The Black Doodler was a skilled artist. His sketches were dreamy. But those were the only pieces of evidence found from the crime scenes. A killer on the loose who could not be identified to date, who also left the sketches of his victims next to their bodies. He was soon known as “The Doodler”. The Black Doodler, aka The doodler overall committed 16 murders and 3 assaults. All of his victims both dead and alive were men and most of them were gay.
The murders started around 1974 in San Francisco, California. The murders went on to increase over the years without even leaving a major trail for investigation. With the modus operandi, the police were able to trace features of the doodler such as he was a male aged between 19-25, African, and with a slender build. However, they could not find him.
Modus Operandi of His Crimes
It is assumed that The Black Doodler trolled around the beaches and gay pubs observing his victims and sketching their portraits. He met them at gay pubs, befriended them, lured them near beach resorts to hook up. Few other men who were not gay were raped when they resisted. After killing them through stabbing repetitively at various spots he would leave the sketch near the corpse.
After Post Mortem and observing the dead bodies, it was found that the majority of them were stabbed using a blunt weapon, most probably a knife of clean metal. They were stabbed from front and back, cutting through the visceral organs. Multiple stab wounds were the cause of death in all cases.
Victims and Location
The Doodler killings never crossed San Francisco. It was always around pubs or beaches. His first victim was Gerald Cavanagh, a Canadian-American immigrant. He was 49 years old. On 24th January 1974, Gerald’s body was found near the beach house in California lying upside down naked near the shore. Initially, the police could not identify him and his body remained unidentified for a while and nobody claimed it as well. His body contained self-defense wounds too.
On 25th June 1974, Joseph Stevens, 27 years old was found dead near Ocean Beach in San Francisco. He was a worker at a pub who occasionally impersonated a woman and was also a stand-up comedian. Cavanagh’s grave marker is a weathered stone plate set flat in a windswept field of grass. It appears lonely and nobody even visited his grave. Hence another notion of the police was that his victims did not have much family.
On 7th July 1974, Klaus Christman’s corpse washed ashore at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. He was a German-American immigrant and had more stab wounds than the previous victims.
It was way easier for the Black doodler to kill because during the 90s either the murder or deaths of any person related to the LGBTQ community was not considered important. They were tagged as unidentified cases. It was Ron Huberman, an investigator who killed the patriarchy and took on to the investigation after he had come out in front of society as gay.
Initially, it appeared to the police that the doodler could have acquaintance, it could be more than one killer because the doodler’s potential victims could be divided into three categories i.e., Drag queens, sadomasochists, and middle-class men.
The violence against drag queens made it seem like this was a killer who hated transvestites, while the attacks on the patrons of San Francisco’s leather bars and the well-to-do professionals of the more upscale gay bar scene seemed to be the work of different killers.
His fourth victim was Frederick Capin, who served in the military before joining as a nurse. Due to his employment choices, the state had his fingerprint records which helped in the identification of his body. His body was found on 12th May 1975, and he was aged 32. When he was found at the seashore, there were drag marks near which indicated that his body was moved by someone post his death. But the marks could not give away much as it disappeared as the sea washed it away after a few meters.
His fifth victim was Harald Gullberg aged 62 years. He was found just like others at the same location on 4th June 1975. However, the scenario was quite different, with his inner wears missing and unzipped pants he was already two weeks into decomposition. Also, this was the first old victim of the doodler.
The killings extended up to 16 and 3 of them were assaulted. But the assaulted men who escaped could not give a feature description of the culprit either. The police continued with the investigation for a long period leading to nothing in the end. They initially had few suspects in mind which they never revealed, but the crimes could not be linked to them either as none of the circumstances led towards them. The case went dead around 1977.
In 2019, San Francisco police had come up with a new sketch stating that the doodler would look like that approximately. They also released an audio file that was not released previously of a call by an anonymous man reporting that he had found a body along the beach. This coincided with the first homicide. However, there are no leads yet despite the sketch being released.
The Black Doodler remains in the shadows!