(CBS Local)– It’s been almost a year since the Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. DeAngelo pleaded guilty to multiple counts of murder and kidnapping after committing 13 murders during the 1970s and 1980s in California.
Tonight, a special episode of the HBO docuseries “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” takes a look back at the victims of DeAngelo and the late writer Michelle McNamara who played a key role in raising awareness about the Golden State Killer. CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith spoke with director Elizabeth Wolff about creating this episode of television, what she learned from talking to the victims and how McNamara’s work inspired her journey with this project.READ MORE: Sheriff: Modesto Mother, 32, Led Deputies On Short Chase With 2-Year-Old Daughter In Van
“My focus was really on two things, the survivors’ experience of what it was like to deal with this trauma over so many years, and Michelle McNamara’s investigation of the case,” said Wolff. “I was sort of less interested in DeAngelo. I was excited that he got caught so early on in our production and that we were able to put a name to this guy and to be able to see the survivors after so many years get justice. The focus for me was on all the people he affected.”
Wolff and her team really focused on giving time to the impact of trauma on so many lives in the state of California. In addition to the on-camera interviews with survivors of DeAngelo’s brutal assaults and attacks, the audio and video work from McNamara is peppered in throughout the episode. The author wrote the book called “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer” and passed away at the age of 46 in 2016. McNamara was the wife of actor Patton Oswalt.READ MORE: Stockton Shooting Victim Speaks After Returning Home From Hospital
“Michelle writes and we tell the story in our series in which she gets the motherload of case files for the Golden State Killer case,” said Wolff. “She describes this incredible rollercoaster, which is almost like the thrill of a heist, when she gets the motherload. She goes through it and in many ways Michelle’s archives was our motherload. When we got a hold of her laptop and her phone, that amount of digital material from over a decade of her work was insurmountable. There was so much material and it was almost addictive it in its own right.”
“She was making phone calls about this case while being on the way to pick up her daughter from school,” said Wolff. “We were able to understand in real time what her life was like during the years that she was investigating the case and writing the book. Michelle was both our north star in terms of how we wanted to tell the story and she was in many ways a cautionary tale for how telling such a dark story can go wrong.”MORE NEWS: Cold War-Era Relic Responsible For Loud Siren In East Sacramento Monday Night
A special episode of “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” airs tonight on HBO.