I’ve been to every street that EAR stalked and hit. But it is not the same thing 40 years later. He eventually developed a pattern of striking new communities, those only a few years old and some still under construction. One can theorize why he developed this new addition to his MO. A couple of examples suffice here: during the day he could appear to be a construction worker going about the community. Trees and bushes were newly planted and young. Nothing was so grown that it obscured his view of houses or made jumping fences impossible. Yes, all very good. But without experiencing a new community it is hard to get the feel of EAR sinister, calculating game. It is certainly hard to get a sense of how calculating a stalker he was. Like seagulls attracted to a ship’s wake, EAR found new communities and perched himself there for days on end, scouting, selecting.
I was struck by an old 1975 teleplay entitled Conspiracy of Terror. It wasn’t the plot. It was the image of a pristine, maiden community, if you will, 1975. The TV movie was clearly aiming at feeling out the audience to see if a TV series of a man and wife detective duo would make it in the ratings. Considering how bad the movie is no such series was ever developed. But the movie gives us a glimpse of Santa Clarita, California, north of Los Angeles, and just off Highway 5, in the year 1975.
I’m afraid you must watch it too. Ambiance, you know. Deal with it.
It is centered on Via Desca in Santa Clarita. Study the community on Google Earth.
From the opening credits and from the address on a house it was easy to find the community on Google Earth. It is grown up today, 40 years later. The house in the movie has been torn down and remodeled. But Conspiracy of Terror gives us a brief window into a new community circa the era of EAR. It is not just a new community. It is one with CATs and canals, cul de sacs and walking paths between otherwise disconnected sections of the same community.
The movie inspires on many levels. We see the mid-1970s again. We see a new community. Here we see a new community designed in a specific way. It is one that overwhelmingly fits EAR/ONS’ MO perfectly. It is right off Highway 5 in the general LA area. EAR worked 2 highways in So. Cal– 101 and 5. But he never worked Highway 5 north of the 101 juncture (to our knowledge). Yet it was in the north here where so much new building was going on, and the developer’s style suited EAR/ONS. Only a fraction of the new Santa Clarita community was in place during the filming of the movie. For years construction continued. During EAR’s time in So. Cal (1979-1981) the community remained perfect for his prowling needs.
But there’s something more important than the contemporary ambiance that inspires a contemplative mood. The movie and the fresh community’s location may give us some insights. When EAR went south in 1979 he confined himself to the highway corridors mentioned above. He did not bother with Highway 5, north of Highway 101, although Santa Clarita and Valencia were the most unavoidable new communities in the area off the major artery coming into Los Angeles from the north. Instead he worked Santa Barbara/Goleta/Ventura on the 101 and then the south LA area of Irvine and Dana Point on I-5– two opposite poles.
A number of interpretations can be made for avoiding going north on 5 at the 101 juncture. But that is not my point here. . . yet.
For years I have sought the location of the “map.” Yes, all know what I mean. Among notepapers left in Danville, presumably by EAR when he fled, there was also a map. It shows a community under construction. There are many cul de sacs. Some are not yet with houses. For a long cul de sac there are houses indicated already. The second house from the end, by what appears to be a creek or canal, this house is blackened out. It looks like EAR’s target. He often struck the second house to the corner.
It seems this is a map of a genuine community and that it was drawn by EAR– in his own twisted mind a battle plan to assail a new community.
However, no one has ever found the community that this map portrays. Some decry it and say it is fantasy, that it is a hypothetical community. But there is much about it that reflects genuine community construction. The biggest problem is that the community is built around a lake or what appears to be a lake. The homes do not border the lake. Rather there is parkland around the lake. This is rare in California. Lake communities usually have houses built right on the border of the lake, each with its own dock. A creek feeds the lake and exits on the other side and wends through a shopping community. No one has been able to find such a community around such a lake. Such a design is more common to the Midwest and Florida.
Stockton Police took this aerial of Portage Circle South in 1977– giving us an example of the new community in which EAR struck Victim 23. It has similar design nuances to the Santa Clarita community. It also has a lake, but this is not the community on the map.
A homeowner’s lake fed by a creek seems hard to believe. In summer time the creek would dry out and much of the lake. The community would need its own well and pump to maintain the lake. In doing so, there would need to be a dam on the creek. This only feeds the idea that the map represents fantasy. But there is something real about the map. The community was under construction. Did debt, bankruptcy, something require it be redesigned halfway through?
No community that EAR had struck prior to the Danville escapade (No. 49) matches the community. After fleeing Danville, he moved on from northern California and appeared months later in Goleta around Santa Barbara. None of his So. Cal attacks match such a community either.
