On Wednesday, April 25th, law enforcement authorities in the state of California announced that an arrest had been made in the decades-old Golden State Killer case. And as social media took notice, this one tweet about Michelle McNamara, the Golden State Killer author, really hit home.
McNamara, who passed away in 2016, was a true crime author who was deeply and staunchly committed to revealing the identity of the Golden State Killer. In fact, she was the person who bestowed that name on the infamous serial killer ― previously, he'd been referred to by other names, like the East Area Killer or the Original Night Stalker.
Her book on the subject, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, is an Amazon bestseller, chronicling her tireless work trying to expose the man who murdered and raped dozens of people between 1976 and 1986.
In addition to that personal and professional legacy ― which is especially poignant and relevant today, as she passed away before getting to see her goal come to fruition ― McNamara was also married to actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, who helped complete her book after her death. And as is often the case, that fact led some outlets to describe McNamara simply as Oswalt's late wife.
Twitter user Nina Slaney (@ninamarie_4) called out this behavior on Wednesday, holding outlets accountable for whether they chose to describe McNamara as an individual, or whether they described her through the lens of her famous husband instead.
McNamara's book is very well-reviewed, and figures to get a renewed surge in interest now that the authorities have arrested a suspect in the case. It was released just a couple of months ago, on Feb. 17, 2018. It includes an introduction by Gillian Flynn, and an afterword by Oswalt, who publicly honored McNamara after the news that a Golden State Killer suspect had been arrested.
In the press conference at the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones acknowledged that McNamara's book helped keep the case alive in the public consciousness, but denied that her work in any way helped the case, maintaining that it was all the work of law enforcement.
Oswalt responded on Twitter by claiming the police would never credit a writer or journalist in such a fashion, while noting that McNamara was motivated by compassion for the victims, and would not have cared whether she received any credit.
McNamara was 46 when she died, due to complications from a heart condition, compounded by some different medications she was taking. She was still working on the book when she passed away, and Oswalt subsequently worked to complete it while going through his own grieving process.
As many people on social media have pointed out, one passage from the end of the book, in which McNamara envisions how the Golden State Killer might ultimately be apprehended, seems very prescient today. Specifically, McNamara described the killer hearing a car pull up unexpectedly, hearing voices approaching his front door, then an unexpected doorbell ring.
"This is how it ends for your," McNamara wrote. "Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light."
It remains to be seen whether the suspect taken into police custody on Wednesday will be convicted of the multiple murder charges he now faces. The suspect, according to law enforcement, is 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., a former police officer. He's been charged with two counts of murder, although the total number of deaths attributed to the Golden State Killer is at least 12, in addition to more than 40 rapes.