The first inkling that EAR had been prowling the area of Thunderbird Place in San Ramon came on December 18, 1978. According to Lt. (ret.) Larry Crompton in his book Sudden Terror, an unusual evening ritual uncovered the clue. The news reports of The EAR’s unrelenting crime spree had motivated a couple to check their home each evening to make sure EAR had not been in there. This included not only checking the windows but looking under furniture to see if he had left ligatures in the house. Apparently the couple were aware that EAR committed double, even triple jeopardy, by entering a home beforehand, scouting out viable victims and even hiding the implements he would use in the intended rape.
On this day the couple uncovered a coiled white nylon rope under one of the couch’s cushions in the living room. They called the sheriffs. The wife, 36 year old mother, also realized someone had been through their wedding pictures. They were usually contained in a hutch desk in an envelope. Though she discovered them there the pictures were on top of the directory and not in the envelop.
Over several visits it was determined by Sheriffs investigators that there was no other evidence. There were no scratches on the window screens, no marks of forced entry. The dog was quite friendly, and Crompton personally remembers that the dog did not stir much when he entered the garage, and after being petted completely ignored him while he looked about.
The backyard was undeveloped due to it being a new home. There had been a recent rain. Nevertheless, there were no footprints anywhere.
Aside from the coiled rope and the fact pictures had been rifled through (but apparently none missing) there was no evidence that someone had been in that house. Since the couple checked every night, ritualistically, the coiled nylon rope had been placed their that day while they were at work.
Over several ensuing nights sheriff detectives remained in the house, armed and prepared for a visit by EAR. The homeowners stayed with friends. The detectives parked a couple of blocks away and walked to the residence, to make sure they were not observed should EAR, who so far had shown obsessive stalking and prowling abilities, should be in a position to see them.
No visit by EAR ever occurred.
However, on January 2, 1979, yet another clue emerged on Thunderbird Place. An illegal entry report was placed for a home 2 doors down from the previous couple’s. The couple who lived at this residence had been out of town. The couple had checked and rechecked and it was certain nothing was missing. Nevertheless, it was also clear someone had been in the house. The wife, a 31 year old redhead, noticed that her underwear drawer in her bedroom dresser must have been opened at one point. The drawer did not closer properly and as such she never forced it all the way closed. However, when they returned from their trip she found it had been completely shut. She had also received an obscene phone call in early December.
Amongst the sheriff precautions in this case was a phone call twice a night (at 1:30 and 3 a.m) to make sure the couple was safe. The code word, according to Crompton, was “angel.” If either of the couple responded with this word, then it meant all was well.
EAR never struck along Thunderbird Place. Yet all the evidence points to the fact that he had scouted the street. Its location was ideal for his tactical assault of a neighborhood.