Interview: Cold Case Expert Paul Holes On Hunting “The Golden State Killer”
Between 1974 and 1986, the fiend originally known as the “East Area Rapist” and the “Original Night Stalker” decimated California from Sacramento to Orange County. In time, he came to be known as the “Golden State Killer.”
At present, authorities believe the Golden State Killer committed 10 to 12 murders, 45 sexual assaults, and 120 residential burglaries. He has never been caught.
Contra Costa County cold case investigator Paul Holes is one of the foremost forensic experts on this singularly chilling chapter in crime history. Holes figures prominently in the ID documentary series The Golden State Serial Killer: It’s Not Over, and he took some time to talk to CrimeFeed about the case.
CRIMEFEED: What was it about the Golden State Killer case that initially drew you to investigating it?
PAUL HOLES: It was one of those cases that you come across that strikes you not just because of the scope of the series of crimes or the number of victims, but the actual fear of the victims and the actual reality of what they went through.
That immediately struck me, and as I learned more about the case, I was just so compelled to seek justice for the victims.
I almost backed into this series in 1994 where we had a bunch of unsolved rape cases and new DNA technology. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations had passed on a lot of the rape cases, but as I studied the cases, the series grew and my passion to bring this guy to justice kicked in more than ever.
Then, as I met with survivors and got to hear them talk about their fear, their trauma, and what he did them, it was no longer about “Let’s see what this technology can do,” and it became, “We have got to catch this guy!”
You’ve said you believe authorities are closer than ever before to finding the Golden State Killer. Why is that?
We have more resources now. We have dedicated investigators working full time. The FBI is involved.
The public is more aware, too. I think the ID show [Golden State Killer: It’s Not Over] is another piece of information that could get to the right person — it could reach someone who knows something, who knows the truth, and it could get them to make the call that finally says, “Here he is.”
What are some of your most powerful assets and techniques in pursuing the Golden State Killer?
Well, DNA is huge. This guy was all about self-preservation. He did everything he could to eliminate evidence. Still, he left his DNA all over the state of California. And I believe DNA will be his undoing.
A lot of attention is being focused on the Golden State Killer now because of the book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. Did you work with Michelle?
I did. I knew Michelle for three years, and I worked with her. I’ve told people in the past that I’ve been standoffish when it comes to talking to the press, because I don’t want to divulge anything I’m not supposed to. Michelle caught me by surprise, though.
She really surprised me with her knowledge of the case, and we spoke for months. I told her some things off the record, and when her Los Angeles Magazine article [on the Garden State Killer] came out, I saw that she didn’t burn me. That really kicked off a sense of trust. We had an innate ability to trust each other.
From that point, we almost investigated the case together. She really was a partner with me in this, except that she didn’t ride shotgun in my car. She did her investigation and I did mine, and we shared suspects and information. Naturally, I was devastated when she passed.
What are some contributions that the public and non-professional investigators have made to the search?
There is a huge crowdsourcing element that has been positive. Each member of the public gathers information and looks at it from their own point of expertise from their own background, so there’s an exponential growth of knowledge that can be shared with the law-enforcement community.
The Catch-22 is that it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all that information, tips, personal theories. I’m retiring in a few weeks, and I had to shut down my contact with the public investigation community because I need to focus. Otherwise, I might get pulled in 30 different directions.
If and when authorities do find the Golden State Killer — what happens then?
If he’s alive, I hope he’ll be prosecuted by California authorities, and I imagine he’ll have to face the death penalty.
Give us your best guess right this minute: Who is the Golden State Killer and where is he?
I believe the Golden State Killer is a man living a normal life. He’s married. He’s got adult children, maybe even has grandchildren. He blends in. His neighbors think he’s a “good guy.”
I believe he’ll be like Dennis Rader, the BTK killer. Rader was the president of his church, he volunteered, attended his kids’ school functions, and his wife had no idea about his other life he had. I think the Golden State Killer is the same kind of guy.
Watch the full series of Investigation Discovery’s The Golden State Killer: It’s Not Over on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Paul Holes examining evidence [Investigation Discovery]
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