Gay West, Young Man– Murders Amidst the Migration

With the last post Gay Murder Victims of the Ebb, the reader got a taste of the murder cases in late 1977 and into early 1978. According to some commentary in Gay newspapers, it was up until his downfall in the summer of 1978 that SFPD inspector David Toschi went around to the Gay bars and showed the police sketch of the DOODLER. His purpose, apparently, was to see if the patrons and owners had seen such a person in the bars prior to the latest victim being found murdered.

We don’t know the answer, but we can guess considering that SFPD came to affirm the DOODLER wasn’t active past September 1975. In retrospect we’ve heard that supposedly after SFPD learned his identity he was interviewed and this scared him off; he stopped killing and left the city. Why then did Toschi persist? Probably because the DOODLER sketch was the only one that SFPD had in connection with unsolved Gay murders . . . or the legend of the DOODLER interview is rubbish. Either underscores for us how faceless this murderer(s) of Gay men really was. A young black guy wearing a navy watch cap and doodling is what it took to really stand out and merit witness memories. He was so mis-dressed for stalking it is not surprising he stood out.

Was the so-called DOODLER ever really a factor in the vast stats of Gay murders? I would say no. The murders assigned to the DOODLER were all out-of-doors and in the west– a glitch over the span of brutal murders 1974-1975 which were in victims’ flats in Tenderloin and SOMA. When the murders moved west after the Tenderloin vigilante threat to get the perp, the murders were still Tenderloin style– in the victims’ flats. They weren’t those savage stabbings at trysting locations. The legend tells us the DOODLER suspect had gone to New Orleans by this time, and we know from there he couldn’t be committing the new spate of murders.

Cocaine also seemed to be the DOODLER solicitation, not sex. This would seem to fit with the DOODLER’s appearance. He was working eateries and regular joints on Market Street–Burke’s Truck Stop and Nick’s— when he connected with his high-end patrons at Fox Plaza. At such locations, his appearance was regular enough. If he worked Gay bars for a while, it may only have been because Gay men were known to have lots more spending money. And, of course, cocaine was popular in the 1970s. This might better explain the attacks at such a high end residence as Fox Plaza (from which the sketch was made) compared to the seedier locations and apartments where some unknown killer(s) was snuffing out Gay men.

The DOODLER sketch. Drugs and connections to a political family cloud the issue as to motives. . . if the actual man fitted to the sketch was the real McCoy.

The DOODLER’s M.O. is so ill-defined, it’s hard to fathom how those victims assigned to him came to be categorized under the heading of a DOODLER victim. The only thing that was truly unique about the victims tossed into the DOODLER’s corner was that they occurred out-of-doors in the west. And that may have been the only reason the victims were lumped together. I see no other reason why an old toothless souse, to be frank, like Harold Gullberg was placed on the list of DOODLER victims when the Coroner wasn’t even sure if his death was homicide or accident.

Gullberg’s death, if it was murder, could actually be associated to the same perp who knocked off Warren Andrews (52) in April 1975. Andrews was pandering for a hookup at Land’s End when some pickup or trick clotted him with a rock. Andrews died in hospital in June, apparently never coming out of his coma. Gullberg seems to have been scratched with the end of a branch or something.

The public murders by blade assigned to the DOODLER were savage stabbings. They were at odds with the string of otherwise indoor murders by blade, bludgeon, strangle. Did the DOODLER do the public murders? I really don’t know. Did he do any of the indoor Tenderloin murders? I don’t know.

What we do know is that as the Gay murders moved west in 1976, the same three styles of death– blade, bludgeon, strangle– followed but public murder did not . . . for a while. And this is a vital clue. We must look at the context.

Gay nightlife had steadily been moving west. It was coming to the residential areas, mixed communities that Gays wanted to maintain as mixed communities for safe, normal daytime life. But with increasing immigration, Gay nightlife was coming west and it was coming to . . . daytime. It was visibly promiscuous. Mainstream Gays found they had to shut up and let the established communities and this new Tenderloin style of life fight it out.

It chiefly surrounded Buena Vista Park. It had become the central hookup point now, not Land’s End. At a given time at night there were probably 40 to 50 men making hookups and using the seclusion of the bushes as trysting locations. Not so coincidentally there had been much community controversy about “renovating” the park and reducing the amount of underwood– i.e. get rid of the bushes. Trees and brush desperately needed to be cleaned out. The trees were “diseased,” according to city experts. Community meetings got combative. Gays objected to changing the wooded nature of the hilltop park. To the rest of the community, the Gay objection was viewed as wanting to keep the park a trysting locations.

The problems had gone national in Spring 1980. The sex hookups at the park had rated a segment on CBS’s nationally aired Gay Power, Gay Politics in April. This documentary essentially concentrated on the most sordid aspects of S.F. Gay life. Cameras watched the park for a day, and the viewer was treated to a montage of several men scurrying in and out of the park, hidden in bushes, then dashing away after their arboreal tryst. Afterward local residents were complaining because of what their children were encountering.

Over 1977 through 1981, the murders of Gay men in the west were a carbon in many ways of the Tenderloin murders. As noted, they occurred in the flat of the victim after a hookup or pickup somewhere. Yet now the flats were in communities that surrounded Buena Vista Park. Only one murder in 1977 was suggestive of the Fox Plaza M.O. — young Barry O’Shields’ stabbing in October in his apartment on Carl Street. Yet many such knifings occurred over the span of the decade. The murder in May 1979 by fire poker of Quirinio Paolazzi on distant York Street was followed by his car having been found by Buena Vista Park, the killer having taken it back and dissolving into the night. But within the next full wave of murders 1979-1982 there was an out-of-doors murder similar to the M.O. previously accorded the DOODLER. And this was in Buena Vista Park.

On the night of November 23, 1980, Don Meder walked up from his Fillmore Street address and entered the park at the stairs at the end of Duboce Street. Meder either met his killer here or came with him. Next morning he was found dead. His pants were down to his knees, one arm draped over his back. He had been stabbed several times in the neck.

Don Meder circa 1980.

This only added to the raging controversy about the park. Politics came to obscure the truth: problems were increasing at the park, especially at night. Perhaps reflecting mainstream silence, Gay newspapers avoided editorials but tactfully let the details slip out via letters to the editor. One was to the Sentinel. It was written in May 1980, months before Meder was murdered there. It was titled

Ambush in Buena Vista Park


Please WARN your readers that the Cops
have now taken to walking on foot into the
Hot Spots in Buena Vista Park at 4 AM,
and in the night in general.
I was in the park at 4 AM and the cops
came in with flashlights, and every body
just RAN AWAY! Tell your readers no
body stayed! . . . How ODD, that is no
body stayed but me!
I was the only one who stayed! I just laid
down in the bushes and waited for them to
pass, while every body seemed to be running
for their lives.
Don’t print my name, if you should de-
cide to print this important story, important
because, under the old mayor, the cops
never got out of their cars (I have been
going there for years).
I think the cops would like to get their
hands on me. I made it a point to stay,
and from a secure place I yelled as emotionally as I could:
this several times and they got very angry
and started to yell back with lots and lots
of hate, they wanted to kill me I could
feel it!, but I just kept on shouting!
Tell all your readers we got to fight back,
from hiding where we have a chance. You
would have to have been up there and seen
30 or 40 human beings at 4 AM in the
morning enjoying themselves, and then
seen those cops come in on foot with flash-
lights, and then all the fun stop, and every
body in a most undignified way running
away in terror. Damnit.
I stayed and gave em all the hell I could.
Let’s be like our Mr. Brazhinskey (sic),
the US National Security Advisor. Let’s be
COMBATIVE from the bushes and register
our protest.

Well, this rant preserves several controversies then on-going. Clearly, Buena Vista had become a mecca for public trysting and police response.

And the Paolazzi murder indicates that it was a central area of deadly pickups back to the apartment of the victim. The same perp in the Paolazzi case was suspected by SFPD to have murdered a man (William Prince) in similar fashion earlier in the year in Tenderloin at his Jones Street apartment, either picked up from the park or one of the local bars.

The controversy would continue to mount because of the latest movie release: Cruising. In this New York based movie, a gay serial killer preys upon other gays. The leather bars are featured and one murder occurs in a park, a park loaded with men, some in leather, moving in and out from the undergrowth.

A screencap from Cruising, 1980– it could easily pass for Buena Vista Park in San Francisco at the same time.

The mainstream American community was being blasted by a promiscuous, dangerous image of Gay life, and it was this type of Gay life CBS was telling them was trying to gain power and influence.

Months later Meder is murdered in the park in brutal circumstances. Was it a Gay serial killer, the one who had struck in 1974-1975? Was he the image of the twisted killer in Cruising? JACK THE KNIFE? Was it Paolazzi’s killer? Or are there many killers involved?

It is a fact that Buena Vista Park started being scouted by hustlers, even gangs of them. Their object, it appeared, would be to attack and rob Gay men. They were seen lurking in the day. A letter to the editor in the December edition of the B.A.R. is particularly revealing:

Buena Vista Dangers

This letter is the follow-up you requested per our phone conversation of this afternoon regarding the recent murder in Buena Vista Park.

