple check the locks and have even gone so far as to put things in front of the doors so that I would hear if they were opened in the night.

    I just can’t believe they caught the guy after all this time. It’s absolutely incredible. And I think it’s terrible that the years and years Michelle spent researching and keeping the case alive were dismissed the way they were.

    • bma says:

      I think even moreso than the attention Michelle brought the case– it was known that she went to the police/detectives working on the case with new information, shared it, and those jurisdictions worked together through her. They all knew if any other jurisdiction had info, Michelle would know about it too and to ask her where to go for it. She was, in a lot of ways, the glue that kept a multijurisidictional investigation together and kept pushing it forward bc she insisted on it (and no judgment on the police— working cold cases is hard and the resources just are not there). I’d be very interested to know the opinion of the detectives who actually worked the case as to whether Michelle should be credited at all– I feel as though they might feel differently than what was stated at the press conference.

      • Bridget says:

        I’m glad you’ve said that, because a lot of people (not necessarily here) don’t seem to understand the work she did. She did amazing work, not only poring over the research and finding new evidence and new ways of looking at it, but she brought it together. Michelle made a huge difference, not just bringing in renewed interest but directly through her the work she did.

      • bma says:

        Also if anyone is interested, the My Favorite Murder podcast recorded an episode this week with an interview with Billy Jensen, one of Michelle’s researchers/co-authors. He was with Patton when they found out about the arrest. Its a good listen for anyone interested in the investigative journalist side of the case.

      • lucy2 says:

        I just listened to that podcast yesterday – the two hosts are pretty annoying, IMO, but it was still a good listen with Billy.

        It’s a shame the police won’t credit Michelle, but as Patton has said, she didn’t care about that, and we all know the truth – what she did helped in many ways, and she gave a voice to so many of the victims.

        I keep thinking about the statistics we know about how many rapes are actually reported, and wondering how many other victims are out there beyond the 50 – victims who were too scared to report him, or who thought the police wouldn’t believe them. We have massive problems with that today, imagine 40 years ago.

      • Scal says:

        The guy at the press conference is up for reelection this year-so I’m sure he wants the Win in his column and not credit anyone else.

        She worked on this case for YEARS with law enforcement, I don’t get why they wouldn’t acknowledge that.

      • bma says:

        @lucy2 Yea I love MFM but I’ve been listening to it from the beginning and I will say, they have gotten more annoying as time has gone on. I can only listen to them occasionally any more. Once they get the actual murders they’re discussing that day, they are much more enjoyable but getting to that point can sometimes be too much.

  4. Rapunzel says:

    That last tweet….I’m sad that even has to be said. Seriously pathetic on media’s part. #sayhername

  5. M says:

    I did not read the book but just last week finished HLN 5-part series on it “Unmasking a Killer.” I had never heard of the Golden State Killer prior to that but was absolutely floored at how sadistic he was esp the calls to his victims years after the crimes taunting them. I really thought they would never catch him. I will be very curious for more details in the upcoming days and weeks.

  6. Cass says:

    It’s a haunting, beautiful book.
    They can say it had nothing to do with her, but they reopened the investigation in 2026 due to the interest regenerated by her 2013 article.
    She’s a hero.

  7. Jussie says:

    The police were asked if her book helped catch him, and if you’ve read it, you’ll know that it obviously didn’t in any material way. The police won’t and shouldn’t answer questions like that by talking more vaguely about shining a spotlight on the case etc. Years down the track they can talk about it in a broader sense, but it would be wildly irresponsible to start that now.

    The perpetrator was a brand new suspect who had only just come to the police’s attention before his arrest. He’s not someone she considered, he’s not someone something in her book pointed to. The police can’t muddy the waters by letting their words allow anyone to think otherwise.

  8. Ocho says:

    Michelle McNamara was a determined analytical person. She was every nerd with a database. Every parent who has tried to have a career late at night while their child sleeps. She was an excellent writer. And it turns out she was a superhero. This isn’t a story of the police versus the writer deserving credit. It was a joint effort. I want to add another name: Paul Holes, the retired cold case investigator who worked on the case for 24 years. Holes credits McNamara with helping him collect details from other agencies due to the politics of jurisdictional boundaries. He called her his “investigative partner. She just wasn’t riding shotgun with me.” In interviews, McNamara spoke glowingly about the detectives and wanted to work towards their shared goal — catching the killer. I was interested purely because of her nerdy passion at solving a solve-able problem. (I personally don’t care for the details of violence and psychological torture, but appreciated her dogged belief in the powers of analysis and work. I would have been equally interested in someone discussing their efforts solving TB.) She knew it was a needle in a haystack, but that needle existed. The crimes contained tons of evidence within confined locations. She knew it could be solved if it was given enough time and effort. Bravo to the detectives and reporters. I hope the numerous victims and their loved ones can finally rest a little easier.

