While Episode 1 of HLN’s newest docuseries, Unmasking a Killer, gave us a broad overview of everything that happened in the original search for the Golden State Killer—also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker—Episode 2 dives deep into the killer’s modus operandi, or the particular way in which he committed his crimes and how they evolved over time as he learned. As one of the detectives interviewed said, “This case is why we lock our doors at night.”
During the time when he was only known as the East Area Rapist, his usual method was to stalk victims, often prowling around the house and the neighborhood to meticulously plan his escape route as well as the rape itself. Backdoors in quiet, middleclass neighborhoods weren’t commonly kept locked, so at first, he was able to just let himself in to case the house and hide tools for later use during his crimes. That soon changed as news of his attacks quickly spread around the area. But he was persistent and organized and not without skill, which is why this man has gone uncaptured for 40 years.
The episode opens up with what was, for me, one of the most chilling audio clips I’ve heard in all of my time reading, watching, and listening to true crime stories. As the East Area Rapist, he once called a victim and left an incredibly creepy voicemail, one of the only pieces of physical evidence that gives us any clue as to who the East Area Rapist is. There is no remorse, no anger. Only a chilling glee in how much fear he knew he was creating for the victim.
And the rest of his M.O. also seems staged for maximum fear effect. The fact remains, though, that we don’t know who this person is, so we can’t really know his motivation for committing these rapes and murders. But causing fear is definitely on the top of the list.
Again, the goal of the show is to educate the public as much as possible in an effort to stir up old memories and encourage people who may know something and haven’t spoken up before to speak up now. Therefore, the show is highly detailed in its coverage of the case, which I think is pretty unique for a true crime documentary.
But it’s not all technical details. There’s a human element as well. In some cases, the detectives involved are emotional as they think about the victims and how much they want to close the case in order to bring them peace. And then, there’s the victims and their families. One murder victim’s daughter was 15 years old when her mother was raped and murdered. It’s a tender age to lose a mother, and it changed her life forever. The Golden State Killer’s impact was widespread, which makes it all the more compelling to catch this person who perhaps was and still is the most prolific serial criminal our country has seen.
As the last frame of the episode queries: If you know something or think you might know something about who the Golden State Killer is, reach out to the FBI at 1 -800 Call FBI (1-800 225-5324) or go to https://www.fbi.gov/tips. And don’t forget to watch Episode 2 of Unmasking a Killer this Sunday on HLN!
Ardi Alspach was born in Florida, raised in South Carolina, and now resides in New York City with her cat and an apartment full of books. By day, she's a publicist, and by night, she's a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @ardyceelaine or check out her website at ardyceelaine.wordpress.com.