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Murderer Monday: “The Black Doodler”

I’M BACK! Finally, Uni is over (actually really sad about it) so I can concentrate on writing a lot more 🙂 This is just going to be a short one because there is not much known about the culprit, but this story is interesting none the less.

This case is set in San Francisco, the poor city who hadn’t recovered from the Zodiac Killer murders when another serial killer appeared in the 1970’s. Between 1974 and 1975. One who’s identity has also never been discovered. We’ve probably all heard of the gay Grinder killer, perhaps he was influenced by this man.

It is believed that The Doodler killed up to 14 people. His known victims were all stabbed, but there is always the possibility that he could have switched up his methods so may be responsible for more murders. In early stages of investigating, police believed that there was 3 different killers at once. He struck in the Castro area of San Fran, the notably gay neighbourhood. He used this area to stalk his prey.


These victims are only his confirmed victims. It is thought that he is responsible for a lot more. Gerald Cavanagh, his first victim, was 49 at the time. His body was found in January 1974, face up and clothed on a beach. Examination of his body determined that he had fought his attacker and had been knocked unconscious, as his hands were covered in self-defence wounds. Sadly, he was an unidentified ‘John Doe’ for years as he was single and had few family members.

His next 2 victims had a more vicious death than the others, Joseph Stevens had been seen at a club the night before, where he worked as a “female impersonator”. A drag queen essentially. He was sort of a celebrity in the area at this time. Klaus Christmann was found with his throat slashed, and significantly more stab wounds than most victims. Unlike his other single victims, he was married with children. He was found with a “makeup tube” on his person, which suggested to police that he was a closeted gay man. I’m assuming that this means some foundation or lipstick.

Another victim, Frederick Capin, age 32, was found stabbed on a beach. Markings in the sand suggest that his body had been dragged for 20 feet. He could only be identified by his fingerprints. His last confirmed victim, Harald Gullberg was the oldest at 66 years old. When he was found he had been dead for 2 weeks already, and his underwear had been taken. All of the victims were found close to the waterfront, it is thought that the murderer drove them there in his car so they would not be seen.


There were also 3 surviving stab victims, however they did not want to testify in court because it would mean they had to “out” themselves to the public. These people included a “well-known entertainer”, and a diplomat, who did not want the public to know they were gay. At this time, the police had a suspect in custody, a young man, however because these victims did not want to testify, authorities could not proceed with prosecution. The suspect also complied with the police, but did not admit to the killings. To this day, he has not been named.

The Doodler was able to avoid persecution for so long because at the time, being gay was stigmatised and people feared being publicly gay. It was an adverse time for homosexual rights.

The Killer:

The Doodler gained his nickname because he sketched his victims on napkins found in the clubs, prior to their murders. He supposedly met his victims in bars and clubs and all were seen leaving with a young black man, it is thought that he had a sexual encounter with his victims before he murdered them. A composite sketch was comprised of descriptions given by the victims, who concluded that he was in his early 20’s, slim, and around 6 feet tall. Profilers believed that he was interested in art, perhaps a student, possible mental difficulties. Definite issues with his sexuality. One article claimed that he told all of his victims, “all of you gays are the same”.

Whilst he is known to draw his victims, none of these sketches have been released to the public. The police were also preoccupied with the Zodiac Killings, just proving how homosexual people were disregarded even by the police at the time.

It is hard to say if the killer will ever be brought to justice for his crimes. Unfortunately, this does not seem likely as there is little physical evidence in the case.

Check out my other Murderer Monday posts HERE! 


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