I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: HBO’s Golden State Killer Docuseries Gets Trailer

HBO has ordered a docuseries on the Golden State Killer based on Michelle McNamara’s recent true crime classic I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark HBO
Photo: HBO

Attention is a funny thing when it comes to the true crime genre. Sometimes paying too much attention to a serial killer’s sordid crimes can come across as tasteless and disrespectful to the victims. Not paying enough attention, however, can mean that an uncaptured serial criminal can continue to operate in darkness and anonymity. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the latest docuseries from HBO and will catalogue a case that falls into the latter category

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’s six episodes will tell the story of the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer a.k.a. East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (EARONS). The series is based on a book of the same name by true crime writer Michelle McNamara. The show comes from documentarian. Liz Garbus (Ghosts of Abu Ghraib).

Here is everything else we know about I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Release Date

The first episode of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark will premiere on Sunday, June 28 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO. It will be made available for streaming on HBO Max, HBO Now, and HBO Go. New episodes will air each subsequent Sunday. 

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Trailer

The latest trailer for I’ll Be Gone in the Dark gives a better sense of how the series will examine the original Night Stalker case along with McNamara’s investigation.

Previously HBO provided a brief teaser for the series.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Episodes

HBO has provided names and synopses for all six I’ll Be Gone in the Dark episodes. They are as follows:

Episode 1: “Murder Habit”
Debut date: SUNDAY, JUNE 28 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Writer Michelle McNamara, author of True Crime Diary, her blog about unsolved crimes, finds a new obsession in the “East Area Rapist” (EAR), who terrorized California in the 1970s and ‘80s, responsible for 50 home-invasion rapes and 12 murders. The EAR, whose true identity is still unknown, would also come to be known as the “Original Night Stalker” and, as Michelle dubs him, the “Golden State Killer.” Delving into the world of online chat rooms and crime blogs, she becomes immersed in the graphic details of the Golden State Killer case, connecting with like-minded sleuths, trading facts, photos and leads. After pitching a story to Los Angeles Magazine, she hits the ground running, interviewing several EAR survivors and retired detectives who worked the case. Today, Michelle’s husband, actor Patton Oswalt, friends, and fellow citizen detectives reflect on her intoxicating talent – which McNamara calls an “addiction” – for piecing together clues and bringing unsolved true crime stories to life.
Directed by Liz Garbus.

Episode 2: “Reign of Terror”
Debut date: SUNDAY, JULY 5 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Michelle McNamara reflects on the 1984 murder of her childhood neighbor Kathy Lombardo, which she credits with planting the seed for her lifelong fascination with unsolved crimes. Local detectives who worked the East Area Rapist (EAR) case in the ‘70s – and citizen detectives who picked up where they left off – discuss a proliferation of serial rape cases in Northern California at the time, discussing an era when victims were often too ashamed to speak out and sexual crime was minimized in the press and the courtroom. Following a rush of media coverage in 1977, EAR’s boldness escalates, as he shifts his focus from single women and teenagers, to include couples as well. Today, several survivors describe these attacks and their aftermath in chilling detail. Directed by Elizabeth Wolff.

Episode 3: “Rat in a Maze”
Debut date: SUNDAY, JULY 12 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

In 1979, law enforcement is thrilled when the East Area Rapist (EAR) attacks abruptly stop in Northern California, but in reality, EAR has moved south to commit a number of gruesome murders in the Santa Barbara area, known as the “Original Night Stalker” series. The hunt for the perpetrator stalls due to lack of cooperation between jurisdictions and concerns of tarnishing the area’s pristine image, leaving the community unaware of the predator in their midst. David Witthuhn, the husband of murder victim Manuela Witthuhn, is questioned as the sole person of interest, but his name isn’t cleared until 20 years later, when DNA evidence links his wife’s murder not only to others in the Santa Barbara area, but also to EAR assaults in Sacramento. Michelle’s article chronicling her investigation of the case, “In the Footsteps of a Killer,” causes a splash when it’s published 2013. After signing a major book deal, she works around the clock to find the killer and struggles with another aspect of the book – writing about herself. Directed by Myles Kane & Josh Koury.

