The Doodler: The Murderer That Loved to Draw His Victims

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Investigators said on Wednesday that they were to revisit unsolved cases to help the victims receive justice with the help of modern technology in DNA forensics, such as the Doodler, who was known for killing at least five gay men in the 1970s.

Murder after sketching

One of the most infamous murderers in history, the Doodler, allegedly had between five to 14 victims from January 1974 up to September of the following year in San Francisco. His alias was given to him when one of his victims met him while he was sketching.

All five victims between January 1874 and June 1975 had the same stab wounds, leading officers to believe that the murders were related. The Doodler was said to lure gay men into sexual encounters before brutally killing them and leaving their bodies in parks or beaches around San Francisco.

The first victim was Gerald Cavanaugh, who was found at Ocean Beach on January 27, 1974, with stab wounds that caused his death. Investigators said that based on the scars, Cavanaugh fought back against the murderer during the encounter.

Five months after the first victim, Joseph “Jae” Stevens, who was an entertainer in North Beach nightclub as a female impersonator, was found dead in Spreckels with five stab wounds. Only a few weeks later, another victim’s body was discovered in Ocean Beach. However, unlike the first two victims, Klauss Christmann was married and had children. He was killed with a slash on his throat.

The following year in May, Frederick Capin, who was a Vietnam War veteran and nurse, was found dead on Ocean Beach. However, the last confirmed victim of the Doodler, Harald Gullberg, had his remains decomposing in Lincoln Park in June 1975. According to reports, Gullberg’s body was in an igloo-like cove of brush near the 16th hole of the golf course. 

San Francisco police released new information regarding the Doodler and his unsolved murder cases, and they also offered $100,000 as reward money to help them find any leads. There is also a new sketch and audio recording by the man who reported the suspect’s first victim.

Identity of the killer

Based on the description of one of the victims who survived the attack in 1975, authorities revealed the suspect’s first sketch. In an interview with San Francisco Police Commander Greg McEachern regarding the cold cases, he described the murderer as a young black man between 19 to 25 years old.

A suspect was never charged in the Doodler cases in 1976. Police believe that the individual lived in the Bay Area and would only come out on weekend nights.

The surviving victims’ stayed silent because revealing information about the Doodler would mean letting people know about their sexual orientations, and at that time, there was a lot of homophobia in society. Victims were diplomats and entertainers, who had a lot to lose due to the case.

The previous suspect is still alive and a person of interest today. McEachern did not disclose the suspect’s name or if he matched the sketches. But police believe that the murderer was dating a psychiatrist in East Bay, and they are seeking more information about his identity. 

The police commander also said that they are in contact with the victims’ families, hoping to provide them with closure.

Danielle Joyce Ong

Danielle is a local journalist with a passion for exploring stories related to crime and politics. When Danielle isn't busy writing or reading, she is usually exploring the great outdoors and all the hiking trails in the Bay.