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Police Hope To Identify The ‘Doodler’ Serial Killer Wanted For Gay Men’s Murders

The San Francisco Police Department hopes a new composite sketch – plus a $250k reward – will push people to come forward about an elusive serial killer who murdered at least five men in the mid-1970s. 

By Jax Miller
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Police officials in San Francisco are appealing to the public in hopes of identifying a serial killer who preyed on gay men.

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has released a new composite sketch of a man believed to be the elusive killer known as the "Doodler,” according to a recent press release. A $250,000 reward has been offered to anyone who can lead authorities to the capture and conviction of the man believed to be responsible for murdering gay men in the mid-1970s.

Police also hope to identify a woman who placed multiple anonymous calls to authorities not long after the murders.

Between January 1974 and June 1975, authorities say the killer murdered no less than five men in the Ocean Beach area. However, the number of victims may be as high as 14 during a period spanning January 1974 and September 1975, according to NBC Bay Area affiliate KNTV.

RELATED: University of Idaho Suspect Reportedly Sent Series Of Messages To Victim On Instagram Before Killings

Confirmed victims include Gerald Cavanaugh, 50, who was found on the beach “covered in stab wounds” on Jan. 27, 1974, according to the Washington Post. Five months later, the body of nightclub performer and “female impersonator” Joseph Jae Stevens was found stabbed to death in Golden Gate Park, a short walk from where Cavanaugh’s body was discovered.

The "Doodler" suspect drawing

The other confirmed victims were Klaus Christmann, 31, Vietnam vet Frederick Capin, 32, and Harald Gullberg, 66, according to People.

All five men were gay, their deaths referred to by San Francisco Police Commander Greg McEachern as “horrendous homicides,” per the Post.

In their recent Jan. 20 press release, police reaffirmed their belief that a 52-year-old lawyer named Warren Andrews was the killer’s sixth victim “as a result of a new investigation.”

“On April 27, 1975, Andrews was a victim of an assault/battery at Land’s End,” police stated. “Andrews was found unconscious and never regained consciousness, dying approximately seven weeks later.”

Land's End is just one to four miles north on the shores of Ocean Beach.

Andrews wasn’t initially believed to be a victim of the Doodler because of how he died. According to UPI news, he was beaten with a tree branch and rock – presumably because he fought off his attacker, who may have lost control of the knife and beat Andrews out of convenience.

Much of what police learned about the killer came during a two-week span in July 1975, when two men separately reported being attacked at the Fox Plaza Apartments, about five miles inland of Ocean Beach. Both survivors lived on the same floor, though they did not know one another.

Police at the time found “a connection” between the apartment attacks and the victims found on or near Ocean Beach.

One of the men reported to investigators that he met his attacker “after the bars closed” while at the “Truck Stop” diner near Market Street and Church Street, according to police.

“The suspect was drawing animal figures on a napkin,” police stated. “The suspect commented to the victim that he was attending art school and was studying to be a cartoonist. The victim believed the suspect to be skillful in drawing, as he himself had a background in art.”

The survivor – whom police say “spent the most significant amount of time with the suspect” – would help officials create their first, widely circulated composite sketch of the “Doodler.”

According to police, the composite sketch brought forth a woman, who provided authorities with a name and a license plate number belonging to a potential suspect.

Investigators hope to identify the anonymous caller.

“The female called twice within 10 days,” according to the recent release. “After this caller contacted SFPD, it is believed that at least two different people also contacted SFPD providing the same suspect name.”

Police say the suspect was interviewed in 1976 and was “considered a strong suspect." Investigators previously said they detained the suspect at the time, but he was never charged with the murders, though he continues to be the focus of their current investigation.

Friday marks the 49th anniversary of the Doodler’s first kill, according to police.

“We believe there are other suspects who may have survived attacks by this same suspect or may have information regarding this suspect and these attacks,” said police.

"The “Doodler” is described as an African-American male believed to be between 19 and 25 at the time of the murders. Witnesses said he was lanky and had a medium complexion with smooth skin.

Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD 24-hour tip line at 1-415-575-4444. Tipsters can also contact one of four cold case investigators: Tom Newland at 1-415-553-1144, Dominic Celaya at 1-415-553-9856, Daniel Dedet at 1-415-553-1450, or Daniel Cunningham at 1-415-553-9515.

Callers can remain anonymous.