One of the most curious cases in the litany of the EAR’s crime spree, for it was not only the last but it came after an almost 5 year hiatus. The location more than what was done to the victim speaks loudest.
It was a different era than that in which EAR had begun 10 years before. In 1986 we were at the height of the age of excess. Long hair, lack of pretense, and get back to nature were all things and attitudes of the past. The mullet was the fashion for men’s hair; elaborate spikey hair for women. The social issues of the 1970s were gone. Reagan had long been president and formality had returned, even if it was a sow’s ear’s interpretation of it. It was a vulgar, Yuppie, pretentious but a fast and loose and exuberant time. The 1970s seemed further back in the past in 1986 than they seem now.
It was Sunday night, May 4, 1986. Janelle Cruz, 18, was entertaining a male friend. They were only friends. While sitting in Janelle’s bedroom, they heard a noise outside on the east side of the house. It sounded like the gate closing or the door in the garage shutting. She looked out. Nothing. This was getting frustrating. Earlier they had heard noises and Janelle had looked and had seen nothing. Both looked now, but still it seemed there was nobody.
About 10:45 p.m. her friend left. Janelle must have gone out to get some things. This is evident, for her neighbor heard her return at 11:15 p.m. Her Chevette had a distinctive muffler. Janelle was alone. The neighbor heard only one door slam.
This is about it. Again, as in some of the other cases, the house was for sale. A real estate agent came by at 5 p.m., Sunday the 5th. She found the body.
The scene is familiar, though not so neatly done as EAR had done before his near 5 year break. Janelle had an unfortunate habit of leaving doors unlocked. The intruder must have surprised her in the kitchen and hit her on the forehead. She struggled. Blood was on the kitchen floor, some cabinets, on the inside of the front door— she probably tried to get out and away— on wood shutters nearby, and then on the headboard of her bed.
Her body, basically nude, had been found lying diagonally across her bed. Her bra had been pulled down to her waist. Her head was covered with the blankets. When they were removed, her face was seen to have been bashed in and her forehead. Blood was about her shoulders and neck. She had been violently raped. The rapist must have gotten on the bed in a couple of different positions. Blades of grass from the back lawn or from the park behind the house were found near the head of the bed and by her feet. Tennis shoe prints were found on the east side of the house.
In this case, lint was found, medium blue in color— probably from a bath towel that had been torn and used as a gag. The gag had been removed and was not present. Cruz had also been bound. There were abrasions on her wrists, but no bruises. This can be explained by the intruder having hit her in the kitchen and having made her largely insensible. She must not have struggled much after being bound.
As in the other cases, the murder weapon was not found. However, a pipe wrench kept in the backyard was missing.
Such is the case. In 1997, along with the others, DNA confirmed that EAR was responsible.
From our point of view today, the location is a mirror of his prowling MO in Sacramento and Contra Costa when he used a canal. And this is the most pondersome clue today.
Yes, EAR used the area around a very short canal by Queen Ann Lane. But that was only a slim reflection of what had been his standard MO in Contra Costa County. Yes, he used CATs to lead him to High Point Drive. But none of the investigators down south really knew of EAR’s use of CAT corridors and his Dig and Retreat attack on a neighborhood. So the other Goleta attacks didn’t suggest EAR except by MO inside the house. The Cockleshell attack stands separate to his prowling MO completely. There are a couple of parks close to Manuela Witthuhn’s house, with paths that lead to other communities. Nothing stark.
But with his last attack EAR used his staple— a long canal with a trail by it. He hadn’t used this since the Contra Costa County attacks, where he seemed to almost rely on the canals and the parallel trails. Janelle Cruz’s house is only 1.7 miles from Manuela Witthuhn’s house. EAR undoubtedly had stalked the area at that time.
Thus after a near 5 year hiatus he returned to the one area where he knew his traditional allies existed. Leslie D’Ambrosia thought that Irvine was a “comfort zone.” But, in point of fact, EAR had no comfort zone outside perhaps of western Rancho Cordova where he began without any tactical aids. D’Ambrosia wasn’t told about Goleta, so she thought that the assailant returned to the last place he struck because of familiarity with Irvine. In fact, this attack says the opposite.
EAR knew this one area, yes, from having stalked Witthuhn’s general neighborhood 5 years before. This was why he returned. What this says for me is that EAR had not remained around Los Angeles. Had he remained around the greater Los Angeles area for those 5 years, yet had not committed violent crimes, he would still have come across and familiarized himself with many other ideal prowling areas. Los Angeles must have 10 times the canals, schools, parks, CATs, and trails that Sacramento has. Even casually about his work, EAR would have come across other ideal areas.
