Earlier this year, the San Francisco Police Department doubled the reward for information leading to the capture of “The Doodler” serial killer to $200,000. Investigators are hoping to solve the cold case over four decades later.
Who was The Doodler?
The Doodler was a serial killer believed to have been responsible for at least six murders stretching from January 1974 to June 1975.
What made him unique — and the inspiration for his name — is he would sketch his victims, whom he met at gay bars and nightclubs, before having sexual relations with them and killing them.
The Doodler was 19-25 years old at the time, Black, and around 6 feet tall, according to police.
Who did he target?
There are at least six killings police have definitively tied to The Doodler’s modus operandi, though he may have been responsible for up to 14 murders and three assaults.
According to The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes, a 2004 book examining unsolved killings, disappearances and other crimes, “when the murders began, based on discrepancies in choice of victims, authorities believed they were tracking three different serial killers.” The encyclopedia ties The Doodler to the murders of five Tenderloin neighborhood drag queens, six men who “were selected from the sadomasochistic world of leather bars” south of Market Street, and six men who were picked up in the Castro neighborhood. The encyclopedia states that The Doodler seduced the final victims by sketching cartoon drawings of them.
Each of the men definitively believed to be victims by the SFPD were found dead outdoors in picturesque areas of San Francisco’s westside. They were:
- Gerald Cavanaugh, 49, discovered 1/27/74 at Ocean Beach
- Joseph Stevens, 27, discovered 6/25/74 at the Spreckels Lake Model Yacht Facility in Golden Gate Park
- Klaus Christmann, 31, discovered 7/7/74 at Ocean Beach
- Warren Andrews, 52, discovered 4/27/75 at Land’s End
- Frederick Capin, 32, discovered 5/12/75 at Ocean Beach
- Harald Gullberg, 66, discovered 6/4/75 at Lincoln Park
Andrews was just announced as the sixth victim this January. The victims were each found with stab wounds.
How do we know what The Doodler looked like?
The sketches provided by law enforcement come out of two attacks at the Fox Plaza apartments in downtown San Francisco, police stated this January.
“Both of the victims who were attacked lived on the same floor but did not know each other,” the SFPD states. “It was determined by homicide inspectors at the time that there was a connection between the attacks at/near Ocean Beach and the attacks at the Fox Plaza Apartments.”
One of those victims, who survived, later told police he met The Doodler at the Truck Stop diner at Market and Church streets, where The Doodler was drawing animals on a napkin. The Doodler told the victim he was going to art school to be a cartoonist. The victim himself had an art background and, having spent considerable time with The Doodler, provided police the description that led to the sketches police are using to this day.
Police had a prime suspect — but no one would testify
Three men survived Doodler attacks, according to the encyclopedia, leading police to a single suspect who didn’t confess.
According to a contemporaneous article in The San Francisco Chronicle, one of these survivors was a European diplomat who was stabbed six times. Another was an entertainer who skipped town afterward, his name lost to history (though a cold case investigator confirmed to the Chronicle in 2019 that it was not actor Rock Hudson, who was famously closeted until his death from complications from AIDS in 1985).
The survivors didn’t want to come forward because doing so would have outed them at a time when the social consequences to being gay were extremely severe, including possibly losing one’s job or being disowned by one’s family. Also, at the time of The Doodler slayings, same-sex relations were against the law in California.
But publicly tying the killing of Andrews to the Doodler, and the doubling of the previous reward offer to $200,000 (the $100,000 reward was first announced itself in 2019), may indicate investigators still believe they can get an arrest, indictment, conviction, and justice.
This story originally reported by KTLA sister station KRON.