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Crime News Serial Killers

New Podcast Investigates 'The Doodler,' A Serial Killer Who Terrorized San Francisco's LGBTQ Community

In the mid-1970s in San Francisco's Ocean Beach area, a killer would use his artistic abilities to lure gay men into sexual encounters, then stab them to death. 

By Gina Tron
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A new podcast promises to dive into a serial killer case that has largely flown under the radar as the murderer's true identity remains elusive.

The Zodiac. The Unabomber. Ted Bundy. Serial killers you’ll be familiar with. But between 1974 and 1975, there was another ruthless serial killer at large, terrorising [sic] San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ community,” the website for “The Doodler,” a new podcast put together by The San Francisco Chronicle, Sony Music Entertainment and U.K. production company Ugly Duckling Films, states.

Five white gay men were killed between January 1974 and June 1975 in San Francisco's Ocean Beach area, their bodies all found riddled with stab wounds, USA Today reported last year. The murders coincided with other violent attacks on white gay men in the city, leading investigators to connect the dots between the cases and narrow in on one suspect: a lanky, young Black man with an apparent affinity for drawing.

The killer would sketch his targets in diners or bars, then approach them with his drawings and suggest they go somewhere alone to have sex, at which point he'd attack them with a knife, according to a 2019 San Francisco Chronicle reportThus, the "Doodler" moniker was born.

"The Doodler" hosts Kevin Fagan, a reporter from The San Francisco Chronicle, and investigative reporter Michael Taylor seek out the identity of the killer for the podcast, which will be released next year. They hunt for clues that will hopefully lead to the identity of the killer, who they believe might still live in the Bay Area.

San Francisco police commander Greg McEachern noted in 2019 that the murders shook the LGBTQ community at the time, USA Today reported. Still, the serial killings have never gotten the level of notoriety as other infamous cases.

“We were so surprised to hear that the ‘Doodler’ was not well-known despite the monstrosity of his crimes,” Ugly Duckling Films founder Lene Bausager and producer Sophia Gibber said in a statement. “This takes place at a time where homosexuality had just been taken off the list of psychiatric disorders, a year just before women were allowed to become full police officers, and at the heart of the case, leading it from the offset, was the first black homicide investigator – all aspects of the case which couldn’t be more relevant with today’s landscape.”

When the “Doodler” was most active, the case was ignored by mainstream media, including The Chronicle, according to the paper's Datebook site.

“There was a lot of homophobia in society at that time,” Fagan said.

The podcast’s website cites a “flawed investigation, a frightened public, and hesitation from victims’ friends and associates,” as reasons for the case going cold and remaining out of the public consciousness. Investigators have expressed new interest in the case after the Golden State Killer, another California serial killer, was captured decades after his own murder and rape spree. In 2019, the San Francisco Police Department released an updated sketch of the “Doodler” as well as a $100,000 reward for detail leading to his capture.

The podcast has created a tip line for anyone with information on the case.

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