Michelle McNamara: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Michelle McNamara Patton Oswalt, Ill be Gone in the Dark author, Golden State Killer author

Getty Michelle McNamara is pictured here with her husband, Patton Oswalt.

Michelle McNamara, who coined the phrase “Golden State Killer,” is an author whose legacy will live on following the arrest of a suspected serial killer, Joseph James DeAngelo on April 25.

Police believe DeAngelo to be the notorious California serial killer known as the Golden State Killer, East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Visalia Ransacker, who committed 13 known murders, at least 45 rapes and numerous home burglaries between 1975 and 1986.

McNamara worked with investigators on the case of the The Golden State Killer while writing her book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” which was not completed before her sudden death in April 2016. However, the woman’s husband, an investigator, and fellow crime journalist worked tirelessly to complete and publish the book.

There was a recent increase in interest in the case with McNamara’s book after being published on February 27, as the 40th anniversary of the first attack passed.

It is hard to argue that the author wasn’t spot-on when she predicted the apprehension of the Golden State Killer to be drawing near.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Before Her Death, She Predicted the Apprehension of the Golden State Killer to be Soon

Leading up to her death, McNamara was writing “I’ll be Gone in the Dark,” a book about the Golden State Killer which brought her well-deserved fame today, following the April 25 arrest of the subject of the book…suspected rapist, burglar and serial killer, Joseph James DeAngelo.

DeAngelo, 72, was arrested on warrants charging him with two counts of murder, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s website shows. He was taken into custody about 2:30 a.m. and is currently listed as being ineligible for bail. Police have not released any other details about his arrest.

Bringing the killer to justice was personal to McNamara, as evident throughout the book, “which interspersed with tales from her own life, including her childhood experience with an unsolved murder in her Oak Park, Illinois neighborhood,” Forbes reported.

While McNamara wasn’t able to finish her book before her premature death, her actor and comedian husband, Patton Oswalt, made sure along with her lead researcher, Paul Haynes, and her good friend and fellow crime journalist, Billy Jensen, that her work would still be finished and subsequently published.

McNamara believed the killer was still alive, obsessed over the details, and expressed her belief that the madman’s apprehension was close.

“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is described on Amazon as follows:

‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,’ Michelle McNamara’s compelling investigation of the ‘Golden State Killer,’ who terrorized northern California from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, is one of the best true crime books to come along in a decade. It’s the story of two obsessions: McNamara’s obsession with the criminal, and whatever abhorrent obsession drove him to commit a series of horrific rapes and murders over ten years.

The author, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, describes the crimes and examines clues in an effort to uncover his identity. Occasionally, she challenges convention by inserting herself into the narrative (at one point, she even writes directly to the Golden State Killer), and the book acquires even more personal weight when one takes into account the fact that McNamara, at the age of 46, died while writing it. Knowing all of this, and with each chilling description, McNamara’s obsession begins to become our own. She believed that the Golden State Killer would still be alive today. You will discover yourself hoping she’s right, so that you can see him captured and brought to justice.


2. She Passed Away in Her Sleep in April 2016 Due to a Combination of Clogged Arteries & Medications

On April 21, 2016, McNamara tragically died unexpectedly in her sleep at the young age of 46.

The woman, who appeared to be at the height of her career, passed away due to blockages in her arteries combined with taking the medications Adderall, Xanax and the painkiller fentanyl, Oswalt told the Associated Press in February 2017.

“We learned today the combination of drugs in Michelle’s system, along with a condition we were unaware of, proved lethal,” the comedian and actor wrote in a statement to the Associated Press.

Patton Oswalt has revealed his wife Michelle McNamara’s cause of death, nearly one year since she died unexpectedly in her sleep at age 46.

Oswalt told the AP that the couple had “no idea” she was suffering from a condition which caused the blockages.

In a sense, McNamara, who worked day and night on her book about the Golden State Killer, may have been his last victim.

At the time of her death, McNamara suffered from anxiety and nightmares that kept her up at night.

“I have a feeling it might have been an overdose,” Oswalt told The New York Times in an October 2016 interview, citing the Xanax. “That’s what the paramedics there were saying while I was screaming and throwing up.”

Worried about her mental state, Oswalt suggested she should take a night to “sleep until you wake up.” Though McNamara took the advice, along with a Xanax, she never woke up from the slumber.


3. Though Authorities Said No Leads Came From the Book, Oswalt Said ‘A Cop is Never Going to Credit a Writer or Journalist in Helping Them Solve a Case

At a press conference April 25, authorities suggested there were no new leads which arose due to McNamara’s relentless work.

However, Oswalt told Entertainment Weekly’s Couch Surfing that he didn’t believe McNamara was given “the proper credit she deserves.”

“A cop is never going to credit a writer or a journalist in helping them solve a case,” Oswalt told EW. “But they kept saying ‘Golden State Killer,’ so just by that act alone, her work affected the case…The new name is what helped get interest in this thing.”

When asked about his reaction towards DeAngelo’s arrest, Oswalt told the media outlet:

My mind is going in a million directions right now, but on top of all the exhaustion and surrealism, I just feel very, very happy that her work wasn’t in vain. Weirdly enough, I had been with her family the night before, doing a talk for her book, so that was very strange.


4. She Ran Her Own Website, True Crime Diary, Worked for Dateline NBC & Sold Television Pilots

Fiercely successful, McNamara ran her own website, True Crime Diary, “worked as a consultant for Dateline NBC and sold television pilots to ABC and Fox and a screenplay to Paramount,” according to bookreporter.com.

Truecrimediary.com showcases McNamara’s true passion for investigative work and seeking justice, with highlights including her research and thoughts regarding The Golden State Killer. One entry speaks out on the unfortunate reality of cold cases. The post from June 2015 states, in part:

Muddy waters are, of course, the plague of unsolved cases, and the murk thickens from any array of sources, not just disorganized and uncommunicative cops. Well-meaning tipsters can flood the phones with misleading information. A single wrong detail, that a suspect was in custody when he was actually out on furlough, for example, can derail a case for years.


5. She Became an ‘Avid Reader & Precocious Writer’ at a Young Age, & Loved Being a Mother

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According to her obituary, McNamara, “From an early age was an avid reader and a precocious writer of journals, poetry, and essays.”

The death notice speaks of the author’s education, success and zest for life. It reads, in part:

She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she made many lifelong friends and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. She then attended the University of Minnesota and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing.

Ever the independent spirit, Michelle moved to Los Angeles to be a writer, focusing on screenplays for film and television. One evening in 2002, she decided to go by herself to a comedy club. She especially enjoyed one of the comedians, Patton Oswalt, who described Irish girls as his Kryptonite. Michelle walked by him on her way out, touched his arm, and said, “Irish girls. Nice.” Patton’s friend told him to go after her and ask her out. He did, and they began dating shortly thereafter. Michelle and Patton were married in 2005. Befitting her independence, her wedding dress was bright red.

Michelle and Patton were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Alice, who is whip smart and funny. Their days together were filled with laughter and songs, and there is no way to overstate Michelle and Patton’s love for each other and for Alice. The three were a team and they had a wonderful life full of joy. Her death is a deep tragedy, but the foundation of love she laid will serve Patton and Alice as they face difficult times ahead. Michelle will always be with them and will be a very real part of their lives.