    Source for quote:

  9. adastraperaspera says:

    I knew that Patton had worked to get the book finished and released–and even went on a book tour for her. I thought that was a very loving memorial to Michelle. To hear yesterday about the arrest… Wow. I hope it brings the victims and families some peace to know the monster is behind bars today.

  10. Reef says:

    I’m really glad this murdering rapist was caught but um, the genetic data mining aspect of this story is really scary to me. Using CODIS is one thing, but using genetic data of private non criminal citizens from ancestry sites makes me really uncomfortable.

    • Kitty says:

      But why though? If it helps find murderers and rapists what’s the problem?

      • Reef says:

        I’m not a lawyer but this feels like a Fourth Amendment violation ie illegal search. I’m shocked that the ACLU isn’t all over this. The innocent people whose DNA was compared to find this murderer’s privacy rights were violated. I just don’t see how this is ok. The company that provided this info to the cops need to be exposed.
        We really need to know what companies like Ancestry and 23 and me are doing with this data.
        Again, I’m glad he was caught but the implications of this is troubling to me.

      • M says:

        I am a lawyer and my understanding is they did not use the popular sites like ancestry or 23andme which would require a warrant/subpoena but just entered the DNA on a site that does not guarantee privacy and allows individuals to upload their dna profile to find relatives. the site’s privacy notices clearly state that they have no control over who might access it and for what purposes. So in that instance, it is on the individual that you choose to share your information in the public domain. Same with his discarded DNA – if you set down or throw away a drink or cigarette in a public place, the police can seize it and test it

      • Reef says:

        Am I to understand there’s a repository of people’s DNA with their identification and location demographics available that’s public domain? How in the hell? Yikes, that’s even more disturbing to me.

    • bma says:

      this is an issue that has been bubbling in the civil liberties legal underground for a while. my understanding (this could be wrong) is that law enforcement sent the dna they had from the crimes to an ancestry business and waited to see if familial DNA popped. then based on the matches, they looked at the family members of the match. in most states (that i’m aware of) you cannot use familial DNA for a warrant or arrest (it doesn’t pass muster) but it can be used to narrow in an investigation. once the cops had the familial match, the looked into family members, found that JJ DeAngelo matched the profile, then waited for him to discard DNA (what that is or how they got it has not yet been made public to my knowledge) and used that discarded DNA to test against what they had from the crimes. It was that DNA match that they used to arrest him– the familial match was used solely for investigative purposes, not for the arrest warrant. This is why legal experts have been warning for years to be very careful what the TOS of the ancestry companies are and whether they will permit this (though I’m not sure how they can prevent it but i digress).

      • lucy2 says:

        That’s what I’ve heard too.
        I hope they followed the law precisely and there’s no chance of this monster getting off on a technicality.
        I’m not sure how I feel about it, private data and all, but I am so glad they caught him.

    • Onerous says:

      They’ve said that the DNA wasn’t matched through a company like Ancestry or 23 & Me.

      My guess is this:

      There are DNA databases to which you can voluntarily upload your raw dna files – one is called Gedmatch. You upload your raw DNA and you can get matched to people you’re related to. Because they had his DNA profile, but not his “spit in a tube,” they could have *theoretically* uploaded his raw DNA profile to a site like Gedmatch, and gotten relational hits, which could have narrowed the scope significantly. They then take some of his DNA from his garbage or something and compare it with what they have on file.

      • peanut says:

        The head woman on the case received a call at night (while she was at her kids school for a function) stating they had the match! She kept her cool and requested another sample to be run so there would be zero question…

        The second sample was run the following day and came back even stronger!

        SO BAD ASS.

    • ELX says:

      Well, Reef-this is the Facebook problem-what have individuals given away for the pretty trinket (App etc.)? As it turns, something extremely valuable, but once given away you can’t get it back.

      • bma says:

        Yep its very similar to the facebook issue. Altho I will say, I think guarding your DNA profile should come as common sense. Those services always sketched me out a bit because you’re offering up the only scientifically unique thing about you for really nothing…

    • CairinaCat says:

      The ancestry sites OWN the rights to your DNA. You sign paperwork giving them blanket permission. They can use your DNA in any way.
      Those sites sound fun but in reality I think they are pretty insidious.

