The 5 Worst San Francisco Serial Killers: Beasts at the Golden Gate
by Daniel Lukacs
June 28, 2017
One of the most famous serial killers in the Bay Area is the Zodiac Killer that was never found. While everyone has heard of this murderer, how much of the serial killer history of San Francisco do you know about? In this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the most famous serial killers in the Bay Area. Some San Francisco serial killers do the deed in person, others have finished their victims at a distance, but all have left an indelible mark on the history of the Bay Area.
5. The Trailside Killer
If you look deep enough into San Francisco serial killer history, it might make you want to stay away from the trails and parks around the city. The Trailside Killer, who has been on death row since the early eighties, killed several people after brutally raping them. In fact, in 2010, yet another suspected victim was linked to this grisly murderer.
The Trailside Killer, whose name is David Joseph Carpenter, would rape his victims, and then shoot them dead. He had a history of sexual violence and had already been arrested and convicted more than once. He had a tough life; he was abused as a child and had a severe stuttering issue. A history of dissatisfaction with life may have lead to his killing spree, but Carpenter himself, now 83 years old, still proclaims his innocence.
4. The Golden State Killer
The unfortunate truth is that not every serial killer meets justice. To this day, The Golden State Killer still manages to elude the authorities. Like the Trailside Killer, the Golden State Killer’s heinous acts often involved brutal rape. In fact, his crime spree began with serial rape and eventually evolved to include murder as well.
Additionally, this murderer’s career is suspected to have expanded well past the Bay Area; in fact, using DNA evidence, it’s expected that the Golden State Killer may have had victims as far away from San Francisco as Sacramento. The Golden State Killer has had many nicknames, including the original Night Stalker, but after a decade of rapes and slayings, he suddenly ended his run in 1986. Authorities are still searching.
3. The Unabomber
Many people still remember the police sketch of the hooded Ted Kaczynski, more colloquially known as The Unabomber. Kaczynski’s true passion for anarchy wasn’t suspected by anyone; he had been a professor at UC Berkley. Over the course of a killing spree that lasted from 1978 to 1996, Kaczynski mailed bombs to his victims.
He deemed anyone that was progressing the cause of technology his enemy and with his homemade explosives, meted out harsh, often lethal justice. His bombs were initially less lethal, but as time went on, he started racking up kills with his homemade explosives. Many of the victims of Ted’s rampage were located in the Bay area, which makes him one of the most lethal bombers in San Francisco serial killer history.
2. The Zebra Killers
Not all serial killings happen as the result of the actions of a single person. The so-called Zebra Killers were a group of African-American men that went on a killing spree during the early 70s. During their reign of terror, they had shot, hacked, and stabbed numerous victims, including Bay Area Mayor Art Agnos.
In fact, one of their most infamous slayings happened when they kidnapped a couple during their first killing in 1973. During this event, they raped and nearly hacked the head off of young Quita Hague after holding her and her husband, Richard, in their white van. They attacked Richard with the machete that they used on his wife, but fortunately, he survived to testify.
An unfortunate result of this spree is that police at the time started to question large groups of black men, granting them “Zebra Check” cards that proved that they weren’t the killers. The Zebra Killers were eventually caught as a result of the testimony of an acquaintance of the suspects, Anthony Harris. Harris admitted to being at each of the killings but claimed that he didn’t take part in the slayings.
1. The Zodiac Killer
Another of the San Francisco serial killers that haven't been found, the Zodiac Killer’s spree of murder has often been compared to that of Jack the Ripper. Having named himself Zodiac in a series of letters, the male who killed at least five people in the late 60s became known to authorities. He demanded that his letters were printed on the front page of Bay Area newspapers or he would kill again.
Authorities worked hard to find out who was behind the killings. He began his murderous spree by shooting a young couple to death. Then, he shot yet another couple but failed to kill the male. Next, he attacked another couple; this time by stabbing, one was lucky enough to survive. The final killing before the Zodiac went silent was a taxi driver who was shot to death. Many suspects have been rounded up, but no definitive Zodiac has been found.
These Bay Area murderers have become infamous for their slayings, and there are even more cases of slayings in the San Francisco area out there. One thing is for certain, San Francisco truly has a colorful history.