When last we left off the Gay Murders of San Francisco, we showed how the general M.O. remained the same both before and after the years attributed to the DOODLER (1974-1975). We could easily see that another wave occurred in the early 1980s. The purpose, of course, was to underscore that DOODLER may not be the primary serial killer that should be of interest today. Here let’s look at an earlier murder.
It was April 19, 1970. San Francisco was just entering the threshold of the darkest era of the counterculture’s aftermath. Late night Robert Salem (40) brought a man home with him to his upscale pad on Stevenson Street, right South of Market. It was an old warehouse building that had survived the great earthquake. Salem had turned it into a posh apartment and workshop. He was famous as a designer of lamps, and some of his work was considered art.
Now, days later there were reasons for friends to break into the apartment. No one had seen him, and he wasn’t answering calls. After they forced the door they were confronted by a grisly scene. Slathered in blood on the wall was “Satan Saves ZOIDAC.” Also in blood was some kind of dagger and hilt.
Blood was in every room. It was a savage murder, the victim lured into it by the promise of a sexual tryst or by intoxication. Robert Salem’s body was on a Japanese tatami matt, covered in a psychedelic print. He had been stabbed many times, then his jugular had been slit. His left ear was missing, cut off by his assailant. On his stomach was etched the same dagger symbol.
Police investigation proved the blood on the wall was Salem’s. Apparently nude or in oriental lounging clothes, the murderer killed or sacrificed Salem, then wandered the house looking for something. He took enough blood to liberally write on the walls, then took a shower. He must had dressed again and then left . . .with Salem’s left ear.
Salem’s wallet had been found open, so it was thought there was some form of robbery, but nothing else seemed to be missing.
So what to make of this? A man named Stanley Baker would be tagged for it. It was thought to be part sacrifice and part decoy. At first, the police thought it was to make them believe it had been done by the Zodiac Killer. (The writing on the wall misspelled ZODIAC.) But the circumstances showed it was a gay murder. If all this was done to merely conceal the fact a tryst had been intended, it wasn’t done very well.
On the other hand, this was not the way a trick would get rid of a customer. It was just too elaborate.
The viciousness of such attacks had been seen before, starting in 1967 when what can be called the murder spree began. Strangling, knifings, horrid S&M. Within the span of 1967 to 1982, one must pick out more details to try and figure if there was one or more serial killers hunting gay men in San Francisco. The general M.O.s are so similar, though in Salem’s case there was a unique twist to it, one that would not be repeated until the murder of John Doe 60 in 1985, in which he too had been sacrificed by Maurice Bork and Clifford St. Joseph. They had carved an upside-down pentagram on his chest.
Salem’s is only one example where there was a suspect named. This adds him to about 20 gay murders where there was a suspect or conviction. Nevertheless, there remain about 60 gay murders over the same span of time for which there was no suspect. Those now being popularly blamed on the so-called DOODLER occurred only over 1974-1975. But the same M.O. found within those two years can be found both before and after.
* * *
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.