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Crime News Breaking News

Police Release New Sketch Of The Doodler Serial Killer, Who Terrorized San Francisco's Gay Community In The 1970s

The Doodler, who earned the nickname after one survivor reported he had been doodling the night they met, targeted gay, white males.

By Jill Sederstrom
8 Facts About ‘The Doodler’ Serial Killer

San Francisco Police have released a new sketch of “The Doodler” serial killer, a man they believe is responsible for a series of gruesome murders of gay men in the mid 1970s.

The Doodler has been linked to five murders of white, gay men that occurred in the city between Jan. 1974 and Sept. 1975. The bodies were found along the beach or in parks.

Police are hoping the new age-progressed sketch will bring justice for the victims in a case that once terrorized the city's gay community. They are also offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest.

“In the 1970s, this was gripping the gay community and San Francisco,” police Comm. Greg McEachern said in a news conference Wednesday to announce the new sketch, according to KNTV.

Cleve Jones, a local LGBTQ rights activist recalled the impact the killings had on the community.

“There was terror,” he told the station. “[The media was] very reluctant to cover what was going on in the gay community at that time, and when the coverage did occur, it was very lurid and very sensational and not very helpful.”

Police are also hoping to speak with the person who called 911 on Jan. 27, 1974 to report a body near Ocean Beach and released an audio recording of the call to the public Wednesday.


“I was walking along there ... and I thought I saw somebody lying there,” the caller said in the recording according to SFGate. “But I didn’t want to get too close to him because you never know what could happen.”

Police now believe the caller could be a witness or possible suspect in the case.

Officers would discover that body was Gerald Cavanaugh, 50, who had been stabbed to death. Cavanaugh also had defensive wounds suggesting he had tried to fight back against his killer.

He was the first of five men police believe The Doodler may have killed. Five months after Cavanaugh’s body was found, police discovered the body of Joseph “Jae” Stevens, a female impersonator who had worked at a North Beach nightclub.

A German tourist, Klaus Christmann, would be found dead several weeks later with his throat slashed, SFGate reports.

Investigators found the body of Vietnam War veteran Frederick Capin in May 1975. The last known victim was Harald Gullberg, whose body had been hidden along a golf course.

The Doodler earned his nickname after one assault victim, who had managed to escape the attack, later reported to police that the man had been a cartoonist and was doodling while he spoke with the victim at a late night diner, police said in a statement.

Other assault victims, including a “well-known entertainer” and diplomat, survived and described their attacker to police. Investigators believe the assailant in those cases is the same man responsible for the murders.

After describing the attacker, police identified a suspect in 1976, but the surviving victims were reluctant to publicly testify at the time.

In a 1977 Associated Press article, gay rights activist Harvey Milk defended the victim’s decision.

“I understand their position,” he said at the time. “I respect the pressure society has put on them.”

Police said they have re-interviewed the suspect from 1976 and also submitted DNA evidence for testing from several of the homicides. The crime lab results from the samples are still pending, according to The San Francisco Examiner.

Police decided to re-examine the case after successfully identifying a suspect in the Golden State Killer murders.

“Last year when the Golden State Killer was apprehended we went back and looked at all the other crimes, especially serial crimes, that were occuring in the past,” McEachern said.

Police are hoping they’ll be able to make an arrest soon that will provide closure for the victims.

Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact the San Francisco Police Department.

[Photo: San Francisco Police Department]