How I’ll Be Gone in the Dark author Michelle McNamara helped bring killer to justice

Her quest led to finding one of the most horrific rapists of the 70s and 80s.

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i'll be gone in the dark

HBO’s crime, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, will air on NOW TV from August 30th.

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And one of the questions many might find themselves asking after watching the docuseries, which first premiered on HBO on  June 28th, is: who is Michelle McNamara?

The six-part series looks at the crimes committed by a man, who went by the name of The Golden State Killer, from 1974 to 1986.

The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Visalia Ransacker, was responsible for a shocking amount of crimes throughout the state of California. He committed at least 13 murders and over 50 rapes.

However, it wasn’t actually a detective who ultimately brought him to justice, but rather Michelle McNamara, an author who broke his case in her book.

Here’s everything you need to know about her.

Who is Michelle McNamara?

Michelle McNamara and her husband in 2011 (Getty Images)
Michelle McNamara and her husband Patton Oswalt in 2011 (Getty Images)

Michelle McNamara was an American true crime author.

She grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, and was the daughter of Thomas W. McNamara, a trial lawyer, and Rita McNamara (née Rigney), a stay-at-home mother.

McNamara had a long-standing fascination with true crime originating from the unsolved murder of Kathleen Lombardo that happened two blocks from where she lived when she was young.

She began looking into The Golden State Killer – whose name she coined – and her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, was released posthumously in February 2018.

Two months after its release, The Golden State Killer was found and arrested leading many to believe her book had much to do with bringing his crimes to justice.

i'll be gone in the dark
Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for the crimes (Getty Images)

At a news conference held by law enforcement agencies to announce the arrest, an official said that the book “kept interest and tips coming in” and kept the case in the public eye, but noted that information from the book hadn’t led directly to Mr. DeAngelo’s arrest.

McNamara died in her sleep on April 21st, 2016, in her family’s California home. According to the autopsy report released online by Radar, her death was attributed to the effects of multiple drugs. The coroner ruled it an accidental overdose.

At the time of her death, McNamara’s book was only two-thirds completed.

Crime writer Paul Haynes, investigative journalist Billy Jensen, and McNamara’s husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, helped complete the book following her death.

Jensen later explained that while McNamara had completed numerous chapters for the book they were not in any particular order in her computer files; consequently he, Haynes and Oswalt mainly focused on sequencing her material and filling in gaps from her voluminous notes and copies of police documents.

Why did Michelle decide to write about The Golden State Killer?

i'll be gone in the dark
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (HBO)

Although she  lived a quiet life as a writer, mother and wife, McNamara was obsessed with true crime.

By day, she preferred to stay on the periphery of the Hollywood world of her comedian husband.

By night, as her family slept, McNamara indulged her obsession with unsolved cases, beginning her investigation into The Golden State Killer.

Oswalt previously blamed his wife’s fascination with the case for her death.

Speaking in an interview shortly after Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for the crimes, he said: “I finally had the name and the face that we’ve been seeking for seven years, the name and the face that Michelle died trying to uncover.”

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark will be available to stream on NOW TV from August 30th. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide. If you want to read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, head over to Amazon now.