‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ – A killer on the loose, a writer obsessed
From 1974 to 1986, the Golden State Killer wrought havoc in Northern California, committing at least 13 murders and more than 50 rapes among other offenses. One woman’s quest to ultimately bring about its resolution is the subject of an upcoming documentary series on HBO.
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” a six-part series directed by Emmy winner Liz Garbus (“What Happened, Miss Simone?”) that premieres Sunday, June 28, follows the efforts of true-crime author Michelle McNamara to dig into the minutia surrounding the violent attacks with the help of law enforcement and citizen detectives more than 20 years after the last crime was committed, in the hopes of unearthing clues to the assailant’s identity.
McNamara, who died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2016, was a self-described true-crime addict who penned the book on which the documentary is based. The book was finished posthumously by true-crime writers Paul Haynes, Billy Jensen and her widower, comedian Patton Oswalt, and released in 2018, and it reached No. 2 on The New York Times Best Seller list.
Garbus never got to meet McNamara but felt she knew her through her writings.
“I think Michelle’s voice as a writer and as a guide in this very dark, traumatic world was so necessary,” Garbus says, “and of course, she had a big impact on the case, getting the attention it needed to get solved. And her voice and her empathy for the survivors is so important to foreground, and the obsessive world of the citizen sleuths and how they employ their tools and energies to look for justice is just amazing and inspiring.”
The documentary presents interviews with many close to the case, including law enforcement, citizen detectives, victims, Oswalt and even McNamara herself in footage. What comes through is a woman who is obsessed with bringing this perpetrator to justice, and in April 2018, almost two years after McNamara’s death, it happened: Police charged 72-year-old Navy veteran and former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo with multiple counts of first-degree murder.
Cameras captured Oswalt as he reacted to the news.
“He was so pleased that there might soon be justice for the victims,” Garbus says, “and he was so proud of Michelle in having brought attention to this case. But I also think that it’s complicated because the unsolved nature of it was kind of like a way … of feeling her (spirit) alive. And once there’s a name, he couldn’t share it with her. It was over in some ways. I think it’s complicated. But of course, the more important thing is justice.”