I wrote a letter to the editor and it was published in your November 20 edition. In that letter I talked of being attacked by a robber posing as a cop. I wanted to warn men who use the park not to fall for that line because it means you lower your guard and are not trying to defend yourself when you actually should.

I also wrote that the man I was with (fucking, to be exact) fled without making a sound of warning to the other men in the park that night. This leads me to believe he was working with the robber. If he wasn’t, why on earth didn’t he yell for help? I could have been murdered as was this poor man Sunday night. Was he killed because he let down his guard to a man posing as a cop??? Or was he murdered because the man he was having sex with fled silently into the night and left him with a murderer???

It’s time Gay men started helping each other. United We Stand!

The problems escalated in Buena Vista Park until August 26, 1981, when a homeless man was pulled from his pup tent and set afire. Only a few days before, another Gay man was found murdered in very bizarre circumstances at nearby Corona Heights Park. The murder of Michael Singleterry is another rare example of the public Gay murder. . . but that is for another post.

The point is made here that public murders were returning to San Francisco, but the details were also being covered better; so was the politics of the time, something absent even a short time before in 1974 when the public murders began. Within this next wave of murders, Singleterry’s is particularly disturbing.

The later wave of murders was no different than the Tenderloin and SOMA murders of 1974-1975. No serial killer legend came of it, but was there one afoot? At time was it the same one, and we have become too diverted by the confused concept of the DOODLER to recognize him?

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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.

Gary Francis Poste– The Echo Chamber

Unfortunately, for most readers news blurbs are presentations they assume came through a strict vetting process. Not so. One disturbing example: It used to be that you could pay and put stories over Business Wire, but that stopped after the Econnect scandal. For popular topics like The Zodiac Killer, however, vetting is still pretty negligent. Once the story gets hot on the wires, legitimate news outlets pick it up and cycle it. An echo chamber ensues, created by a carefully crafted publicity release.

When you see this, know that officialdom isn’t behind it. Behind-the-scenes things are quite different. It’s the politics of publicity. Cold Case has become a market, the jurisdictions carefully protecting their turf so they can get center stage on all newscasts. They would never give glory to an individual or group of amateurs. On another case, the FBI gave me the runaround and finally I was sent down a spiraling funnel to a smug individual who wanted to know why I should be trying to give them any information. The local police jurisdiction patently refused “my offer” when I made no offer, and informed me politely that they were working with the best FBI agent profiler there was, so no need to take my “tip.” My information was refused, and I was only able to sneak the name of the POI in my reply to the lead detective. Months later . . .things changed and he requested the information.

This is reality. It’s not the entertainment level of message boards. Some there try and manipulate their position into being an unofficial conduit for the actual cold case detectives. That’s their place in the food chain, and it gets them a level of prestige and clickbait. Groups get reputations. They make news contacts. They get PR level releases when they present their own edited conclusions.

Ultimately, the actual nature of solving popular topics is what delayed HorrorScope. Too much politics, and often the politics of publicity. I got the admissible evidence on my suspect, Steve,, but I realized that you have to beat a dead horse. Without that, you are in danger. You are in danger of being lumped into the same circus that has repeatedly touted umpteen men as The Zodiac Killer, each promoted dogmatically as the culprit. In this strange world of debate, a tiny little thing like wrinkles on the forehead is promoted as evidence, and actual evidence is brushed aside to keep the clickbait going.

This not only contributed greatly to HorrorScope being delayed, this also explains why there has never been a news release about me and ZODIAC. I don’t pay for them. I don’t have a PR agent broker them. I don’t cater to the echo chamber. HorrorScope is coming out in spring 2022. I have my say. I will avoid all the behind-the-scenes controversy. No one wants to read that anyway, and it wouldn’t help me in future cases. The crimes and seasons of the ZODIAC will be laid out, and then my own search for and discovery of the Zodiac Killer will be presented.

*         *        *

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.

The Slow DOODLE– Gay Murders of The Ebb

Due to the unique M.O. of the so-called DOODLER serial killer we have only a few of the rash of Gay Murders over 1974 and 1975 somewhat tentatively preserved in the public forum. If you follow this blog, however, you have come to understand there were many more victims than the “usual 5” over the glut of those two years. However, in this post let’s look at a few cases that happened outside of these two years. The Gay Murders of the 1970s ebbed and flowed, and it is during the ebb years that some very unusual murders happened that may bear on understanding and solving the issue of whether there was one or more than one serial killer afoot in San Francisco.

S.F. as seen from Twin Peaks, 1982, in a local TV broadcast. It overlooks Castro and right down Market Street.

