What’s the story?
It took police 42 years to get a breakthrough in the case of the Golden State Killer, the masked gunman who wreaked havoc in California across the 1970s and 80s with a series of rapes, assaults and murders. The killer was given a number of different monikers, from the East Area Rapist to the Original Night Stalker, over the ten years he was active.
But it was only in 2018 that the identity of the Golden State Killer finally came to light. After a breakthrough in DNA testing, police were able to arrest Joseph DeAngelo, a 73-year-old former police officer. Genetic genealogy is a new tool being used to help crack old cold cases, with GEDmatch – a public database where you can upload results from consumer genetic testing companies like 23andMe and MyHeritage – utilised to help with the case of DeAngelo. He is thought to be responsible for more than a dozen deaths, at least 50 rapes and around 225 home invasions across California.
Tell us more…
That brings us to this podcast. Man in the Window is a collaboration between podcast aficionados Wondery and the Los Angeles Times, with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Paige St John taking the reins. Most will be au fait with the twists and turns of the Golden State Killer story, but this podcast helps to add further context to the story we know. St. John interviews survivors and investigators on the case – and even speaks to DeAngelo’s ex-fiancé, Bonnie Colwell. In fact, one of the victims who was raped by DeAngelo remembered him crying and talking about how he hated a woman named Bonnie – a tip that police were unable to work out at the time.
It also shines a spotlight on how our views of sexual assault have changed – at the height of DeAngelo’s rampage, rape counselling didn’t really exist and there was no sex crime unit in the police.” The 1970s were hostile to victims of sexual violence. Rape was lightly treated, seldom discussed, and victims suffered in silence,” St. John told the LA Times. “That social climate is so vastly different from today’s beliefs that I felt people needed to hear it — be immersed in it — to understand what was going on.”
What started as a profile of the man accused of such terrible crimes – a man who had somehow managed to live a quiet life, going unnoticed despite a huge number of crimes – soon turned into something bigger thanks to the powerful stories of the women interviewed. St. John said: “The final and greatest incentive to bring this story to life as a podcast is the voice it gives all those women — those who were willing to speak about their experience and their struggles — and all those many more women of that generation who never could.”
Will I like it?
Wondery have constantly shown themselves as the masters of true-crime podcasts, from Dirty John to Dr Death, Over My Dead Body to The Shrink Next Door. So, if you like their previous work, you’ll like Man in the Window – intelligent, heartfelt reporting that focuses on the strength of the victims. But it can be quite harrowing. In one episode, a clip of a phone call made by DeAngelo to one of his victims is played, where he heavily breathes into the phone, and eventually whispers, “I’m going to kill you”. That’s going to be hard to forget.
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