San Francisco police release sketch of ‘Doodler’ killer

The killer terrorized the gay community over 40 years ago

More than 40 years after a serial killer dubbed the “Doodler” terrorized San Francisco’s gay community, police released a sketch Wednesday of what the man might look like today and announced a $100,000 reward for details leading to his capture.

Police believe the killer stabbed at least five men to death from early 1974 to late 1975.

He became known as the “Doodler” after a victim who survived an attack told police the man was doodling while they talked at a late-night diner and said he was a cartoonist.

At a news conference, police released a pair of images that showed a 1975 sketch of the man and an “age-progression” showing what he might look like now.

“In the 1970s, this was gripping the gay community and San Francisco,” police Commander Greg McEachern told the news conference, saying authorities were releasing the new sketch in hopes of bringing justice to victims of the “horrendous homicides.”

It’s one of several cold cases, particularly serial crimes, being re-examined after the capture last year of the notorious “Golden State Killer” through DNA analysis, McEachern said. Police have submitted DNA samples from some of the 1970s crime scenes in the Doodler case and were waiting for results from a lab.

READ MORE: DNA privacy questioned in B.C. cold case arrest

Police described the killer as an African-American male, about 5 feet, 11 inches tall with a lanky build who was likely in his early 20s during the attacks.

At the time, a witness was able to give investigators a description of the attacker, leading to a man being detained in 1976 but never charged.

McEachern said police have interviewed the man since returning to the case and he remains a person of interest. His name was not released and authorities declined to say if he resembled the man in the sketches.

The killer targeted white men he met at after-hours gay clubs and restaurants in San Francisco. He usually sketched them before having sex and stabbing them.

The bodies of four men were found along the beach. Another stabbing victim was found in Golden Gate Park.

“Even now, the story gives me chills,” said prominent gay activist Cleve Jones, who recalls how the string of killings terrified the gay community. “Imagine, you’re out at a club having a drink, and someone hands you a sketch they’ve done of you. I can’t think of a more disarming ploy to gain someone’s trust.”

An Associated Press story from 1977 quotes police as saying the suspect at the time could not be charged because three survivors, including a “well-known entertainer” and a diplomat were reluctant to “come out of the closet” to testify against him.

AP interviewed gay rights advocate Harvey Milk at the time about the victims’ refusal to testify.

“I can understand their position,” Milk said. “I respect the pressure society has put on them.”

The interview with AP came just over a year before Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the U.S., was assassinated.

Police on Wednesday also announced a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of the killer and released audio of an anonymous call made to police on Jan. 27, 1974, reporting a body found near Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Responding officers discovered the body of 50-year-old Gerald Cavanaugh, the first of the killer’s five known victims.

Police are seeking information on the identity of the caller, who declined to give his name.

“I believe there might be a dead person,” the caller said. “But I didn’t want to get too close to him because you never know what could happen.”

READ MORE: Grisly details emerge at serial killer Bruce McArthur’s sentencing hearing

Jocelyn Gecker And Olga R. Rodriguez, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in Manning Park backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Hope’s Wheeled Wild Women hit the road for cancer research

Group of friends ready for the 200-km bike trek that ends in Hope

Kilby painting festival wraps up with award-winning art

Kilby Historic Site hosted 26 painters over the three day festival

Comedy, chicken poop and dancing at Lytton Festival

This year’s festival will honour longtime supporter Shirley James

Hope women save man from potential train incident

Man was standing on 6th Avenue tracks as train approached crossing with horn blasting

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

Mom mourns teen son whose fatal overdose posted on social media

Chantell Griffiths misses the son she hadn’t seen much in recent years

Man launches petition to bring charter schools to B.C.

The move could see up to 20 charter schools come to the province

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Oppenheimer Park residents told to leave, clear out tents by Aug. 21

Police say park has seen influx of residents, violence in recent months

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Most Read