Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2021) s01e02 Episode Script

Anyone Could Be Next

1 Two young paper boys discovered the latest victim on a hillside in northeast Los Angeles.
The body had been dumped 15 feet down an embankment in a residential neighborhood.
The victim was a woman, about 20 years old, and the body was nude.
I got a call at home from the desk, and they say it's a possible overdose.
We uncovered the body.
You could see ligature marks on her wrists, you could see ligature marks on her ankles, and you could see a mark around her neck.
It stood out right away.
This wasn't an overdose, this was a murder.
Ten young women raped, bound, and strangled, their bodies found scattered in hilly areas… Early Saturday, the body of 18-year-old Paula Gwen Ward was found in a secluded lover's lane… The body of 21-year-old Carolyn Williams was found.
These have been attributed to a killer called the Hillside Strangler.
The Hillside Strangler was a huge story in Los Angeles.
Eleven bodies.
Eleven women, all of them… Dumped on hillsides, where they would be easy to spot.
They were nude.
Uh, they were posed.
Now, one of our theories was we could be dealing with either cops… Or pretend cops… Because there was no sign of a struggle ever with any of the victims.
When they were taken off the street, they went willingly.
But a palm print was found on the car of the 13th victim, 20-year-old Cindy Hudspeth.
In California, a former security guard has been sentenced to life in prison for some of the Hillside Strangler killings.
Kenneth Bianchi admitted to a Los Angeles Court that he committed five of the so-called Hillside stranglings.
He agreed to plead guilty to the killings and to testify against his cousin, Angelo Buono.
The oddity of it was, there were two killers who were cousins.
Figuring that out was one hell of a job.
There were a lot of other men and women who were working on this case, but Frank was the guy who put it all together.
And when Frank Salerno did that, you just sorta said, "Whoa!" That was very difficult to do.
I remember telling Gil, "Those are, like, once-in-a-lifetime cases.
" All of a sudden… "Oh, shit, here we go again.
" 105 for afternoon high tomorrow, 108 in high desert, 117 in Palm Springs.
We'll break a record again tomorrow.
It'll be sunny and hot for the next few days.
In effect, you're hunting a man.
I've never been a hunter.
I'm a city slicker.
I looked at it playing the game of Clue.
You know, Colonel Mustard did it with a gun in the kitchen.
You're trying to think like an individual that is not thinking logically.
We had a serial killer responsible for child abductions as well.
And killing by various means.
Guns, knives, ligature strangulation, manual strangulation, blunt force trauma.
The only thing that was similar was his dissimilarity.
He went after old people, he went after young people.
He went after men, he went after women.
How was he selecting victims? How was he selecting the homes? There was no pattern.
The monster was among us and hunting us… And anyone, anyone can be a victim.
John was asleep in the back bedroom, and I had ended up asleep on the sofa in the living room.
I woke up to a very loud noise, to which I responded, very annoyed, "John!" You know, because I He's gonna wake up the kids.
And, uh… Immediately… I knew it wasn't John.
There was no answer, it was just still.
Just… Fear.
Terrible fear.
I didn't know if the something was in the house, or the something was half in or out of the house.
But something was there.
And I was terrified to move.
Typical husband, I'm like, "Don't bother me.
I gotta get up in a couple hours and go to work.
It's just a noise.
Don't worry.
" She was insistent.
She says, "No, I heard the window.
" So, I went and got my gun and I walked around the house.
I walked behind our dining room table and, as I walked around the table, a window that we had not opened, ever, because it was painted shut, was all the way up.
Jammed all the way up.
- Solid.
- We gotta call the police! He's like, "I am the police.
" I said, "I know, but we gotta call.
" So, I go get my flashlight, and I start shining it out the window.
And that's when I see footprints down in the flower bed, in the mud.
We had watered so much the night before, the ground was… Just perfectly saturated.
And when he pushed down with his feet to shove that window up, it just left a perfect print.
They sent out a unit, and I show him the footprints.
And he looks at them hard, a long time, and he says, "I think it's the same guy.
" Then, Gil and a bunch of other crime lab people start coming to the house.
I happened to be working graveyards, and got a phone call at 4:30 in the morning, and there's been an attempted break-in out at Pico.
So, I go out to John Rodriguez's house, and Where I'm met by some young, good deputy.
He found a box and covered up the footprint, in case the wind blew or anything.
He wanted nobody to touch that thing.
As soon as Gil got there, I realized how serious the whole thing was.
He says, "I don't wanna scare you, but you are very lucky that this guy didn't come in your house.
" I says, "What do you mean?" He says, "No, no, this guy is bad.
He is evil.
He's done some things that you don't want to know about.
" It was Gil Carrillo who told me the print matches.
How lucky we were to have lived.
Very fortunate.
All of us.
And so, we've got a shoe print.
Didn't know what print it was, just knew it was a shoe print.
Once we found the sole pattern, we told two of our investigators, "Go find the shoe that matches it.
" So, they started going to random shoe stores… And found it.
This is a footprint from an Avia shoe.
That Avia was a very uncommon shoe.
It wasn't like, at the time, an Adidas or Puma, or Nike even, back then.
It had just started manufacture.
I was assigned to trace evidence section in the laboratory.
I needed to know everything I could about that shoe.
I went up to Portland, Oregon, to speak with Jerry Stubblefield, who is the inventor of the Avia shoe.
He provided me with shoe soles that I could use in comparison to full impressions or partial impressions.
I was able to determine that these shoe prints had been caused by an aerobics shoe, as opposed to a coach's or basketball shoe.
And it was definitely a size 11 and a half.
He also provided me with spreadsheets of sales data that I brought back.
What we learned was that on January 9th, 1985, 1,356 pairs of Model 440 Avias entered the United States from Taiwan for distribution throughout the US.
We told them we felt it was a black shoe, just based on what surviving victims had told us.
There was only six black 11 and a half's manufactured.
Five of those went to Arizona.
And only one came to Los Angeles.
I mean… He could've left us a signed signature.
But we were never able to track it any further than it had been shipped to L.
But it's still an extremely important clue, because that shoe print… linked him to several other cases, including some of the kiddie cases.
So… if we capture this suspect, he's got the Avia shoes on, then we have caught the killer.
That's what you're doing.
You're connecting, by various pieces of evidence.
We actually made a chart.
Certain firearms were used, we've got eyewitnesses that survived, and you could draw lines between all these and see how they all connect up.
So, you start trying to piece all this puzzle together.
We looked at every unsolved murder in Los Angeles County.
There must have been 25 or 30 cases we were looking at, to see if they may be connected.
And one of the cases that came up was Mabel Bell and Florence Lang.
Two sisters in their 80s were attacked and beaten in their Hillside home in Monrovia.
A gardener found them in their bedrooms two days later.
Their home had been ransacked.
One of the sisters, Mabel Bell, died yesterday.
The other, Florence Lang, is hospitalized in critical condition.
The suspect had entered through a rear door.
Mabel Bell lost her life.
She was taped with electrical tape… Spread-eagle, to a four-poster bed… Sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a hammer.
Her sister Florence Lang was barely alive.
There was an alarm clock that was found on the floor, and there appeared to be a partial shoe print.
He had put his foot on the clock and yanked on the electrical cord, because part of the binding of the legs and the hands, an electrical cord was used.
And our lab was able to match that partial print to the Avia shoe print.
The interesting thing is how comfortable he got after killing somebody.
Take the time to, you know, have a snack.
That's a pretty sick individual.
That's the first time that we saw a pentagram that was written in lipstick.
It was on one of the victim's legs and he had it on a wall.
We knew what a pentagram was, but we didn't know what that meant as far as the killer.
Was he trying to leave us a message? Was he into Satanism? Was it something he believed in? Was it something he practiced? Was he maybe copycatting… Manson? As we're researching old cases, we become aware of another case.
And it's an attempt kidnapping of a young female off the street in the northeast division of LAPD.
The victim fights the suspect off and escapes.
The suspect leaves in a Toyota.
And then our guy, he was driving away from the location… And he committed a traffic violation.
LAPD motor officer saw the violation and pulled him over.
He did not have a driver's license.
He got him out of the car and made him put his hands on the hood of his car as he patted him down for weapons.
