Because “Night Stalker” (the term used by the jurisdictions in So. Cal long before the Press gave Richard Ramirez the moniker) only struck couples, there was some question whether the same killer involved in the Offerman/Manning, Smiths and Harrington murders was involved here in the Witthuhn case. When DNA analysis was finally possible, not only was the Witthuhn murder linked to “Night Stalker” (now called Original Night Stalker) DNA all the murders were linked together with EAR DNA. Thus northern California’s notorious sexual terrorist had yet another victim added to his rap sheet. However, by the time all these links were confirmed, The EAR and ONS cases were long dead cold cases, the Witthuhn Case almost 19 years old.
Much theorizing had been built up that has to be revised.
For instance, later analysis of the crime spree said that Irvine and Ventura were comfort zones for the perpetrator. The criminal analyst, Leslie D’Ambrosia, however, wasn’t told much. She wasn’t told anything about the double murder of Offerman-Manning in Goleta. Nor was she told of the prior attempt at rape on Queen Ann Lane in the same Goleta area and the perp’s similar MO to EAR. D’Ambrosia thought that the Smith murders were first. As a result D’Ambrosia thought that Irvine and Ventura must have been comfort zones for the predator, believing that a serial starts closest to where he lives. Not being aware of any possible links with EAR, she hadn’t been aware of the tactical proximity of CATs, canals, parks and schools as used by EAR in his stalking MO. Had she known of EAR’s long standing crime spree and his calculated use of tactical allies, she no doubt would have seen that EAR didn’t know either Ventura or Irvine well.
Something else brought EAR to Irvine. There is a major canal nearby on the main road (Trabuco), but it offers no advantage in stalking Columbus. There is also a small one about a mile away from Columbus. This canal has the only scenic walking trail in the area paralleling it. This area is a mirror of EAR’s Contra Costa crime zones. And it is to this area near Encina Street that he would return in 1986 to murder his last victim
But what brought EAR here in the first place? It’s north of Dana Point. Was EAR returning after prowling Dana Point one day and did he get off the off ramp here to prowl around, finding quickly that it fit his MO nicely? This area is very near the main off ramp from 5 onto Trabuco. That was EAR’s MO. Stick close to the highways.
At the end of Columbus is another park, Blue Gum. It is a small version of Del Campo. Several communities open off of it, making it quite a hub. EAR must have spent the better part of weeks scouting the general area until he chose his victim.
The analysis also deduced the perpetrator was quite intelligent and was trying to cover up his intentional murder by making it look like a burglary gone wrong. He knew murder was a serious crime and he didn’t want any link made with this case and the Smith and Harrington murders. This is why he removed the ligatures. Perhaps. There was certainly more of an attempt here to make it look like a burglary than at the Harringtons and Smiths. But it is obvious the victim had been tied. Only trifles were stolen. It didn’t fool the police that the murder wasn’t intentional.
If those were EAR’s motives, his actions here were really a very poor attempt at making it look like a burglary. He was progressing over what he had staged at the Smith/Harrington murders, as D’Ambrosia noted. But his progress seems off and on. He had stolen some of Charlene Smith’s costume jewelry. Nothing, apparently, from the Harringtons, and now the items taken here were trite tokens. Here he took a lamp (possibly the murder weapon) and a rather valueless crystal ball on a wood base. It stood no more than 6 inches tall. The TV was a stupid gesture unless he thought the police would think he used it to step over the fence to escape. But he also stole the tape from the phone answering machine. That was odd.
When EAR had begun in Rancho Cordova, with Victim 1, he had tried to cut the phone line from the outside, even going to the labor of positioning a wood block under it and then a birdbath on top of the block in order to reach the line coming into the house. When he turned killer by bludgeon, he made a bloody mess (literally) out of the Smith bedroom. After that he covered his next victims with the bedspread to reduce the mess. Both of the above examples showed how he learned as he went. This is average intelligence. Put your hand on the candle when lit and it burns. Don’t do it again. Most everybody learns by experience. There’s nothing insulting about that. But the truly intelligent can think things out and envision the results. EAR could not.
Therein is the difference in his actual mistakes and in his murder scenes. One can backwork his motives at No 1. One can see how he progressed in reducing mess with his early murders. But with the Witthuhn murder there is only strange inconsistency.
As a rapist it was only necessary that he conceal his identify. When he turned murderer and tried to invent an alibi he was inconsistent and shoddy.
EAR had paid too much attention to Manuela to ever pass this off as a burglary. She had been roughly raped, possibly gagged, trussed up, and then her head beaten with more force than was necessary to kill, and this was done with her head covered so as to reduce mess. Her murder had always been the object.
Curiously, EAR had bound Manuela’s ankles as well. This meant he intended to leave her alone for a time in the bedroom. We can assume he did this when arranging the house and yard. Only after he killed her did he probably take the tape and slip it in his pocket. She was bound tight enough to leave marks, but they were lightest on her ankles. EAR always tied the ankles of his rape victims loosely for obvious reasons. He had to untie them to lead them to another room to rape them.
Again, EAR took what appeared to be the murder weapon. None was found. It was assumed it must have been the lamp.
This is noteworthy. EAR never brought the murder weapon. He murdered the Smiths with the log from their own wood pile; the Harringtons ostensibly with a brass coated sprinkler head, and here, possibly, the lamp. D’Ambrosia deduced he brought a controlling weapon with him (gun/knife), but never the murder weapon. If EAR wanted this to look like a burglary gone bad, why take the lamp? An unarmed burglar would naturally reach for an object and use it. Why take it?
What is the most curious thing is that EAR took so long between strikes now. Why? From his developing pattern, it appears like he never knew Los Angeles. The worst possible scenario is that he never even lived in So. Cal; that he was merely visiting for work on a per deum basis and devoted all his extra time to prowling where he could. Except for the Harringtons, no strike was far from California’s two major north-south arteries— Highway 101 and Highway 5. This would be underscored again. Five months later he was back in Goleta, with tragic results.