The late Michelle McNamara wrote of her correspondence with a retired police lieutenant regarding crime investigation. Of it he declared: “Controlling cops is a lot like herding cats. Like blind hogs they sometimes find an acorn, but mostly they just tear up the ground and muddy the waters.”
A little disparaging, but on the whole analogies sock home the point intended. It is actually all very innocent. Each detective develops his own theory. They set parameters of what they consider the vital clues that will lead to the perp. Everything else gets mentally locked out. We all do it. It’s not just detectives. Anyone who has investigated anything for a long time gets an instinct for it. Since instinct is a synthesis of broadly spanned facts and experience it is often hard to explain. But the result is that each reacts and assesses the next clue’s importance according to his instinct.
Sometimes this instinct becomes the bulwark to progress. One investigator in Santa Barbara was sure that the Goleta attacks and murders were done by a local, and this influenced him to discard any and sometimes overt links to EAR/ONS. DNA, finally, confirmed the link. Other investigators, you see, followed the clues and went for the evidence. It wasn’t a local perp. Just like his pattern in the Contra Costa Corridor, EAR had been moving up and down the highway systems north-south.
Again, the mucked up theorizing was innocent. But innocence is also blinding, is it not? A tipster would be up against a brick wall trying to convince a detective that his person of interest was the actual perp if that said POI did not fit the mold created by that detective. The other detectives might not even hear of said POI in order to follow through on their own. Perhaps you can humorously call it herding cats, but for Cold Case there is usually only one cat remaining on the block, and after 40 years he doesn’t know what the other cats had been up to as well.
I have experienced instinct’s bulkhead many times. They are attitudes that some of the best investigators form. It is always best to be friends with them, so you can be frank about your disagreement with them. There is no room for acrimony.
Many famous cases are linked today in Cold Case by instinct. For the Domingos/Edwards double murder of 1963, the synthesis has linked the case to ZODIAC, but there is simply not enough evidence for my taste yet to commit myself. Riverside PD insists ZODIAC is not involved in the Cheri Jo Bates murder, but there are those in SF and Napa who think he was. There are those who still believe that Leigh Allen was ZODIAC despite all the exculpatory evidence.
Misinformation and, frankly, grandstanding in the public forum can be far worse. There are those who like to promote the illusion that “LE” is on their shoulder giving them information, and that they are as a result the link with undisputed, pure facts. Anybody who has investigated anything knows there is no such animal in existence. For Cold Case, clues or tips are processed against a new suspect. The tip information is compared to the facts and evidence that would be considered conclusive to getting a conviction against the suspect. The case is not reinvestigated. It is unlikely there is one detective who has a complete enough knowledge of a 40 year old Cold Case as broad as EAR/ONS to sift through the folders and feed information to people in the public forum. No detective has the time.
In the June 15, 2016, EAR press conference long time buffs of the case were surprised to see a sketch promoted as definitive, and yet it is a sketch that has been in the public forum since the crime it is related to (Maggiore Double Murders, February 1978), and it is highly contended whether EAR was involved in the incident and it he was it is highly doubted he is the one in the sketch.
The late Michelle McNamara also noted a fact that I have encountered in my years of investigation and, for many of us, what we know has been recorded in a number of books. When a Cold Case is solved, even decades later, invariably it is discovered that the culprit was on the original suspect or POI list. I believe this to be true of ZODIAC. We all know it is true of Ridgway and Bundy. Blame is hurled at one cop by the others, and it all comes back to what that lieutenant told McNamara about herding cats.
I do not believe it is true of EAR/ONS, but that is merely my instinct. I do not know if my main and other POIs were on the list, but I highly doubt RP ever was. He was high school in Placerville, and that just didn’t seem to fit with the instincts at the time, and frankly I could not blame any detective for not considering it. What could they actually do unless RP had been turned in? RP may have been turned in back then, but he wasn’t perhaps followed-through. 40-years later it is more difficult to follow through. It is nobody’s fault.
I don’t harangue any law enforcement to get updates on him. I continue to refine the data. It makes it so much easier for everybody.
It is always best to just follow the clues, then the evidence, but mostly the clues. Evidence is defined strictly. Clues are not. Many clues simply lead to evidence, but they never can be introduced as evidence. How can EAR’s stalking pattern ever be considered evidence? In a real sense it can’t because it can’t convict anybody. But it is a clue as to his movements and the chronology of how he developed his crime spree. It is a clue that led me to forsaking the East Area theory and to develop the Long Range theory, the pattern he would overtly us in his Modesto, Davis, Stockton, CCC and So. Cal strikes. If he began with it, then Placerville fits in with the theory.
No one can cast the first stone. Everybody wants to get EAR now. A lot of mistakes will be made, but it is a part of the process. A lot of delays will happen. A lot of instincts must be shed. The facts, the clues, alone must lead us forward.
Instincts can beguile us. We must follow the clues instead.
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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.