So, the motor officer says, "Stay here.
" Went back to his motorcycle to get out a citation book.
Our suspect hears on the motor officer's radio a broadcast of his attempt to kidnap that young girl.
A description of the car he was driving.
So, he basically says, "Feet, don't fail me now," draws a pentagram on the hood of the car, and he escapes.
Just took off running.
As it turns out, the car was stolen.
So, we go up to northeast division.
We specifically say we'd like to print that car or process it.
LAPD took it to an impound lot… And they say, "Okay, don't worry about it, we'll do it.
" We basically get stonewalled.
We lost an opportunity… To possibly come up with some evidence that would lead us… To the killer.
Here in Los Angeles County, you have the sheriff's department, you have the LAPD, and you have dozens of other smaller jurisdictions.
It's a county that is spread over a large, vast area.
You could commit a crime in LA and be across three different jurisdictions in five minutes.
And within each of these jurisdictions, you have homicide detectives, and these detectives are going to the scene, working their cases in their cities.
There's a natural competitiveness.
Who gets the most publicity, who doesn't, all that stuff plays into it.
So, when you have a multi-jurisdictional situation, it becomes a pissing match amongst a bunch of type-A personality, macho dudes that want to solve stuff.
People are protecting their turf, and by protecting their turf, they're not sharing information.
And that is a very big problem.
There were no days off.
It was physically and mentally exhausting.
Having been through it before helped… A lot.
Knowing how these things play out eventually.
You're in it for the long run.
You got to stay down the middle.
I mentioned this to Gil a number of times.
Frank said, "We need each other to ride through the highs and pick ourselves up in the lows.
" That's what partners are for.
Every ounce that I had to give, I gave.
I'm at home asleep, my family is not at the house, and all of a sudden, I wake up at 3:30 in the morning.
I'm sweating.
I'm scared.
Killer's in my house.
I pick up my gun and I walk out my bedroom.
I'm using point shoulder position, turning on lights, making sure I've always got my back up against a wall.
Turning quickly, scanning.
My breathing was erratic.
If I call the cops and there's nobody there, they're gonna think I'm nuts.
And I cleared the whole house like that.
Power down… Put my gun back, turn on the TV.
John Wayne movie was on… …and it's quiet, and just watch a movie.
All of a sudden, the phone rings.
Scared the bejesus out of me.
They tell me to call up my friend Linda Arthur.
I call her up, and she says, "Gil, you ought to come over here, because the lady across the street from me just got raped and I think it's related to what you're working on.
" I told Gil what happened.
I had friends over, so we went out to the hot tub during the night, and it was sometime about three o'clock in the morning we got out of the hot tub and went in and… They went to bed in the guest room and I went to bed.
Five or ten minutes later, my girlfriend gets up and she says, "Linda, someone's calling you.
Someone's calling you.
" I said, "No, I have the phone right here.
I didn't hear the phone.
" She said, "No, someone's calling you from outside.
" Now I hear my neighbor, Sophie Dickman… Calling, "Mrs.
Arthur! Mrs.
Arthur!" So, I ran out in the backyard and I climbed up on a little wall and I could see through the top brick, and I could see her bedroom window.
And I said, "Are you okay, what happened?" She says, "I've been robbed and raped and I'm handcuffed to my bed.
" The suspect had lifted out the cat door, pulled it right on out, and gained entry into the residence.
And sexually assaulted her.
And she pulled the bed over to the window so she could call me.
In her words, "He put a glove in my mouth and a pillow over my head.
The attacker said, 'Don't look at me.
'" Knowing that I'm just on the other side of this wall and he's committing these crimes… Was really frightening, because he's in the area… And anybody could be a victim.
Scary, scary.
A lot of nights it was hard to sleep.
After talking to Sophie Dickman, it was seven o'clock in the morning, and I called my wife.
I said, "Hey, why don't you wake the kids up? I'll meet you, we'll go have some breakfast.
" I think he got through that breakfast without getting a call, if I'm not mistaken.
I came back to my in-laws' house and I sat there and I was tired, and I told my wife, "Let me sleep for an hour.
I gotta meet Frank at work at twelve o'clock.
