10 Facts About I'll Be Gone In the Dark

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO / Courtesy of HBO

"You’ll be gone forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."

These are the words allegedly spoken to one of the victims of the serial killer who would become known as the Golden State Killer. They are also the words that inspired the title of true crime author Michelle McNamara’s 2018 book about the rapist-turned-murderer and its subsequent television adaptation, which is currently airing on HBO.

1. The Golden State Killer went by several names.

The Golden State Killer went by many other names, including the East Area Rapist and the East Bay Rapist, based on the areas within California where he committed his crimes throughout the 1970s and '80s. The Golden State Killer is believed to have been responsible for at least 13 known murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries.

2. It wasn't until 2001 that DNA evidence connected the East Area Rapist to the Original Night Stalker.

In 2001, DNA evidence linked the East Area Rapist’s crimes with those committed by a perpetrator who was then known as the Original Night Stalker (who preceded Richard Ramirez, who also went by The Night Stalker moniker). When authorities determined that the criminals were the same person, they began calling him EARONS, an amalgamation of the acronyms.

3. Michelle McNamara coined "The Golden State Killer" moniker.

I'll Be Gone In the Dark author Michelle McNamara.
I'll Be Gone In the Dark author Michelle McNamara. / Robyn Von Swank/HBO

In 2006, TV writer Michelle McNamara launched her True Crime Diary blog, where she began amateur-sleuthing cold cases. One of those cases was that of the Golden State Killer, a name which McNamara is credited with coining. Her early work on the blog formed the basis for her 2018 book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

4. Michelle McNamara's interest in true crime developed when a woman in her hometown was murdered.

The subtitle of I'll Be Gone In the Dark is "One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer," which centers McNamara in the story. She writes about how she came to be fascinated by true crime as a teen after the still-unsolved 1984 murder of Kathleen Lombardo in their shared hometown of Oak Park, Illinois.

McNamara's personal connection to the crime of murder cements the book in a recent line of true crime media created by women and injected with the women's own experiences. Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me, which chronicles the author's relationship to Ted Bundy, and Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark's My Favorite Murder podcast belong to the same sub-genre of true crime.

5. I'll Be Gone In the Dark is the latest example in a long line of citizen sleuths helping to solve crimes.

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark also belongs to the somewhat recent tradition of private citizens and true crime enthusiasts investigating and helping to solve crimes, rather than leaving it up to authorities. On April 24, 2018, two months after McNamara's book was released, Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested. He was initially charged with eight counts of first degree murder with an additional four counts added in May of that year. He was also charged with 13 counts of kidnapping. DeAngelo cannot be charged for the rapes and burglaries he reportedly committed, due to the statute of limitations on those crimes.

6. Joseph James DeAngelo was taken into custody one day after filming on I'll Be Gone In the Dark began.

Two-time Oscar nominee Liz Garbus, the executive producer and co-director of HBO's I'll Be Gone In the Dark docuseries, described the "crazy timing" that filming on the series began. "Our first shoot was in Chicago ... We had just finished our first night of shooting and I had just met all of Michelle's siblings and nieces and nephews," she said. "And when I got up for my flight at 6 a.m. the next morning, I saw all these texts on my phone that overnight there was a suspect taken into custody ... and this whole journey came to an inflection point. It was very interesting being there with [Michelle's husband] Patton [Oswalt]. Emotionally, it was a very intense day."

7. Joseph James DeAngelo was a police officer, which could be why he was able to evade capture for so long.

Courtesy of HBO

DeAngelo was a former Navy veteran and a police officer. Many believe that his position in law enforcement is what allowed him to get away with his crimes for as long as he did.

8. Michelle McNamara didn't live to see the Golden State Killer's arrest.

Unfortunately, the woman who helped bring justice to the Golden State Killer’s victims didn’t live to witness it. Michelle McNamara died suddenly in her sleep on April 21, 2016 of an accidental overdose of prescription medication combined with heart disease. She was 46 years old.

9. Patton Oswalt, Michelle McNamara's husband, helped finish I'll Be Gone In the Dark.

McNamara had completed two-thirds of the manuscript for I'll Be Gone In the Dark prior to her death. Her husband, actor/comedian Patton Oswalt; fellow crime writer Paul Haynes; and investigative journalist Billy Jensen helped complete the book, which features an introduction from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn and an afterword by Oswalt.

Garbus also credits Oswalt for helping to make McNamara's voice so clearly heard throughout the series. "Thanks to the archives that Patton Oswalt shared with us we had a wealth of materials, including all the podcasts and interviews she had done during her lifetime, her personal research and family videotapes, and her iPhone, which had notes and recordings of her conversations with law enforcement," Garbus explained. "We were able to make Michelle feel very present by piecing together all that she left behind. And that balance between Michelle, her story, and the investigation were the keys to the storytelling."

10. Joseph James DeAngelo pleaded guilty the day after I'll Be Gone In the Dark premiered.

On June 29, 2020, one day after the HBO series about his crimes premiered, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to all charges in order to avoid the death penalty. DeAngelo, who is 74 years old, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark airs on HBO on Sundays at 10 p.m.