10 Facts About I'll Be Gone In the Dark

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.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.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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American Murder: The Family Next Door: 6 Facts About Chris Watts and the Psychology of Family Killers

The Watts family is featured in American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020).
The Watts family is featured in American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020).
Shanann Watts/2020 via Netflix

In 2018, the world watched in horror as husband and father of two Chris Watts seemed to transform before their eyes. Initially seen as a grief-stricken husband and father searching for his missing family, Watts soon became one of the most hated men in America when he confessed that he had murdered his pregnant wife Shannan and their two young daughters, Bella and Celeste. 

Using security footage from the Watts's Colorado home and the couple's own personal communications, Netflix’s true-crime documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door tells the heartbreaking story of the Watts family. While the streaming giant packed a lot of information about the tragedy into its 83-minute running time—including several clips of Shanann Watts speaking about Chris and her family, which she documented on social media—it still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Especially about why a seemingly happy husband and dad would suddenly snap and kill his entire family.

If you're looking to dig further into the case, and learn more about the unique psychology of what is usually referred to as a family annihilator or family killer, read on to discover some fascinating facts about the Watts case that weren't covered in Netflix’s documentary. **Spoilers ahead.**

1. Family annihilators generally fit into one of four basic profiles.

Family annihilator is the term used by criminologists to describe a person who murders their own family. In 2013, The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice published a study on the characteristics of family annihilators, based on a paper examining 30 years’ worth of newspaper archives. The study noted that assailants are typically male and fall into one of four categories: Self-Righteous, Disappointed, Anomic (Socially Unstable), and/or Paranoid.

In addition to fitting the gender part of the profile, Chris Watts has also been shown to exhibit self-righteous behavior. According to the research, family killers who exhibit self-righteous behavior often seek to blame their spouse for both the crime and any familial strain leading up to the murders. Watts showed this when he told detectives that it was Shanann who killed the kids, prompting him to then kill her out of rage. Watts later recanted this when describing the murders of his daughters by his own hands.

2. Family killers don't usually have a criminal history.

Chris Watts during his court hearing in American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020).Courtesy of Netflix/2020

According to the same 2013 study, family killers are unique in that most of them have no history of mental illness nor any criminal record. And most of them seem to be happy family men (or women) before their crimes.

3. financial strain can Be a Major Trigger for Family KIllers.

Although family annihilators have not been studied as much as serial killers or other mass murderers, it still befuddled the public that a seemingly loving father and husband could plan something so horrific.

But when compared to other family killers, there seems to be one commonality that stands out: financial strain. Financial issues are considered to be the second most common motive for family killers to act, according to The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice study.

As with the case of John List, who confessed in a letter that his 1971 family murders were due to finances, Chris Watts appears to have had money issues of his own. The Watts family filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after the couple racked up medical and credit card debt, as well as debt attributed to department store shopping and student loans.

4. Many family annihilators choose to commit their crimes in August.

One odd bit of data gleaned from all this research is that family annihilators most often commit their horrific crimes during the month of August. Why August? Professor David Wilson, director of Birmingham City University’s Centre for Applied Criminology and one of the paper’s authors, theorizes that it may be due to children not yet starting school, and the murderer having access. Another explanation could be parental stress after children are home for months during the summer break, which could worsen other issues like finances and marriage.

Chris Watts murdered his family in the early morning hours of August 13, 2018.

5. Chris Watts has spoken out from prison to express that he wants “a normal life” for his Mistress.

Chris Watts and his mistress in American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020).Courtesy of Netflix/2020

As more details surrounding the Watts case came to light, the public learned that, just as Shannan had suspected, there was another woman in Chris's life: geologist Nichol Kessinger. Kessinger sat down with detectives after learning about the murders and asserted that she didn’t know anything about Chris's plans.

Since then, Watts has sat down with Denver 7 for a nearly 5-hour prison interview to discuss his crimes and what led up to them. During the conversation, Watts spoke at length about his relationship with Kessinger. When asked if he wished he could talk to her he replied yes, “... just to say I’m sorry this all happened." Watts then went on to say, “Hopefully it’s calmed down since ... I just hope she can have normalcy.”

6. Some viewers swear they saw a ghost in the footage.

Following the American Murder: The Family Next Door's premiere on Netflix, one user took to YouTube to point out a rather strange detail: The image of what some believe is a ghost.

The YouTube video above features a clip from the first 15 minutes of the documentary, which is captured via police body cam, and many people think that what they're seeing on the screen is a ghost—perhaps of one of the Watts daughters who was killed. Others, however, refute the paranormal claims, stating that it’s likely the daughter of Nickole Atkinson, a friend of Shannan's and the person who first alerted the police to her disappearance.