" She says, "You're gonna kill yourself.
You can't keep going like this.
" And he was short with me when I told him that.
I know what I'm doing.
She has no idea what I'm doing.
She has no idea as to the danger, when I'm coming home, what's going on.
He said… "If you're not gonna wake me, I'll call the office and tell them to wake me in an hour.
" And I remember he lifted up one leg and… Started taking off his shoe, and his pager went off, and they called him out to another case.
July 7th, a 60-year-old grandmother, Joyce Nelson, is killed during the night in Monterey Park.
Hearing my grandmother's name mentioned on television, it was always "Joyce Nelson, a 60-year-old grandmother from Monterey Park.
" I would think she was so much more than that.
I remember I started appreciating Just the clothes that she wore.
I always thought she looked so cute.
She was kinda petite.
She was probably only about 5'2", maybe weighed a little bit over 100 pounds, but I always called her spunky.
She just had this, like, spirit in her, like, just a fight that I think that's what kept her going as a single mother for many, many years, and kept her so strong.
She had a house that she bought on her own and it was her treasure.
And she was a lady who would go out into the front yard and do cartwheels.
Pair of black slacks, white blouse, some kind of saddle shoe or something, doing cartwheels all over the place out front.
And she always wore a necklace.
She wore it all the time, and she promised me that when she passed away, she wanted me to have the necklace, since I was her firstborn granddaughter.
I remember telling her that I never wanted to have her necklace, because I never wanted to be without my grandma.
I wanted her, not her necklace.
I would often spend the night at her house, spend the weekend with her, and a lot of times I'd bring my roller skates, and I'd be roller skating up and down the street.
Nice, safe neighborhood.
And it is until it isn't.
July 7th, 1985.
Colleen was having her 14th birthday party that same day in the afternoon, so we were rushing to get home.
When we got there, Don's on the driveway, and I thought he was having a heart attack.
He was white as a sheet.
I was in a state of shock, I think.
And I said, "Don, Don, what happened? What's wrong?" He looked at me and said, "Your grandmother was murdered.
Someone broke into her house… And killed her.
" And it just… I think I felt, even in that moment, everything was going to be different.
Everything had changed.
My heart was dying.
All the unanswered questions and the whys.
There was blood on the bed in there, and there was a large quantity of blood on the floor.
The last thing I got to see of my mom… Was that blood.
My mom was always afraid of being raped.
She… she had this… Predestination concept in her head that eventually she would be a rape victim.
And she fought him.
And she wasn't raped.
He was very angry when he beat her.
He literally stomped the side of her head and left a footprint on it.
Avia footprint.
But I like knowing that she fought.
You know? Because that was just her.
She wouldn't go down without a fight.
Joyce Nelson was murdered in the early morning hours of July 7th.
He killed her, but didn't satisfy his need for sex.
He then went less than a mile away, where he entered the residence of Sophie Dickman.
There, he sexually assaulted her.
So, we now have a killer that's committing two crimes the same night.
And we found a shoe print on concrete, near the entrance way at the Nelson house… And it matched all the shoe prints we had.
So, now in a… Ten-day period, we had Higgins, Cannon, Bennett, Dickman, and Nelson.
You got five cases in ten days.
It's crazy.
It's absolutely crazy.
61-year-old Joyce Nelson lived alone in her Monterey Park home.
Yesterday, police found her beaten to death.
They feel her killer may be the same man involved in a mid-May break-in, where an elderly woman was beaten and raped, her husband shot to death.
But is the same suspect involved in five other attacks in the nearby communities of Arcadia, Monrovia, and Sierra Madre? Detectives say maybe.
The media really got involved after the Nelson case.
By this time, the news media, who had gone to the murder of Patty Elaine Higgins, saw us four days later at Mary Cannon's house, which is also in Arcadia.
They said, "What are you doing out here?" "We happened to be in the area working the other one and we said we'll take it.
" Then, they see Frank and Gil in Monterey Park at Joyce Nelson's house, and they're saying, "Oh, no, there's something going on here.
" There was something afoot.
You start thinking, "What's going on?" They went on a news frenzy.
- Story's running at every newscast.
