Paul Holes is a scientist, seasoned investigator, and a true crime heartthrob, one who even has the capture of an alleged elusive serial killer behind his belt.
But while it appears from the outside that Holes could have been dreamed up by a Hollywood screenwriter creating a role for the next gritty crime thriller, the retired Contra County investigator’s contribution to criminal justice is no work of fiction.
Holes is most famously credited with tracking down suspected Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo in 2018 after more than two decades spent hunting the man suspected of killing at least 13 people and committing more than 50 rapes throughout California.
And after retiring in 2018, Holes has continued to lend his investigative skills to major cases across the country. Holes was part of the team that re-examined the mysterious death of Rebecca Zahau in Oxygen Media’s “Death At The Mansion: Rebecca Zahau,” which aired in summer 2019, and joined forces with journalist Billy Jensen for “The Murder Squad” podcast released earlier this year. During the podcast, the two investigators work closely with law enforcement agencies to take a fresh look at open cases, even asking for the public’s help to solve the murders featured in the series.
This fall, Holes will take the reins of his own show, “The DNA of Murder” on Oxygen. So what do you need to know about Holes?
Catching A Serial Killer
Holes began his career in law enforcement after graduating from UC Davis with a degree in biochemistry. To earn a spot in the crime lab, he also went through the police academy and became a sworn officer, The Sacramento Bee reports.
His search for the Golden State Killer — also believed to be the same man known as the East Area Rapist and Visalia Ransacker — began when he was in his 20s and was working as a forensic toxicologist.
But Holes soon found himself drawn to the investigative side of police work.
“I very quickly got more interested in the investigative side to the point where the other guys in the lab were saying, ‘That’s not your job,’” Holes said, according to The Sacramento Bee.
After becoming a deputy, he discovered two folders in an old file cabinet labeled “EAR” for East Area Rapist and became transfixed with the case. It would become the case that defined his career as Holes pursued countless dead ends for 24 years investigating the heinous rapes and murders.
But as he got ready to retire in March 2018, the investigative team was closer than ever to catching their killer.
On his last day of work before turning in his badge, Holes told PEOPLE he sat outside the 72-year-old former police officer’s Citrus Heights, Calif. home after DeAngelo had become one of several persons of interest in the case.
After decades spent eluding authorities, DeAngelo had become a suspect after investigators decided to use the innovative approach of comparing DNA found at the crime scenes with the public genealogy site GEDMatch to identify people possibly related to the killer.
DeAngelo and a small list of others had made the list of possible suspects, but a growing amount of circumstantial evidence was beginning to point toward DeAngelo as the possible killer.
Holes considered walking up to knock on DeAngelo’s door to request a DNA sample, but ultimately decided against it and drove away.
“In reflection, it’s a good thing that I did not go and knock on his door that day,” Holes later told Fox News. “I considered it. Just to get a DNA sample and eliminate this guy. But who knows what would have happened if he recognized me and decided to do something.”
Even after he officially retired, Holes stayed close to the case.
“The guys that were active, that were a part of my team, basically kept me on as if I hadn’t retired,” he said. “When we finally got the DNA sample that showed he was the Golden State Killer, I was brought in.”
Holes helped write DeAngelo’s arrest warrant, finally bringing some measure of closure to a case that had haunted him for decades.
The day of DeAngelo’s arrest, Holes got a call from one of the Golden State Killer’s rape victims asking whether investigators had really found their man. Holes was able to tell her that he believed they had.
“To me, that’s the ultimate reward,” he told The Mercury News in 2018. “To make these victims feel safe and to get this guy who is the epitome of evil and end his life as he knows it.”
DeAngelo has been arrested and is currently awaiting trial.
Gaining True Crime Fans
Holes’ foray into the spotlight after years behind the scenes as an investigator with the Contra County District Attorney’s Office has even earned the rapt attention of many female true crime fans, who are enamored with the hero detective’s fit physique and charming good looks.
True crime fan Allison Birdsong even launched the hashtag #hotforholes—which quickly became a trending topic in certain social media circles.
“Is he nice to look at? Absolutely,” Birdsong told The Sacramento Bee.
Birdsong added that many female true crime fans “worship the ground he walks on.”
“There are tons of other (true crime investigators), it just so happens Paul Holes is the best to look at. We cannot help that,” she said.
Holes has taken the newfound attention in stride — although he admits that the devotion from his female fans has taken him by surprise.
“First, it’s flattering. It’s very nice that they look at me that way. But it’s also very surreal. I’m just a retired county employee,” he told Vulture.
Finding New Investigative Pursuits
Knowing DeAngelo was finally behind bars gave Holes a feeling of satisfaction — but before long, his investigative desires began to pull at him once again.
“For me, I spent all my time in the last few years of being active pursuing the Golden State Killer,” he said to Fox News. “I did not realize what a part of my life that case was until DeAngelo was taken into custody.”
After sensing a “void” in his life, Holes began to lend his investigative skills to other unsolved cases.
In “The Murder Squad” podcast out earlier this year, Holes and Jensen teamed up to investigate unsolved cases of missing persons or murders.
“We want to pick cases that have actionable items that people can help solve,” Jensen told Oxygen.com. “True crime fans or murderinos or whatever you want to call them, they want to look into these things and they want to just help start solving crimes as opposed to just sitting on the sidelines. So those are the cases that we’re gonna pick, ones where there are threads that we’ve seen that can take you out of the maze and towards justice.”
During the podcast, Holes and Jensen — who met through the late true crime author Michelle McNamara — ask the public or “citizen detectives” to help solve the crimes.
“Reaching out to the public is something law enforcement always does. You’ll say, ‘Hey, we need your help. Here’s the wanted poster.’ Now, we’re doing it in a different way,” Holes told Oxygen.com earlier this year.
Crime fans will also get an in-depth look at just how Holes approaches a murder scene through his new show, “The DNA of a Murder,” premiering Oct. 12 on Oxygen.
“This is a concept that I kind of developed with the production company and it’s the way that I work with cases,” he told Oxygen.com at CrimeCon this summer. “You know, with ‘The DNA of Murder,’ I am actually going into law enforcement agencies that have unsolved cases and bringing my expertise and experience to try to see if we can’t help them get the cases solved.”
The projects have given new life to the investigator, who said he found himself searching for his next purpose after D’Angelo was arrested shortly after Holes retired.
“I just felt this void,” he told Fox News. “I wasn’t on the hunt like I was before. And that’s something I just need.”
And while Holes has devoted his career to solving crimes, the married man said he doesn’t spend all his time analyzing the hallmarks of a crime scene.
“I have to get a workout in,” he told Vulture of his outside interests. “That’s always been my outlet in terms of stress relief.”
Even so, it seems likely justice will never be far from Holes’ mind.
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