But it is nevertheless true that once EAR’s prowling was discovered in a community, he never returned. Does that explain it? Did he feel the map was too accurate and that it would lead the police to stake-out the real community? There was something about his Danville narrow escape that caused him to forsake northern California altogether and easily move on to So. Cal. Had he already been stalking down there? Many have pondered. They too have searched the So. Cal area.
No one has ever found the community which is represented on the map. But EAR’s pattern gives us a clue where he would have been prowling. He avoided the heart of Los Angeles and its immediate suburbs because, frankly, there was no room for a new community, certainly not by the highways. The new construction near the major arteries was south and north– which means off 101 and I-5– yet he noticeably avoided the first new community he would have encountered on I-5 when coming from Sac or the Bay Area.
There may be a reason why the community has never been found. All have sought a lake community near a half clover on a major highway. Let us proceed on the assumption the map is real but obviously not a perfect replication of the new community. It is EAR’s interpretation based on having driven the roads and walked around the paths. Let us also labor under a few other assumptions.
1, The community was altered before completion.
This could mean:
2, The removal of the lake.
3, A couple of those empty cul de sacs may have been redesigned and removed.
4, The business area is now redesigned and is quite different.
The one thing that would not have been altered are the streets already built up– that long curving cul de sac, for instance.
Developers can be traced, of course. Each had its own style and architects. The developer at Santa Clarita was obviously one who was a major player in the 1970s So. Cal boom. But there are communities all over California that resemble elements on the map.
One is the lake community at Windsor, California. We know EAR was familiar with Windsor. One of the license plates on a car he was associated with in San Ramon was traceable to an auto wrecker in Windsor. This community lies along Highway 101 north of the Bay Area. EAR never struck up here, to anyone’s knowledge at least. In the Bay Area he confined himself to the Contra Costa Corridor. But had he mapped out several communities in his travels?
A lot of the community was not yet built in the late 1970s. But how much of the map is representative of the actual community and how much is doodle? How would such a community look from the drawings of someone who had experienced only some of it on foot and then drew it in his car? How much is even relevant on the map to EAR’s stalking MO? Does it really matter if he remembered the highway off ramp was a half clover or not?
Nevertheless, real communities reflect similar design concepts that the map generally displays, indicating it is not entirely fantasy. EAR only needed general accuracy. As he brooded on it at home he could be doodling any number of details that were not relevant– such as delineating parking spots, etc.
Another example is found in the area east of Antioch, the community east of the Contra Costa Corridor. It is in the little community of Brentwood. The area was not even mapped out in 1979, but it does show that lake areas with parkland around them require a similar design as reflected on EAR’s map. If EAR only put his imagination on paper, he had a very prescient one.
In short, in some form the community no doubt existed. It is rendered on the map by memory and from having walked the area and driven it. Thus we are at a disadvantage when trying to find something too close to the map’s appearance through the aerial view of Google Earth.
Does the map reflect one of the new communities around LA? EAR was probably already familiar with some places down south. After the fiasco in Danville, there was only a few months break before he started striking in Goleta, then up and down 101 and I-5. However, he might have avoided hitting the actual community represented on the map, thinking perhaps that the map was drawn too well and the law might be waiting for him.
We all know what location this map shows.
Although I am rather sure EAR occupied one level of auto wrecking while working the north, we must also consider the theory he was in construction as well (or later) in So. Cal. Was he working in the Santa Clarita area and therefore avoided striking there? Or did he live here in the new community, and thus equally avoided the area? Did he work security there in the sections still being built?
We know this, something about what happened in Danville scared him out of northern Cal. Either it was the paperwork he left behind in the rush or the “name” seen on his windbreaker jacket. But he got out of the north and he never came back, not as EAR anyway.
I’m still tracing the handwriting. Still searching for what that name could have been on the windbreaker. Still looking for the So. Cal abode. Perhaps finding the location represented on the map may be of great help.
Recently, an investigative coup was attained– the background sounds on the “Gonna Kill You” recording were identified. The aftermath of this triumph, however, was sullied. It revealed that law enforcement at the time had made no analysis of the tape or knew the sounds were in the background of the victim’s house and never put this on any codicil accompanying the tape. When it was released decades later for public consumption, not even other jurisdictions knew much of the tape. Recently a Concord cold case detective had assembled a room full of blind people to listen to the tape. Contra Costa sheriffs must never have been told of any earlier analysis. It was pointed out to me by another who has investigated this case for sometime that it must also mean there was no analysis of the tape by the FBI audio lab.
Simply because the community on the map and the handwriting has not yet been traced does not mean this angle was pursued and dismissed as leading nowhere. Both may be viable clues to help chip away at the identity of the most calculating predator in history. Who knows unless several determine to search, fully inspired by every possible detail?
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.