- Latest update… This is big stuff.
And it's not only our station, it's every station.
There was no way to keep it from the kids.
It was on every channel, all day.
Not being able to escape it.
It was something then that just everybody was talking about.
They were looking at this, and it's your grandmother, it's somebody you love and never going to see again.
A killer who walked into the home.
No apparent reason.
Sometimes robbed them, sometimes didn't.
Sometimes raped, sometimes didn't.
No one particular race of victim, type of victim.
We had not seen anything like that in Southern California before, and the more you thought about it, the more you said, "Could I be next?" At the Hall of Justice downtown, investigators assembled the largest force of detectives since the Hillside Strangler case.
From our department alone, there was over 200 police officers working it.
Now we're a full-fledged task force.
Somebody follow up on the shoe print, the handcuffs and thumb cuffs follow up.
The tire tool.
Ask the manufacturer what kind of cars they were put in, so we could get an idea of what kind of car he was using all the time.
We're looking for every possible piece of evidence, and you have to be very meticulous.
So, we set up specific tasks for different teams to try to control that amount of information and not overlook the clue that was going to come in.
No doubt about it.
And you want to be able to recognize it as soon as you can, so that you can react to it.
Sheriff's department, Martinez, help you? Comprende español? Over 1,000 calls came in.
It's here, at the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau, open 24 hours a day, that every call is checked out.
People were calling in left and right.
What did this man look like? And we followed up on every clue.
A lot of them lead you nowhere, a lot of them mean nothing.
Former wives calling in that their ex-husbands did it.
I remember a cop by the name of Willie Wilson.
This guy looked like he was a DI in the Marine Corps, tough as nails, and one day, he slammed his hand down on the table and started cussing.
I look at him and I laughed and said, "What's up, Willie?" He says, "I've been working homicide for over 20 years.
I get sucked into this case and I become a fucking clue clown.
" He said, "Listen to this one.
Looks just like the guy.
Looks just like the picture you're showing.
" He says, "The only problem is the guy's a midget.
" But that's what we did.
We followed up on every clue.
By this time, the phones are going nuts and somebody puts a call through.
I'm sitting at my desk.
"Homicide, Salerno.
" "Frank? It's Laurel Erickson.
" Laurel Erickson, Channel 4 News, Los Angeles.
I said, "Frank, what about this shoe print I understand you've got?" I said, "What shoe?" She says, "The Avia.
" I said, "Here we go.
" This was a very vital piece of information to the investigators.
If the killer, whose name they didn't yet know, changed his shoes, they wouldn't be able to identify the signature crimes as his.
I said, "Okay, now what?" Said, "I'm gonna do a story on it.
" I said, "You can't, Laurel.
You will blow it for us.
You cannot put it out.
" "I'm gonna do it.
" - I said, "Hold on.
" - He referred her to the captain.
I said, "We got a problem.
I got Laurel Erickson from NBC, she's on the phone, she knows about the Avia.
" Said, "Put her through.
" The captain said, "You guys, literally, it's like you're under house arrest.
You guys stay inside the office, you cannot get out.
" "When I tell you to, you're gonna walk out of here, walk into the parking lot via the Grand entrance, and Laurel Erickson's gonna be there with a crew.
" "What?" There is a back-and-forth between investigators and reporters.
I was angry.
I'm worried about a case.
She was worried about a news story.
Well, if you've got something they want not broadcast, and they can make something else available to you, you get something and you don't blow their investigation.
"She's gonna get an exclusive interview with you two about this investigation, but without any details as to what connects it.
" She brokered a deal that she would hold onto the shoe information so long as she got a chance to interview us.
So, she did.
46-year-old Sergeant Frank Salerno won't say anything that might tip his killer.
He and his partner, 35-year-old Gil Carrillo, have too much at stake.
Last time, it was the Hillside Strangler.
Salerno says that case is going to be a great advantage in cracking this one.
Serial killers have one thing in common.
Generally, in a serial murder, what occurs is they might relocate, but they don't stop killing until they're caught or imprisoned or killed.
I wanted to hook her up for extortion.
How do you think Laurel got the Avia shoe print? Some detective told her.
I'd like to know who.
