Michelle McNamara’s Magnum Opus

At the time of her death, Patton Oswalt's wife was working on a book about the "Golden State Killer."

In the March 2013 Los Angeles magazine feature “In the Footsteps of a Killer,” Michelle McNamara, the late wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, shared at one point how she first became enamored with amateur sleuthing.

Her personal passion would lead to the creation in 2006 of the blog True Crime Stories and, at the time of her death, an in-progress book with Harper Collins expanding upon the Los Angeles magazine investigation of the so-called East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS) killer. The unknown assailant has been linked to dozens of rapes in northern California, ten murders in southern California and a first killing in Santa Barbara between 1974 and 1986. From McNamara’s piece:

My own obsession with unsolved murders began on the evening of August 1, 1984, when a neighbor of mine in Oak Park, Illinois, where I grew up, was found murdered. We knew Kathleen Lombardo’s family from our parish church. She was out for a jog when she was dragged into an alley. Neighbors reported seeing a man in a yellow tank top and headband watching Kathleen intently as she jogged. He cut her throat.

Several days after the killing, without telling anyone, I walked the block and a half north from our house to the spot where Kathleen had been attacked. I was 14, a cheerleader in Tretorn sneakers whose crime experience began and ended with Nancy Drew. On the ground I saw pieces of Kathleen’s shattered Walkman. I picked them up. Kathleen Lombardo’s murderer was never caught.

What gripped me that summer before I started high school wasn’t fear or titillation but the specter of that question mark where the killer’s face should be.

As McNamara had with her blog and separate lead-up efforts looking into the man she renamed the “Golden State Killer,” her Los Angeles magazine piece generated passionate responses. One reader, who claimed to be a a child of one of the killer’s victims, expressed their anger at the case being needlessly revisited. Another reader, astonishingly, sent in a letter typed out on sheets of toilet paper.

Through these efforts, McNamara was following in the footsteps of retired detective Larry Crompton, who had stayed on the EAR/ONS case and self-published the 2010 book Sudden Terror. Along with the original Los Angeles magazine article and associated items, another good way to remember McNamara is to listen to a 50-minute podcast she did with Los Angeles magazine editor in chief Mary Melton. It’s unclear at press time whether HarperCollins plans on completing and publishing McNamara’s manuscript.

Screen grab via: lamag.com