Between 1974 and 1975, a serial killer known as "The Doodler" killed at least five men in San Francisco. The Doodler got his name after one of his victims managed to survive the attack, and recalled that his would-be murderer was doodling during a dinner they had shared that night. The victim also said that the killer claimed to be a cartoonist.
At the time, the victim was able to describe his attacker well enough to produce a composite sketch. Unfortunately, despite widespread appeal, nobody could positively identify the man. The murders stopped, and the case went cold.
Now, more than 40 years later, police have reopened the investigation in the hopes of finding the culprit, and have released an updated sketch in order to help the efforts.
"In the 1970s, this was gripping the gay community and San Francisco," said police Commander Greg McEachern. He added that he hoped the updated sketch could bring forward some new evidence, and maybe eventually grant some justice to the victims of the "horrendous homicides" committed by the Doodler.
As well as releasing the sketch, law enforcement have been re-testing DNA samples using technology that was not available at the time of the murders. Techniques such as these have been successful in solving other cold cases recently, and, indeed, the Golden State Killer was captured last year thanks to the re-examination of physical evidence.
At the time of the killings, the suspect was believed to be African American, about 5 foot 11 inches, in his early 20s, and with a slim figure. A man matching this description was actually detained in 1976, but there was never any hard evidence against him. He remains a person of interest today, and law enforcement are hoping that DNA evidence will either condemn or exonerate him for good.
Due to the homosexual nature of the crimes, it is believed that people who did have information on the killer were reluctant to come forward because they did not want to out themselves as being gay.
According to the New York Post, "An Associated Press story from 1977 quotes police as saying the suspect at the time could not be charged because three survivors, including a 'well-known entertainer' and a diplomat were reluctant to 'come out of the closet' to testify against him."
The Doodler is believed to have only targeted white men, and would come onto them by drawing a sketch or doodle of them before sleeping with them and eventually stabbing them to death. Four of the victims were discovered on a beach, and a fifth was found in Golden Gate Park.
Police have also released audio of an anonymous call reporting the death of the first victim, 50-year-old Gerald Cavanaugh.
"I believe there might be a dead person," the caller said. "But I didn’t want to get too close to him because you never know what could happen."
Officers are asking for information on who the caller could be, and are offering $100,000 in reward money for any details that lead to the capture of the Doodler.