Given that I have a rare moment where both kids are napping simultaneously, (I like to call these glorious occasions ‘unicorn naps’), I thought I would FINALLY start writing and officially introduce myself! Is my name Nancy? Nope. Drew? Negative, ghostwriter. But as you read on, many of you will understand why I choose not to shout from the rooftops who I am.
I wasn’t always captivated by true crime. It was actually my husband that got me hooked on Dateline and my love for mystery flourished from there. Dateline is a gateway drug to the true crime world. It began with my love for Keith Morrison’s narrative and expressions. From there, my true crime obsession has grown into becoming a podcast junkie, spending hours sleuthing the suspicious persons within a cold case, and connecting with other true crime enthusiasts that bask in the same excitement when new case information gets released!
How did I get so engulfed in the true crime community? Well, for starters, I am the daughter of a child abuse victim who suffers from severe PTSD. If you love someone with PTSD, then you know that feeling of wishing you could do anything to take their pain away. Especially when the cause of their PTSD is a monster who walks among us, never having paid for his crimes. For years I thought about this creep of a man whom I’ve never met, yet whom I hate with such a passion because of the pain he inflicted upon my mother and her siblings. All of the memories he has stolen from the aunts, uncles, and cousins I may never get to know because it’s too painful for many of them to be in the same room. The grandmother I will never know because she chose to drink the pain away and stay with a child molester, rather than escape the abuse she endured herself and protect her family. She abandoned her own family for a monster that she is still married to.
I would be willing to bet he inflicted the same death threats upon her as he did to my mom, but mostly because she lacks respect for herself and lacks a backbone. It was just far too taboo to divorce back then. Much easier to save face and bury the secrets, right? Makes TOTAL sense. Barf. My grandmother’s abandonment and weakness is something I have never been able to wrap my mind around. Especially now that I’m a parent myself and would do ANYTHING to protect my children. Nothing she can say will ever make her actions or inactions valid in my mind. Alrighty then. Now you know a bit of the painful background within my family, you will begin to understand how one question I asked my mother a couple years ago lead us down a very scary yet hopeful chance at justice against her sadistic and abusive step father.
It was 2016. I was pregnant with my daughter and wheezing to keep up with my barely year old son at the time. For quite a while, I had been thinking about the psychology behind how my mother’s step father became such a monster but I didn’t want to bring up these thoughts to my mom unless she brought up her past herself. One night she did. To which I finally asked, “Do you think it’s possible, given how severe and horrific your abuse was, that your step father had any other victims outside of your home? Like, were there any local rapists”?
I could tell by the look on my mom’s face that this thought had never occurred to her. Fear and death threats had been drilled into my mother’s head. She was so scared to look over her own shoulder or tell anyone the horrific things that he had done. A far away look took over her face as she started recalling what memories she still had from the mid 1970’s that her PTSD had not blocked out to protect her. “Well, there was the East Area Rapist. He was the talk of the town and everyone was terrified of him. I always thought it was strange that Ned (the evil step father – not his real name) insisted I keep my window open one night, despite me pleading that I was too afraid of the East Area Rapist. That night I heard someone outside my window rustling around in the bushes. I ran to the window to lock it. Never kept my window open again after that”.
My mind raced. “East Area Rapist? Just the nickname alone sounds like it may have been pretty big in the media at the time”. A quick Google search made my stomach churn. “Mom….the East Area Rapist was never caught. He went on to become a serial killer known as the Original Night Stalker in southern California”, I said, in shock. Then I found a news story that featured composite sketches of EAR. My mom took one look at the sketch that young Rodney Miller helped with after he’d been shot by EAR in 1977 and the color in her face quickly drained. “That looks like Ned. Oh my God. I think that could be Ned”.
Fear had struck both of us as I continued to read on. “Mom. We have to turn his name in. Because this potentially isn’t about just our family anymore. If Ned is this monster then he has upwards of 60+ victims and their families that deserve answers”. With that, I saw my terrified mother do something I had never seen her do before. She pushed past the fear she had lived with for 50 years and agreed to actually tell authorities about her step father. Not for herself, but for any potential victims her step father may have had. That moment will forever be in my mind as one of the times I was most proudest of my Mama. She turned the tip into the Sacramento Sheriff’s department and to the FBI. We stayed up late, too terrified to sleep. I finally went to bed, my heart pounding out of my chest and had to wake my husband up just to tell him. So I can only imagine the terror my mom had felt.
I knew that researching the case would be too incredibly stressful on her, so I took it upon myself to study up and familiarize myself with the case, as well as the forum discussions regarding the EAR/ONS/GSK case. This was the start of ‘Knocked Up Nancy Drew’. I would then ask my mom questions about the cars, abuse, jobs, friends, etc., Ned had during EAR’s reign of terror. Without her knowing specifically why I was asking, many of the answers she would give me would match up pretty well to the descriptions of suspicious persons seen in the attack areas. Even some of the abuse she endured paralleled some of the things that EAR survivors had described. My mom told me that her own mother shrugged off the fact that Ned had molested his own sister when he was a young teen and then did time in a state psych ward. WTF, right?
Then, I discovered Ned had a whole second family in southern CA that my entire family knew nothing about, from his time in the Navy. Ned even has a bull tattoo on his forearm and he was the spitting image of the man seen on Shire Lane before the June 24th, 1978 EAR attack in Davis, CA. Nasty Ned and the rest of my mom’s family had lived very close to EAR ground zero in Rancho Cordova, which was near Dolecetto and Dawes. Ned also decided to move out of state in 1982 and then back to California in early 1986. The more connections that lined up, the more terrifying this ordeal became for us all. And yet, there’s a certain adrenaline you get when you really feel like you’re on the right track while researching a person of interest in a cold case. It’s a rush and a great feeling thinking you could help get justice for so many people!
