Serial killers can be found all over the world, but San Francisco is home to some of the most notorious serial killers that have ever been heard of. Many of the killers in the San Francisco area have never been identified or caught, which is a scary thought.
How many killers are roaming the streets of San Francisco and the nearby Bay area? You will be both surprised and horrified, especially when you learn of the gruesome murders that have taken place in San Francisco’s history.
We’ll tell you about six of the most notorious and infamous serial killers that have been known to kill several victims in many ways, with different weapons.
Some of these killers have left a trademark symbol, sketch, to link the murders. Some killers have also contacted the press to brag about the killings, increasing the focus on them and their crimes.
In this article we’ll talk about the below San Francisco killers:
- The Zodiac Killer
- The Golden State Killer
- The Zebra Killers
- Richard Ramirez
- David Joseph Carpenter
- The Doodler
- The Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer
San Francisco & Bay Area Serial Killers
The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer is one of America's most infamous serial killers who still hasn’t been caught, or even identified. He murdered at least five people during the 1960s in San Fransisco.
He targeted mainly couples in secluded areas, and his first victims were a young teenage couple who had ditched school to go sunbathing. He attacked two more couples following this, but two males in the couples that he attacked, survived. He is thought to have killed Cheri Jo Bates, but this has not been confirmed.
Zodiac Killer is the pseudonym given to him after he sent a series of letters to the San Francisco Chronicle. In one of his letters, he wrote “I like killing people because it’s so much fun.” He is suspected of killing up to 37 victims throughout the 1960s and 1970s but is not confirmed, while the killer's identity remains a mystery.
Many suspects have come forward, but no one until this day has been confirmed as the Zodiac Killer.
The Riverside Police Department believes that the killer of Cheri Jo Bates was not the Zodiac Killer. However, recent reports from the Vallejo Police Department have identified Gary Francis Poste as the Zodiac Killer. He passed away in 2018, will we ever know the truth?
The Golden State Killer
Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested in 2018 as the Golden State Killer, who is responsible for killing over 13 people, over 50 counts of rape, and over 100 burglaries.
His first killing was in 1975 when he was serving as a police officer in Exeter, California when he shot a man in front of his daughter and fled. He was known to tie up his victims and then rape them before killing them.
If the women weren’t home alone and were at home with their partner or husband, it didn’t stop him. He would tie them both up then lead the woman into another room to rape her before coming back and killing them both.
A police sketch showing how the Golden State Killer appeared to victims that had escaped being murdered, was released in a bid to capture him.
The last known crime by the Golden State killer was in 1986, and the case went cold until DeAngelo’s name was brought up. The former police officer was eventually caught through genetic genealogy, a new technique using DNA evidence. The San Francisco serial killer was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and will serve life without parole.
The reign of terror caused by a group of African-American murderers known as the Zebra killers took place in San Fransisco from October 1973 to April 1974. They called themselves the Death Angels and it’s believed that their crimes were all racially-motivated.
They killed at least 15 people during their murder spree. However, authorities believe that the actual number of people killed could be as high as 73.
The spree began with the kidnap of a young couple called Quita and Richard Hague. Quits was raped, and her head was hacked off with a machete. Richard was murdered with the same weapon. They went on to kill an 81 year old janitor and a 20 year old student. The only link to the killings was that all of their victims were white.
The Zebra killers were caught after an aquaintance, Anthony Harris admitted to police that he had witnessed some of the murders first-hand.
J.C.X. Simon, Manuel Moore, Larry Green, and Jessie Lee Cooks were the four Bay Area men that were convicted for the racially motivated gruesome murders. Of the four men, only Jessie Lee Cooks ever confessed to the crimes.
Richard Ramirez was known as the Night Stalker as he was known for leaving Satanic symbols at the scene of his crimes. He was a serial killer, rapist, child molester, kidnapper, and burglar who was known to have murdered at least 13 people between June 1984 and August 1985.
He used a wide variety of weapons to kill his victims, and many of his victims were sexually assaulted, raped, and beaten before being murdered.
His first known murder was of a 79 year-old widow who he raped before stabbing her to death. Many of his killings took place in homes that he had intended to steal from, where the owners had got in the way.
During his killing spree, there was a panic that saw a rise in gun sales in California. A fingerprint led to the identification of Ramirez as the Night Stalker, and he was convicted of 13 murders.
He was given a death sentence with death by the gas chamber, but he was diagnosed with cancer while on death row. He died in 2013.
David Joseph Carpenter
David Joseph Carpenter was also known as the Trailside Killer due to his preference for stalking and murdering women when they were on hiking trails around San Fransisco.
He was first convicted of attempted murder in 1960, and he spent seven years behind bars. On his release, he continued to attack women and was a suspect in the Zodiac case at one point but was cleared as the Zodiac killer.
He raped and murdered seven women from 1979 to 1980 and is thought to have killed more than this. He preyed on lone women walking or jogging along the trails. He would rape them and then shoot them dead.
He was arrested in 1981 and sentenced to the death penalty. It was confirmed that he had murdered another woman in1979 when the case was re-opened. DNA evidence matched Carpenter through Department of Justice files. She had been stabbed while jogging at Lands End, San Francisco.
He remains on death row to this day, waiting for his execution.
The Doodler is another San Francisco serial killer who has never been caught or even identified. The killer liked to sketch his victims before he killed him, which gave him the nickname the Doodler.
The killer is believed to be responsible for 14 murders in the San Fransisco area in the mid-1970s. The victims were all gay men who died gruesome deaths, and the Doodler was known to pick his victims up at gay clubs.
His first victim was found at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, with stab wounds in his front and back. The San Francisco police department received a phone call telling them that a dead man's body was on the beach. The caller was never identified, was it the murderer or a passing witness?
A new police sketch and audio recording were released in 2019 in the hope of moving the case forward and finally identifying the killer.
The Santa Rosa Hitchhiker Killer
The serial killer named the Santa Rosa Hitchhiker killer is thought to have killed at least seven girls and young women in the San Francisco area.
The killer's first victims were two girls, aged just 12 years old, who disappeared in February 1972. He continued his killing spree for one year, killing many young women, most of whom were hitchhiking in San Francisco.
It was difficult to determine the cause of death for some of his victims, but his last killing was the most horrific. The 23 year old victim was discovered tied with clothesline rope. She had been raped and then strangled to death.
The identity of the serial killer, as with several other serial killers in San Francisco, has not been discovered to this day.
The history of San Francisco and its serial killers is scarier than you could imagine. This vibrant and charming city has something for everyone but take care. There could be a serial killer waiting for you.
Don’t let these unsolved murders put you off visiting this amazing city, you can learn more about the history of San Francisco and see if you can solve one of the cold cases while you’re there.