But he didn’t. EAR apparently remained completely ignorant of Los Angeles. He struck thrice in Goleta, once in Ventura, once in Dana Point, and then once in Irvine, possibly discovering the area because it was accessible from I-5 North on his return from prowling (or working in) Dana Point. He then returns here 5 years later. That’s it. He didn’t broaden his attack areas.
Where had EAR been? Was he in prison? Had he ever lived in So. Cal? Had he merely been working there on a per deum basis and had never truly moved from the Sacramento area? It’s easy to believe he was in jail. This explains the lack of crime and the lack of familiarizing himself with more potential spots in LA in those 5 years. This explains why this compulsive sadists, rapist, terrorist and murderer, returned right away to the one area where he knew his traditional tactical allies to exist.
Was he in the military for 4 years? Did he murder overseas? Elsewhere in the US?
In any case, he ceased after this 1986 attack. D’Ambrosia theorized that EAR may have been killed by a homeowner as he broke in to prowl another house. D’Ambrosia rightly notes that EAR did not bring the murder weapon, only a weapon of control. If he was stopped dead by an armed homeowner, his MO would not yet have been apparent and no link readily made to him. Furthermore, all of these crimes were not linked at the time, so that various precincts may not have thought to cross reference the case of a burglar shot dead by a homeowner. This is possible. But it is equally possible EAR may have stopped.
By this time he must have been in his early 30s. He probably wasn’t as athletic anymore. Perhaps the thrill had been dying out. Perhaps after this case, in which he doesn’t seem to have acted with the same control, he gave it up.
Unlike his rape spree EAR’s murders were strangely spaced. He could have murdered with the same unrelenting schedule as he did his rapes and ended up being the terror of LA. But he doesn’t seem to be based in LA at all. He didn’t venture far from Highway 101 and I-5.
This could mean he remained in Nor. Cal and simply stopped up here because he felt he might have been identified at the Danville attack (48). This gave him less time in LA, perhaps only a couple of weeks at a time and then only months apart.
D’Ambrosia speculated that EAR was based around Ventura because a serial begins in the area where he lives and is familiar. Again, D’Ambrosia wasn’t told about the Goleta attacks, but she may nonetheless have been right.
EAR kibitzed. He did so in a minor way by parking in a central location, going in one way to steal a bike and then going in the opposite to strike his target. Did he do that on a large scale too? Where did EAR live in the Contra Costa Corridor? Could it have been central to the areas he struck, like Dublin or Livermore? He never struck there. This central area would make it easy to access Concord to the north and San Jose to the south. If he had lived in Concord where he first struck he would be driving quite a distance to San Jose and Fremont.
If EAR did that in So. Cal, Ventura or Oxnard would be a good location. He could access Goleta to the north and then driving through LA find Dana Point and then on the way back Irvine off I-5. He never seemed to know LA. Then there is the fact that of all his crimes he left symbolism only in Charlene Smith’s death. She was, to say the least, a femme fatale— vivacious, worldly, superficial, and adulterous. Perhaps he was attracted to the neighborhood by the CATs and then when in the house recognized this was that highly alluring, socially prominent attorney’s wife he had seen or encountered before. Whatever the reason he saw fit with her, and with her alone, to leave symbolism.
Where had EAR been for those 5 years, and where did he go thereafter? His crime spree is now becoming famous. Police have been reaching out for information. Surely all those souvenirs he took must be somewhere? All those driver’s licenses, jewelry, personal photos, worthless knickknacks. The crystal ball, the Witthuhn lamp, Charlene Smith’s expensive personal jewelry. Where?
Santa Barbara County sheriffs have reached out to the public for help. Minute paint dots were found at one scene. Perhaps EAR was a painter in construction. A strip mall was being built nearby at the time. Amazingly, a Sacramento company had the contract. Nothing has turned up.
EAR must be around 58 or 59 years old if he is still alive. His earliest crimes in 1976 seem an epoch ago. But he started young, very young, and he has eluded the police longer than anyone. Despite DNA. Despite the massive number of crimes. Despite an MO that became methodical. Despite near 40 years in which evidence could have been found, even inadvertently (such as all that he stole) and his identity uncovered posthumously. Despite all this, no one is the wiser today.