I'd like to personally thank him.
Laurel Erickson, Channel 4 News, Los Angeles.
The pressure was on to find him, by the public, by the sheriff, Sherman Block, and the peer pressure from your colleagues, and the pressure that you put on yourself.
It could mean saving family members, my mom's life, my kids, my wife.
We had to stop the madman doing all this.
Frank dealt with it better than I did.
I don't know if it ever gets completely turned off.
I just tried to… Not think about it.
I pull in my driveway, I just shut it down.
I never discussed the case with my family.
My kids were older at that time.
It wasn't like we sat down at the dinner table and "Dad, what did you do today?" My kids at that time were about seven, ten, and thirteen years of age.
I mean, he was working… 17, 18 hours a day.
He would just come home, shower, maybe get a couple of hours sleep.
So, you know, and I had to deal with the three kids by myself.
We had to go through everyday life mostly not having him there with us.
It wasn't easy.
I was starting to get short-tempered, which was not like me at all.
But I was angry, because she didn't understand the magnitude of the pressure that I was under.
Everybody deals with it differently.
Unfortunately, some guys crawl into a bottle.
If you do, you don't wanna crawl too deep.
There were many nights we'd end work… And we'd go have a drink or two.
There were a couple bars in Chinatown, where we would debrief.
One was a place called Flora's, and you'd have to knock on the door and wait, and pretty soon… Somebody on the inside would open up a little bit, look out at you.
If she recognized you, she unlocked the door and let you in.
If she didn't, then she just closed it and that was it.
You weren't going in.
You could talk shop there, because just about everybody there was involved in law enforcement.
The only time you'd get peace and quiet between Frank and myself was when we could both go and get a drink.
I was worried about his health.
I was worried because him being so tired, and with a couple of drinks under your belt driving home, I was so afraid he was going to fall asleep at the wheel.
Go home, the wife says, "Working late?" I say, "Yeah.
" Get in bed and she says… …"You've been drinking, haven't you?" Well, it didn't make for a good relationship.
You have to have a lot of patience to be a police officer's wife.
When we first learned of the case where the suspect had been stopped in a stolen car and written a pentagram on it and ran away, we had been told that that car would be processed and printed by LAPD.
We're inquiring about it.
We're not getting any feedback what's being done.
We hit Captain Grimm about it.
He makes a call.
He doesn't get anywhere with it.
Eventually, he puts some pressure on and they say, "Okay, you can have access to the car.
" It's still being stored or impounded, and it never had been printed.
At that point, we discovered that the car had been stored outside in the sun.
By the time anybody gets to the car, skin, everything's been burnt up.
It's gone.
There's nothing there.
No value in that car as far as prints go.
But, left inside the car… Was a little, cheap plastic case… And there was a business card in it to a dental office.
It was a dentist up in Chinatown.
Gil and I go up and we interview the dentist and we find out that our suspect, whoever he was, was just in July 3rd.
Now, this is about July 8th or 9th.
We just missed him by five days, because we just found out about that card.
And all we could think of is, "What if we'd known about this business card… Back then?" We could have the suspect in custody.
The card was written under the name of Richard Mena.
He gave some bad address.
I think it was on Branik Street in East L.
I was able to obtain x-rays from that doctor, and I took them to a very close personal friend of mine, who is a dentist.
And I said, "What can you tell me about these x-rays?" He says, "I can tell he's going to be back.
He's got an impacted tooth.
It's gonna be killing him soon, if it's not already.
He'll be back.
" We've got two of our own Asian officers.
A two-man surveillance.
We stuck them in there waiting for Richard to come back for a dental appointment.
- In the office.
- They were there every day, and we know if he comes back, they're going to get him.
Harder now, it rains even harder now.
Harder, harder now.
Through these city nightmares You'd walk with me.
And we'd talk of it With idealistic assurance.
That it wouldn't tear us apart.
We'd keep our heads above The blackened water.
But there's no room for ideals In this mechanical place.
And you're gone now.
Gone now.
Doubting all the time Fearing all the time.
Doubting all the time Fearing all the time.
That like these urban nightmares.
We'd blacken each other's skies.
Skies, skies, skies, skies
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