Weeks had gone by and we still hadn’t heard back from LE after turning Ned in. Understandably, my mom’s anxiety and PTSD began to worsen considerably. When you turn in someone you’re connected to for a crime, especially the gravity of crimes such as these, the fear can consume you. While it is not LE’s responsibility to respond to everyone’s tips, I continued to search for answers to help try and ease my mom’s fears. I was fortunate enough to cross internet paths with my friend, let’s call her Rachel, who put my mom in touch with Paul Holes. Rachel had researched the case for years and has been one of the greatest friends and support system throughout the whole gut wrenching journey. I’m forever grateful to her even though she hates it when I constantly thank her! Kat Winters is another person who has listened to me drone on about Ned and I am grateful for her as well.
Paul Holes was not only incredibly kind to my mom, but he took her tip seriously and wound up obtaining a voluntary DNA sample from Ned. It was creepy to hear Ned was so accommodating and helpful. You sure we’re talking about the same man who would line his step children up to beat them repeatedly with the buckle of his belt until someone confessed to “scratching a window screen” that they didn’t even do? Or told one of them to stand still in the corner or else they would get beat, and then wait hours for one of them to pass out so he could say he had reason to beat the shit out of them for his own amusement? THAT guy was accommodating? Before this whole process, I was not aware that many psychopaths seem so kind and charismatic from the outside looking in. Chief Holes knew of the extent of the abuse going in to interview Ned so I often wonder what his impression or gut instincts were of Ned. I still feel bad that poor Chief Holes had to put up with my pregnant, paranoid, pain in the ass for months. Emailing and begging for DNA updates. He was unwaveringly kind. Answering the important questions and understandably ignoring the clearly ridiculous ones. I was just worried about my mom and I hope he understands that and how much I appreciate and respect him.
One week in late 2016, Chief Holes was out of the office while my PICF (Partner In Crime Fighting) Rachel had found information that Ned had signed up for a teen chat site as recent as 2012. This is news that I should not have told my mom right away but I was always conflicted about not wanting her to feel betrayed by me keeping info from her. This teen chat site discovery meant that Ned was still preying on adolescents well into his sixties. I KNEW it! Since Chief Holes was out of the office, I attempted to contact Erika Hutchkraft to inquire whether or not Ned’s DNA had been cleared. Detective Hutchkraft was incredibly kind and her compassion for my mother was genuine. I received a call from Detective Hutchkraft the next day that Ned’s DNA had indeed been cleared from the Original Night Stalker aka Golden State Killer case. Chief Holes took the time and consideration to call my mom and tell her personally as well, so that she could hear it directly from him. I’m telling you guys. Class act.
Ned not being EARONS should have felt like relief. Instead, it felt like I had failed my mother for being so sure that Ned was THE guy and that she would finally feel safe and receive justice. It took a while to get over that loss. We grieved for our family. We grieved for the victims and survivors of the Golden State Killer and how agonizing not knowing who terrorized and hurt either themselves or their loved ones must have been. What the hell was I supposed to do with myself now? I had a newborn baby and an 18 month old by this time. You would think that would keep me busy enough, right? I tried to tell myself to move on from anything attached to chasing Ned or the EAR/ONS/GSK, but it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. How could I move on in good conscience after hearing the Sister Survivor’s stories and their fight for justice? What became evident upon researching this case was that Ned was just one of the many, many, monsters that lurked in Sacramento alone. That’s how my decision to remain an advocate for true crime came about and how I came to dub myself, Naptime Nancy Drew.
Since April 25, 2018, my perspective on justice has changed a great deal. The arrest of Joseph James Deangelo Jr. was an incredibly surreal and wonderful shock to the true crime community. I cried tears of joy for all that have fought so hard for answers for so many years. It was amazing and horrific to put a face to this monster and to see so much of the story line up. No longer a mystery. What I have learned in hindsight thanks to the writings of the Sister Survivors like Jennifer Carole, is that closure doesn’t just magically happen once the bad guy is caught, which is what I desperately wanted for my mom and so naively believed. This epiphany has calmed my nerves in the sense that I feel like I truly can let go of much of the worries that I cannot control. I can’t control the fact that the proof of Ned visiting teen chat sites in his 60’s isn’t enough to lock him up according to his jurisdiction. But I can be incredibly proud of the fact that my mom ran from a life of torture, found the love of her life, and made it her mission in life to give my brother and myself the best childhood she and my dad possibly could. And you know what? She succeeded. My mom has more love, respect and backbone than Ned or my pathetic excuse for a grandmother will ever have.
Lastly, I learned that trying to find the crimes that Ned has committed is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. BUT. Thanks to the capture of the Golden State Killer being due to using the genealogy site GEDmatch, Chief Holes and all involved in JJD’s arrest have blazed a trail for homicides, rape cases, and the future identification of Jane and John Doe’s. This means that if Ned does indeed have other victims out there, then his time to roam free is running out. That’s good enough for me and knowing that I did absolutely everything I possibly could do to seek justice for my family. Life is busy enough with two toddlers.
This blog is going to be my way to help advocate for cold cases, but will also be a lifestyle blog. So be prepared for quite an eclectic mix! And thank you for taking the time to read my story.