One of the most dramatic is also one of the most, well, film noir type of murders imaginable. Apparently Thomas Kenny liked to collect some Medieval memorabilia. On the morning of February 6, 1978, the 38 year old was found dead at his apartment on Parkridge, Twin Peaks. He had been bludgeoned to death by a knight’s mace.

Twin Peaks overlooks The Castro, Delores Heights, Noe Valley, and much of central San Francisco. The apartments may not be grand, but the view is. The easiest explanation is that someone came home with him this night to enjoy the breathtaking view and selected the very unwieldly instrument to kill him.

Thomas Kenny, high school photo, 1956.

Kenny’s murder was a unique break in the usual alternating causes of Gay murder– the list will tick tock back and forth between knifing or bludgeon with some strangling intermixed. Rest assured, if you see “strangle” on the list of victims a closer look uncovers it was a Gay murder. Strangle is a very personal and prolonged way to kill, and it is not a method your average house burglar uses . . . especially on a man.

And, curiously, the elusive night strangler was completely absent in San Francisco in 1978. This is truly intriguing. This is the year that the CLONE victims would fall prey to their predator. Each was strangled, but their bodies were taken and dumped far away on Tunitas Creek Road in San Mateo County.

The San Francisco Gay murders in situ were all by blade or bludgeon. This crime wave began in September 1977. Edwin Harding was 33 with an apartment on Mission Street. He was murdered the night of September 27, 1977. The killer used a heavy-duty ashtray at hand. The circumstances, as they would be with Kenny, indicated a pickup locally, perhaps in Castro or South of Market.

On October 23, it was back to knife. Young Barry O’Shields (26) was stabbed to death at his residence on Carl Street in the narrow block that connects Haight and Inner Sunset. Just a week later on Halloween Robert Kerns (31) was viscously knifed to death several blocks away at his apartment on Fell Street. William Rook was suspected of having committed Kerns’ murder, but Shields death had no official suspect.

Barry O’Shields.

It was back to a “handy” bludgeon again in February 1978 when Thomas Kenny was killed with his Medieval mace.

I am still trying to refine and put in place these murders. Each could have a separate perpetrator. . . yet. The following murder I have hopes could lead further.

It was only 2 days after Kenny was bludgeoned that Rick Smoot was gunned down on Howard Street. The location was just behind the same garage where David Reel had been strangled and then mutilated back in August 1975. Detective Earl Sanders speculated that he left the Black and Blue bar with a pickup and they were walking to the perp’s car. Earlier that evening Smoot had been at Toad Hall in The Castro, and it was evident to all covering the case that it was necessary to have a car to get to the Black and Blue, a SOMA leather bar.

I must speculate, I wish to speculate, that something must have happened before Smoot got to the car with the pickup. I contend that Smoot got wise. Something happened that indicated the pickup was dangerous, very dangerous. Something, I contend, incriminating happened or was revealed. Smoot had to die on the spot, shot in the gut.

Rick Smoot

Rick Smoot was popular, and modeled on the side. For our purposes here, he looked like the CLONE victims. As yet none of them had been found. No one even knew the CLONE stalker was afoot until bodies started turning up in San Mateo County in March. By the end of the year David Likens was arrested for the 6 CLONE murders– 6 gay men who had last been seen in Gay bars in San Fran and then found strangled to death in San Mateo and Marin counties.

Was Smoot’s killer the CLONE KILLER? The CLONE murderer certainly had a car. There was no other way to transport the victims to San Mateo Co. But it would seem that it would have been noticed in the bar if the popular, very popular, David Likens had gone out with the handsome Smoot. However, gay bars often did not cooperate with detectives, and if Likens was the CLONE KILLER he had accomplices. As a popular waiter/bartender in gay bars, Likens had many contacts. His buddy Danny Hepburn had also been a part time bartender.

For mere speculation, it is possible that Likens picked up Smoot and something got out of hand before they got to the car. Perhaps someone else unexpected was there, and Smoot didn’t like the way things were going. An abduction commenced, and he resisted.

A popular Castro gay bar, seen here in 1976.

But it could be that Smoot was picked up by the “trick” or gent who started bludgeoning victims in September 1977– ashtray, mace, perhaps sometimes a knife. Rick Smoot’s murder has no motive unless it somehow fits with the two waves of murders then currently underway: the local killing of gay men and the silent wave of murder that would be labeled the CLONE KILLINGS.

By 1978, the Tenderloin was no longer the Gay scene. It had moved west to Castro, and the murders, as I have noted before, were now moving west. The CLONE victims had last been seen in The Castro or SOMA bars. Tom Goodman, one of the CLONE victims, also lived in Castro on Collingwood.

There would be more Gay murders of the Ebb in 1978 and 1979. Then another wave would hit in which a strangler had returned.

*         *        *

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.