It’s taken 40 years, but police now say they have a suspect for a spate of serial killings from the 1970s.
Investigators still believe their original suspect is the man responsible for the Doodler murders in the 1970s in San Francisco. The Doodler was so named because of the killer’s method of attracting potential victims was to visit local gay bars where he would strike up a conversation and then do a drawing of his victim as they chatted. Once he had their trust they would leave together and then he would stab them to death, leaving the victim’s bodies in open areas to be found by passers-by. In total, The Doodler is suspected of killing as many as fourteen victims.
The Doodler’s first known victim was fifty-year-old Gerald Cavanagh in January 1974. Six months later the killer struck again stabbing twenty-seven year old Joseph Stevens five times. Thirty-one year old Claus Christmann was stabbed to death only two weeks later. A year later the killer murdered two more people. Frederick Capin was found stabbed to death on the side of a highway. Harald Gullber, 67, was the killer’s fifth known victim. The Doodler is also suspected of attacking several others who survived.
After one non-fatal attack a sketch was made of the suspect and released in newspapers, the suspect was described as “African American, between 19 and 22, slender, a little shy of 6 feet and frequently wore ‘a navy-type watch cap’”. In January 1976, a patron at a bar rung police, claiming a man who matched the description was the bar. Police swooped and arrested the man. According to CNN, in his possession, was a butcher’s knife and a book of sketches.
Though circumstantial evidence was strong, three eye-witnesses refused to testify against the man and so he was released. Forty-three years later, police are now hopeful, following the recent DNA advances that helped nab the Golden State Killer, that DNA found at two of the crime scenes will now result in an imminent arrest. Inspector Cunningham, who is looking into the cold case, believes that police at the time had the right suspect. “I’m looking at five murders [but] I’d be a fool to say he didn’t do more… I’m still connecting the dots.” He told CNN.
The sudden interest in solving The Doodler case joins other cold cases such as The Zodiac where Vallejo police are also keen to try new advances in DNA and genealogy techniques.