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Crime News Cold Cases

New 'I’ll Be Gone In The Dark' Shines Light On Michelle McNamara's Original Cold Case Obsession As It Closes GSK Saga

A seventh episode of the hit HBO series looks at the aftermath of the “Golden State Killer” case while also looking back at the origins of late writer Michelle McNamara's obsession with true crime.

By Kevin Dolak
Michelle Mcnamara As A Teen Hbo

One year after its premiere to rave reviews, a special addendum episode of the hit docuseries “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” looks at the aftermath of the “Golden State Killer” case while also returning to the origins of late true crime writer Michelle McNamara’s determination to seek justice in a series of cold case rapes and murders. 

The book and subsequent HBO series “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” chronicled McNamara’s dedication to bringing justice to the victims of the serial murderer she dubbed the ”Golden State Killer.” In 2018, the elusive killer was identified as septuagenarian Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer whose multiple crime sprees included numerous murders and rapes across California between 1973 and 1986. In her book, McNamara also mentioned the unsolved 1984 sexual assault and murder of 24-year-old Kathleen Lombardo in her hometown of Oak Park, Illinois — which was the case that brought about her lifelong interest in unsolved crimes. 

The new episode of the series, titled “Show Us Your Face,” follows DeAngelo’s sentencing over the course of four days in August 2020 in a socially distanced ballroom in Sacramento — a pandemic stand-in for a courtroom. The episode shows the cathartic moments when DeAngelo’s victims are finally able to face him and furiously say how his heinous attacks damaged their lives.

The episode also looks at Lombardo’s murder and its aftermath with closer detail, ultimately weaving in the closing arc of the story of one notorious serial killer with the potential that justice could yet be served in another still-unsolved case that's gaining wider public knowledge.

As the sentencing hearing in Sacramento unfolds on screen — with DeAngelo seemingly feigning senility for the court — the show’s producers interview some of DeAngelo’s victims, who spoke out in earlier episodes. This all leads up to their moment of confrontation, and the catharsis is palpable as they speak publicly of how their or the lives of their loved ones were shattered by DeAngelo’s attacks and murders; some victims do also veer into mercilessness, as family members speak of a desire to see D’Angelo “shivering, blindfolded, naked, and exposed every moment from now on,” and raped in prison “by masked inmates.”

DeAngelo, who pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder in a deal with prosecutors that took the death penalty off the table, was sentenced to 12 life sentences plus eight years in August. 

“I know that visit to the crime scene was the beginning,” McNamara wrote in “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark,” of the moment she visited the location where Lombardo was killed. “The origin of my obsession story. For it was there that I first experienced the narcotic pull of an unsolved murder. I felt like I knew a secret. And that secret had changed me forever.” 

This kernel from McNamara’s posthumously published book, which had a moment in episode two of the HBO series, provides what could be the next chapter in “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” — or, perhaps, help carry on McNamara’s cold case-solving legacy. In addition to looking at the Lombardo murder and scrutinizing the Oak Park Police Department, the show’s producers also interview Grace Puccetti, who in 1982 was a victim of a similar attack in Oak Park in which she was held at knifepoint and threatened with sexual assault; to avoid retraumatizing herself while speaking to Oak Park detectives, Puccetti never reported the incident. She is finally given a platform here to discuss the horror of that attack. Nevertheless, the crime hasn’t been solved. Nor has the murder of Kathleen Lombardo. 

The episode closes with the detail that the Oak Park Police Department was sued after three Freedom Of Information requests looking to gain access to forensic records were rejected, as the investigation is still ongoing. The outcome of that fight for records is still pending, as the episode states in a closing title card — but a major spotlight has now been shined on the decades-old Oak Park attacks.