How EAR-ONS Became the Golden State Killer in HBO’s I’ll Be Gone In the Dark

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How EAR-ONS Became the Golden State Killer in HBO’s <em>I’ll Be Gone In the Dark</em>

When it comes to true crime, some people find fascination within the genre but don’t necessarily become invested in it. And then there are others who tend to take on the crime as their own, becoming citizen detectives and trying to find the pieces to a sometimes never-ending puzzle. Late author Michelle McNamara was of the latter category, and she was drawn to the crimes of the person at first known as the East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker. Her tireless investigation into those heinous crimes eventually became the subject of her posthumously-released book I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, which has now been adapted into a new docuseries on HBO.

The six-episode series breaks down the late author’s “addiction” to the story, desperately looking for answers to what happened to the person who committed multiple break-ins, raped over 50 people, and murdered over a dozen between 1976-1986. From interviews with family members, various sources/acquaintances she kept up with around the time of research, and excerpts from her book (The Office and Gone Baby Gone star Amy Ryan narrates passages throughout), the series continues her search into the culprit’s true identity, one that likely found an answer almost half a century later.

In the first few minutes of the first episode, you hear the perpetrator be referred by his original name EAR-ONS, a combination of two different acronyms:

  1. EAR—East Area Rapist
  2. ONS—Original Night Stalker

    From initial reports, it gives the impression that the two acronyms refer to different cases that seemingly overlapped. According to a report from Rolling Stone, the EAR was responsible for the 50+ rapes in Northern California, which the series points out specifically as the Sacramento area. In 2001, the state established a database that collected DNA from all felons that were either accused or convicted. This then linked the EAR to a man who committed a series of murders in Southern California around the same timeframe, referred to as the ONS. Through this new form of technology, investigators figured out that both the EAR and the ONS were actually the same person.

    So how come people are less familiar with EAR-ONS and know him as the Golden State Killer? Well, McNamara is the one to thank for the term, which she coined in her 2013 Los Angeles Magazine feature story about her obsession with the case and to heighten the awareness of the case.

    “The Golden State Killer has little recognition; he didn’t even have a catchy name until I coined one,” she wrote. “His capture was too low to detect on any law enforcement agency’s list of priorities.”

    “If this coldest of cases is to be cracked,” she continued, “it may well be due to the work of citizen sleuths like me (and a handful of homicide detectives) who analyze and theorize, hoping to unearth that one clue that turns all the dead ends into a trail—the one detail that will bring us face-to-face with the psychopath who has occupied so many of our waking hours and our dreams.”

    Adrianna Freedman is the editorial fellow for Men’s Health, where she focuses on entertainment, music, health and fitness.

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