Episode 4: “The Motherlode”
Debut date: SUNDAY, JULY 19 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Michelle and her editors agree to push her book deadline after being granted access to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s East Area Rapist / Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS) room. Poring over 37 boxes of files now occupying her daughter’s playroom, Michelle and her researcher Paul Haynes explore the case of the “Visalia Ransacker,” the perpetrator of a string of burglaries in the early ‘70s bearing striking similarities to EAR. Overwhelmed by the amount of material and the graphic nature of the crimes she is investigating, Michelle struggles to balance the demands of her self-described addiction to her work with her family life.  Painful personal memories, combined with her pressure to solve the case and finish the book leads to a string of sleepless nights and harrowing nightmares, as she becomes increasingly reliant upon prescription drugs to manage her mounting anxieties. Directed by Myles Kane & Josh Koury.

Episode 5: “Monsters Recede but Never Vanish”
Debut date: SUNDAY, JULY 26 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

As Michelle’s loved ones cope with her sudden death, her work to unmask the Golden State Killer lives on. Inspired by McNamara’s interest in genealogy and online DNA testing services, Paul Holes, Chief of Forensics in Contra Costa County, reconstructs the killer’s family tree with the help of genetic genealogist Barbara-Rae Venter. After inheriting Michelle’s 37 boxes of case files, researcher Paul Haynes and true crime writer Billy Jensen work alongside Michelle’s husband, Patton Oswalt, to finish her book, which becomes an instant bestseller. Meanwhile, the release of Michelle’s autopsy report rocks her inner circle. Michelle’s writing – in which she wrestles with depression and her own mother’s sudden death — sheds light on her pain but leaves many questions unanswered.  Directed by Elizabeth Wolff.

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Episode 6: “Walk into the Light” (Series finale)
Debut date: SUNDAY, AUGUST 2 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

As 72-year-old former police officer Joe DeAngelo’s arrest unfolds in real time, chilling facts materialize that illuminate Michelle’s prescience in her book’s epilogue, “Letter to an Old Man.” Researcher Paul Haynes and true crime writer Billy Jensen try to learn everything they can about DeAngelo. Exclusive interviews with DeAngelo’s relatives reveal early family trauma, and his double life as a suburban dad and serial predator. His ex-fiancé also details the behavior and warning signs that lead her to end their engagement. Having finally faced their attacker in court, several survivors meet for the first time and gain strength in their shared desire to confront their pain, move forward, and advocate for all sexual assault survivors. When Patton Oswalt, Jensen, and Haynes connect with survivors and McNamara’s fellow citizen detective Melanie Barbeau, Michelle’s absence is deeply felt. Directed by Liz Garbus.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Story

The Golden State Killer was one of America’s most prolific serial rapists and eventual murderers but he was known to only true crime obsessives until relatively recently. Operating in the Bay Area in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Golden State killer was responsible for over 50 home-invasions and subsequent acts of violence. He was often overshadowed by other, “flashier” serial criminals from his era and as such his crimes proved difficult to solve for decades. 

McNamara’s book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was the first major release to examine the Golden State Killer’s crimes and attempt to uncover his real identity. McNamara was a prolific true crime blogger, writing about unsolved crimes on her site True Crime Diaries. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was her debut published effort and covered the case that she was hellbent on solving. 

The book became significant in the true crime canon for a couple of reasons. For starters, McNamara’s book just happened to coincide with the eventual identification and arrest of the Golden State Killer. While police say that McNamara’s book did not lead to any direct information about GSK’s whereabouts, it did contribute to reviving interest and publicity in the case. 

Unfortunately, McNamara died of an accidental overdose prior to finishing the book. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, put the finishing touches on the manuscript and helped publish it in February of 2018 where it reached the top of the New York Times best seller list and remained there for 15 weeks. 

Now HBO will be bringing McNamara’s story to a wider audience. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is described as a detective story in the writer’s own words. Actress Amy Ryan will recreate exclusive original recordings from McNamara and read excerpts of her writing as part of the series. In addition to that, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark will utilize extensive police archival footage along with interviews with those involved to tell the story of the Golden State Killer’s crimes and the flawed investigation that followed. 

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