No one is to underestimate their enemy. A first year cadet at any military school is taught this. It is a fundamental principle of the hunt. Every hunter knows never to underestimate his quarry. When it comes to the hunt for EAR/ONS there may have been an exception– an innocent one but an exception nonetheless.
Everybody who has examined the case in detail, and this includes official investigators, has expressed their amazement that EAR was never captured. And considering that about 650 people have now been DNA tested and eliminated, it seems certain he was never an original person of interest.
The amazement is justified. But I think we must qualify it. We have to go back and take things chronologically. In the last few years EAR/ONS has become the No. 1 supervillain in cold case. But contemporarily he was a housebreaking sexual terrorist who largely set only the Sacramento East Area on the edge. As I’ve reminded many times, it took 20 years to even link him to the murders down south, thus notching him up to the most deadly predator in California history.
EAR’s career in crime evolved so slowly that it was impossible for anyone to see the potential of the supervillain that he would become. Some original detectives have been explicit that “every asshole in Sacramento was turned upside down.” It was standard procedure. Round up the usual suspects.
Time and only time would prove that the East Area Rapist was not the usual suspect.
It was unavoidable to categorize him as the sadistic rapist type back then. But the danger today is to overestimate his intelligence. We are overwhelmed by the enormity of the scope of what he did and continued to do over the length of time he was active. Add to this the fact there never was a prime suspect and we become even more impressed. After all, EAR’s MO was a hands-on MO. He carefully prowled many neighborhoods and spent hours in the home of his chosen victim. There are over 50 of them. Yet we have no one reliable composite. Nothing definite on age, even hair color. There is no definite fingerprint. There is DNA, but so far it has been traced to no one. The case hangs thinly upon DNA. Had this breakthrough in forensic science not come about, it would be impossible to ever out the worst serial predator in history.
Altogether this astounds all who study the case. But this should also cause us to be patient. It is going to take time to test the usual and unusual suspects. We– and I speak in terms of the collective of public knowledge– have no more evidence today than back then. We have his DNA and his pattern. A few clues have turned up, and this leads me personally on.
There are those who think he was the most intelligent serial predator in history. Some think he was the luckiest. I disagree with both.
EAR was a predictable mixture of repeating MO but unpredictable timetable. He struck in similar types of neighborhoods but he mixed up his timetable and expanded his turf— his ability to do so is one of the biggest clues.
Like a cat burglar he prowled quietly in the night, struck, and then disappeared back into the mantel of darkness. There really wasn’t much for the law at the time to do. And lawmen reminded us that due to this MO there was no real way to catch him except in the act. And this was very unlikely. This would mean a homeowner had to get the jump on him. Thus EAR could be a successful wolf amongst the sheep.
Instead of overestimating EAR’s habit as intelligence, we have to contextualize it. We have to put his success into perspective. It actually constitutes being a clue. We have to do this to distill to the true, primary clue that leads us on.
Success in this case doesn’t mean just not getting caught. It is the fact he has remained ethereal. At first glance this seems impressive. But what is comes down to is this: He wore gloves– thus no fingerprints. He bound his victims– thus giving himself time to get to his car and get away before the law arrived and started to comb the neighborhood.
Not very original or ingenuous. But it was effective.
EAR’s ingenuity lay not in the basics of attack and retreat, but in how he so ghostly reconnoitered the neighborhood before the fact. The only way he could have done that was to prowl at night. We have to take all daytime sightings of a “suspicious person” with reserve. But the nighttime evidence we must accept. Yet how to stalk a shadow– something that is just a darker cutout in the already inky veil of night?
I won’t attempt to do so. But I will stalk the tracks he left. For me it is a personal dragnet. You all know that, paradoxical to what I just wrote, I’m tracking a daytime clue– my chosen path is auto-wrecking. And as I said all of the most famous clues pertaining to EAR have been gleaned in daytime, and these are all potentially bad leads. But there is one nighttime clue that merges with dawn, that sunrise of clues! Dogs traced EAR’s scent to tire tracks and to the location where a strange car had been seen repeatedly parked during the days previous to the attack. In each case the bloodhounds revealed EAR had a different car.
THIS is ultimately the thin clue that justifies me accepting the many daytime reports of old jalopies cruising the neighborhoods before-the-fact. It allows one to have some assurance that those few times the plates were taken down they were a valuable and tangible clue. They were traced to dead ends or to wrecked cars that had been towed to various and far removed wrecking yards.
As I eliminate more of the potentials on my list, and refine those I have submitted for official review, I feel I am getting closer to EAR. If anything, if all my POIs check out, I have removed auto-wrecking as a viable lead to follow. But I really don’t think that is feasible. I don’t think EAR worked in a body shop and used customer’s cars overnight. He knew his size 9 shoeprints could never lead to him. But he also must have believed that likewise tire tracks could never lead to him. This I hope was his one mistake. Even 40 years later this led me to my network of POIs. Three stood out the most. One is eliminated. We still wait rather anxiously for the other two.
If not, it is back to the old tracks and to the various yards they lead. . . “Nil desperandum. We try, try again. . .”
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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.