Oxygen Insider Exclusive!

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up for Free to View
Crime News Breaking News

San Francisco Police Reexamining '70s Cold Case Of Serial Killer Called 'The Doodler'

Police are taking a new look at the case of a man who terrorized the city's gay community in the mid-1970s. 

By Jill Sederstrom

Police are looking at the bigger picture for the cold case of a California killer called the Doodler.

The San Francisco Police Department's cold case unit is taking a new look at the case of a man who terrorized the city's gay community with a series of attacks in the mid-1970s. They are trying to finally identify the Doodler and determine if he is also responsible for a series of murders, known by police as the beach homicides, that took place during the same time.

"A connection between the beach homicides (and) the (Doodler) attacks where victims survived is still being investigated and has not been established," Sgt. Michael Andraychak, Officer in Charge of the Media Relations Unit for the San Francisco Police Department told Oxygen.com.

Police believe there could be a link between the two sets of crimes because both involved attacks on gay, white males.

According to Andraychak, during the mid-1970s at least two and possibly three men survived attacks by an African-American male.

"There may be others who never came forward," he said.

Police believe the men were attacked by the same suspect, who was given the nickname the Doodler because of his habit of sketching in public places.

"At least one of the victims who survived an attack provided information to police that the suspect said he was a cartoonist and the suspect was doodling while conversing with the victim in a late night diner," Andraychak said.

The man was described at the time as being between the ages of 19 and 22 years old with a slender build, who often wore "a Navy-type watch cap," according to CNN.

Two of the victims have previously been described as a well-known entertainer and a diplomat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Using the description from victims, a police sketch artist was able to put together a sketch of the suspect in October 1975.

Shortly after the sketch was released, a suspect was detained after a bar patron reported a man fitting the description was offering to draw sketches of customers at a local bar.

But no arrests were ever made.

Police say the term "the Doodler" is used to refer to those victims who survived the attacks and were able to give matching descriptions of their perpertrator to police, but police believe it could also be possible the same man is responsible for murders that also targeted gay men.

Some reports, including a recent story from SF Weeklyhave linked the killer to as many as 14 murders during his reign of terror, but the San Francisco Police Department's cold case unit is focusing on five murders that began in 1974.

"I am looking at five murders," inspector Dan Cunningham told CNN. "But I'd be a fool to say he didn't do more."

Police discovered the first body along the water at Ocean Beach in January 1974. The victim, 50-year-old Gerald Cavanagh, had been stabbed 16 times and had signs of a defensive wound on his finger.

In June 1974, police found the body of Joseph Stevens, 27, in Golden Gate Park. Stevens was described at the time by The San Francisco Chronicle as "female impersonator who worked in a North Beach nightclub." He had been stabbed five times.

Later that summer, a third victim, identified as Claus Christmann, 31, was found along Ocean Beach. The coroner reported that Christmann's pants were unzipped and open and he had suffered from multiple stab wounds. Unlike the previous victims, Christmann was married with children, according to the SF Gate.

A year later two more bodies were found near Ocean Beach. The fourth victim was a registered nurse in his early 30's indentified as Frederick Capin, while the fifth man was a Swedish sailor named Harald Gullberg, 67.

"There was fear among gay men," said Randy Alfred, news editor at The Sentinel, according to CNN. "Particularly among men who were attracted maybe to the young hustler types."

Cunningham said he plans to work in conjunction with the crime lab to determine whether there is any usable DNA from the crime scenes. He also hopes to talk with victims who survived the Doodler attacks.

Andraychak told Oxygen.com police still haven't ruled out the man detained back in the mid-1970s as a possible suspect.

"This is an open and ongoing investigation," he said. "No person(s) have been ruled out as suspects."

The renewed interest in the case comes after the recent arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, who is believed to be responsible for a dozen murders and nearly 50 rapes across the state of California in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, has been charged with 12 counts of murder, including two counts in Sacramento County, two in Ventura County, four in Santa Barbara County and four in Orange County.

[Photo: San Francisco Police Department]

Read more about: