Strange Evolution: The Visalia Ransacker

When the news first hit that the “Ransacker” existed it came largely after-the-fact of his crime spree, as I have noted in previous posts. He had been a nuisance to Visalia PD’s anti-burglary boys until the Claude Snelling murder of September 11, 1975. Then he became a suspect because Snelling’s house was on a street within a larger neighborhood of town where the Ransacker had exclusively concentrated over the two years before.  Just 3 months later there would be an encounter between a Visalia PD stakeout man, Bill McGowen, and a man he believed was the Ransacker.  The Ransacker never struck again.

With hindsight the Ransacker underwent a metamorphosis. His profile evolved from childish burglar and house ransacker to a sexual deviant and murderer. It seemed natural that he would evolve into rapist. Thus Visalia  PD had elements that doggedly believed that the Ransacker had become the East Area Rapist of Sacramento. Today, the EAR ranks as the No 1 serial predator in history. The Visalia Ransacker has become his youth and Visalia has been touted as his proving ground.

The creepy Ransacker– if this composite is accurate. He stole some jewelry and a few other items, but mostly stole blue chip stamps. He ate the victims’ ice cream out of their frig and made a mess of their house looking for small items to steal. 


This is a bizarre enough evolution, and it shouldn’t strike us as surprising considering the Ransacker seems to have been perpetually evolving in Visalia even without any attempt to link him to the most notorious prowler in history.

It has struck almost all who have considered the Ransacker question that he was never tagged. He struck in a small enough area; if we are to believe McGowen’s composite and description then the Ransacker was very distinctive.

When the Ransacker hit the news he was credited with 85 to 90 burglaries and ransackings. Taking into consideration the neighborhoods where he struck, this is enormous. In 1996, a retro piece was done in the Times Delta, kinda like Luther Heggs’ piece in the Rachel Courier Express in the comedy The Ghost and Mr. Chicken— “the horribleness and awfulness will actually never be forgotten.” In this piece the Ransacker was credited with 120 burglaries and ransackings. This is an outrageous number considering the turf over which he struck.

Ransacker turf

 120 homes robbed and ransacked in this area of town seems so disproportionate you’d think he would have been news before the murder.

After the Snelling murder and then the McGowen shooting in December of 1975, the Ransacker was changed from a mere burglar and turned into a peeper. This allowed them to figure him into being a frustrated sex fiend, potential rapist– his motive for “kidnapping” Claude Snelling’s daughter, Beth– and thence to heartless murderer if interfered with, as Claude Snelling tried to do. To bolster this image, the 1996 article even gave us a new tidbit of information– at times while in his victims’ homes, he took the wife’s lingerie and placed it in a line in the hallway– decidedly  kinky.

Is it? The anti-burglary unit never saw anything so kinky during his crime spree that they considered him a peeper. Neighborhoods weren’t even canvased until after the Snelling and McGowen encounters in late 1975. It is only then that they uncovered prowling reports. Yet an adept burglar must prowl in order to find a home that is empty. If he had struck 85 homes while empty, he must have done a lot of prowling beforehand. It is said that the Ransacker placed cups on doorknobs or plates on the floor to alert him if someone entered the house. This would give him time to flee. Would not clothing placed on the  floor in the hallway cause alarm to the homeowners? It would be the same effect. He would hear their reaction and flee out the bedroom window.

. . .If that is even true that he did that with undees. Again, nothing struck the burglary unit as indicating a kinky prowler. And if he had 85 or 90 home hits well within a 2 year period in a limited area, they sure would have noticed something by then and canvased neighborhoods.

How much is real of what we’ve heard about the Ransacker? How many strikes does he really have?  What is his true profile? Too much contradicts to believe in the Ransacker’s strange evolution.

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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 or Q Man. “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.


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