    • Bordelais says:

      @Reef, here’s an article that speaks to the points you raised about genetic privacy:

  11. Lizzie says:

    i had chills reading the news as it was all breaking. it must have been so thrilling (and sad) for patton and their family. i know we were all kind of side-eyeing him when he got remarried but i was crying actual tears reading meredith salenger’s twitter the day this broke b/c she was tweeting and retweeting so many supportive messages and news stories and helping to make it trend. i think patton truly found someone to wanted to heal his heart while keeping michelle’s memory sacred. here is her pinned tweet:

    The legacy #MichelleMcNamara has left for her daughter of determination and finding justice for so many is incredible! I will everyday make make sure her daughter knows how spectacular her mother was, not just for her but for society.

    i’m not crying. you’e crying.

  12. Veronica S. says:

    Considering several of the “big” newspapers like WaPo are pointing out things she brought to the attention of the investigation, I’d say Oswalt might have a point about writers not getting their due respect for their contributions, but at the end of the day, it’s more important that justice may be served for his victims. I hope they got him. I hope he dies miserable in a prison cell.

  13. winosaursursrex says:

    @Hecate, if you have a kindle I’ll be happy to loan you my copy, I just finished it and it was amazing. Literally 3/4 of the way through this when news broke. All my friends in CA were jumping for joy….and no one in FL seems to care. It was pretty amusing.

    But this book was really amazing.

    The e-mail I use here isn’t one i check, but if you reply to this I’ll e-mail in off my main e-mail. 🙂

  14. Merritt says:

    I think Michelle McNamara deserves credit. She coined the name and brought the case out of the shadows.

    I’m not surprised that the rapist and murderer is former cop. I would imagine most POC have no surprise about that.

  15. Insomniac says:

    I have a copy of the book on its way to me. Cannot wait to read it.

  16. gnerd says:

    I read the book the day it came out. Maybe she didn’t crack the case but tons people wouldn’t know who this guy was without her ‘In the Steps of a Killer’ article. I know I’m one.

    You should read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark if you get a chance. One thing is certain: Michelle McNamara could write. That’s not a compliment I give out easily. She was really good.

  17. Broken halo says:

    Born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif, was in college then in Santa Cruz, and then back to L.A. And still have no idea who this guy was. But I do remember the Zodiac killer which was elementary school.

  18. Alexis says:

    Wow, I had no idea. I am going to be obsessed with this today. Proud of the Police and Michelle!

  19. EscapedConvent says:

    Hecate, this is a great post and I’ve learned things about this case that I’d never heard. I will also be reading Michelle McNamara’s book.

    The police department can dismiss McNamara’s contribution to this case all they want, but it sounds to me like she worked on it almost as much as they did. It’s significant that she gave the killer a name that people would remember, as his previous “names” were probably confusing people. Calling him “The original Night Stalker” wouldn’t have helped at all. The cops and detectives should acknowledge this, at least. At any rate, I’m always .going to connect Michelle’s name and tireless work to this arrest.

    It would be part of the justice of this case if Michelle McNamara were here to see this arrest now. I wish she could be.

  20. Becks says:

    Thank you for covering this. I’ve lived in California all my life, and although I’m not old enough to remember his crime sprees, I’ve been obsessed with case for a very long time. I just got the book last week and I can’t wait to start it.
    Casefile podcast did an excellent 4 part series on the East Area rapist/GSK. It was well done but extremely frightening. They play some of his phone calls 😱 This man is a monster.
    Thank you Michelle for shining a light on this case and here’s to healing and closure for the victims and their families.

  21. peanut says:

    Anyone a MFM fan?!

    The FB group has been insane! A neighbor (sweet baby angel) has been uploading videos from out front of his house for the last 2 days and she’s keeping everyone updated! LOL Crazy info! Multiple pet cats have vanished in recent years and they think he may be responsible!


  22. minx says:

    I didn’t know until this week that Michelle grew up in my hometown, a suburb of Chicago. I didn’t know her or her family, she’s younger than me, but I do remember the 1984 murder that prompted her interest in crime reporting. She sounds tenacious and smart, so tragic that she died at such a young age.

  23. Hildog says:

    I had not heard of her book until recently, however, there was a fascinating 4 part series on Investigation Discovery called Golden State Killer: It’s Not Over that aired about 2 months ago which brought the case to my attention. I think that also helped shed new light on a cold case. I was so upset after watching that documentary and was relieved to hear they finally caught the bastard. They are being really sketchy about how they got his DNA… I’m curious about that..

  24. holly hobby says:

    She played a role in it, I’m not going to deny she didn’t. However in today’s news, the police said what broke the case was they matched the DNA with those on file from several geneology websites (the find your ancestors websites). That’s what’s interesting. I also have this book on hold at the library! Good stuff!