Michelle McNamara Died Pursuing a Killer. Now, the Police Say They Have Him.


On Tuesday evening, the comic Patton Oswalt was in Chicago at an occasion to advertise “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” a chilling true crime e-book about the Golden State Killer, who dedicated a string of unsolved rapes and murders in California in the 1970s and ’80s.

Mr. Oswalt advised the crowd that he believed the killer can be caught quickly, that his time was working out.

In truth, simply hours earlier than, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, had been arrested in California on a warrant stemming from two of the murders. On Wednesday, the authorities recognized him as the Golden State Killer, citing DNA proof connecting him to the crimes.

For Mr. Oswalt, the information of Mr. DeAngelo’s arrest feels deeply private. His late spouse, the author Michelle McNamara, had spent the closing years of her life chasing the Golden State Killer, hoping to establish him in her e-book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” But Ms. McNamara died earlier than she might see the killer delivered to justice, or her e-book revealed.

Exhausted and anxious after spending years immersing herself in particulars about the unsolved murders, she died in her sleep in April 2016, at 46. An post-mortem discovered that she had an undiagnosed coronary heart situation and had taken a mixture of prescribed drugs, together with Adderall, the ache narcotic fentanyl and the anti-anxiety medicine Xanax.

Now that a suspect in the killings has been recognized, Mr. Oswalt mentioned he felt a unusual mixture of elation and impending disappointment that Ms. McNamara wasn’t alive to witness it.

“There’s exhilaration, and I don’t feel it now, but I can sense that tomorrow or the next day there’s going to be a huge drop in serotonin and happiness when I realize she really isn’t here,” Mr. Oswalt mentioned in an interview. “There were insights and angles that she could keep bringing to this case.”

“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” which was revealed in February, helped reignite public curiosity in the decades-old chilly case. It has offered round 150,000 copies and was optioned by HBO, which is adapting it into a documentary sequence.

At a information convention held by regulation enforcement businesses to announce the arrest, an official mentioned that the e-book “kept interest and tips coming in” and stored the case in the public eye, however famous that data from the e-book hadn’t led on to Mr. DeAngelo’s arrest.

When Ms. McNamara died, the e-book was half completed. Mr. Oswalt was determined to see the project through. He employed Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist, and Paul Haynes, who labored with Ms. McNamara on the e-book as a researcher, to piece collectively the story, utilizing her handwritten notes and the roughly three,500 information on her laptop.

The ensuing e-book is a chilling and vivid narrative of a serial killer’s crimes, and a revealing account of Ms. McNamara’s obsession with the case and the psychological toll it took on her. It ends with a letter from Ms. McNamara to the killer, wherein she predicts his eventual seize: “This is how it ends for you.”

“We have so many unsolved murders in America, and she was able to shed light on a few of them,” Mr. Jensen mentioned.

Mr. Haynes mentioned that after he heard a suspect had been arrested, he felt “excited, but also sad that Michelle’s not here.” Mr. DeAngelo’s identify by no means seems in the e-book, and he wasn’t on their radar as a suspect, Mr. Haynes mentioned.

“I finally had the name and the face that we’ve been seeking for seven years, the name and the face that Michelle died trying to uncover,” he mentioned.

In a weird coincidence, Mr. Haynes, Mr. Jensen and Mr. Oswalt had been all collectively at the e-book occasion in Chicago on Tuesday, and members of Ms. McNamara’s household had been in the viewers. A documentary movie crew was capturing footage for the HBO sequence as the audio system speculated on how lengthy it could take for a suspect to be caught, not realizing it had already occurred.

At four a.m., Mr. Oswalt woke to a buzzing telephone. Messages had been pouring in with the information that there had most likely been an arrest in the case.

Mr. Oswalt mentioned that he hoped to go to Mr. DeAngelo and confront him with questions that Ms. McNamara deliberate to pose.

“It feels like the last task for Michelle, to bring him her questions at the end of her book — just to go, ‘My wife had some questions for you,’” he mentioned.



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