I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: everything you need to know about the Golden State Killer true crime documentary

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The Sky Crime series will bring Michelle McNamara’s investigation into the Golden State Killer to life in terrifying detail. 

Updated on 30 June: in April 2016, Michelle McNamara tragically died in her sleep at the age of 46. She had no known medical conditions or prior warning signs that her health was at risk.

At the time of her death, the celebrated crime writer was working on a book about the Golden State Killer – a name she had coined for a prolific serial killer who raped and murdered dozens of victims in the 1970s and 80s. 

Some 10 years after she began working on the case, her book was published posthumously. Two months later, her fans gathered for a reading from McNamara’s work in her hometown of Chicago. And, just a few hours after that, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office arrested former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, identifying him through DNA evidence as the notorious Golden State Killer.

On Monday 29 June, DeAngelo, 74, pleaded guilty to a wave of crimes stretching back to the 1970s, including 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges throughout California, and admitted to dozens of sexual assaults that he could not be criminally charged with.

And, as news of DeAngelo’s guilty plea made headlines, McNamara’s widow, Patton Oswalt, tweeted: “The most important people at the #GoldenStateKiller hearing today are the survivors. All present, all staring directly at that zilch of a human being, and he can’t return their gaze. That’s what I’m focusing on.”

In addition, Paul Haynes, who helped McNamara with her research into the Golden State Killer, shared: “There’s something richly poetic in the image of Joseph DeAngelo, who committed all his crimes while wearing a mask to conceal his face, admitting guilt while wearing a mask that’s transparent.”

Of course, many believe that, were it not for McNamara, DeAngelo may never have been found. That her blog and book drew greater attention to DeAngelo’s alleged crimes. That her dedication to obtaining justice put greater pressure on the detectives working the cases.

It seems only fitting, then, that McNamara’s investigation will be brought to life on our TV screens in a chilling Sky Crime/HBO true-crime documentary series.

As reported on 12 May: with that in mind, then, here’s what you need to know about I’ll Be Gone In The Dark.

What is I’ll Be Gone In The Dark about?

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a detective story told in McNamara’s own words, through exclusive original recordings and excerpts from her book read by actor Amy Ryan.

Per HBO, the series will also give a voice “to the survivors and their families, documenting an era when sex crimes were often dismissed or hidden in shame. A timely inquiry into our macabre preoccupation with true crime and a cautionary tale of the dangerous lure of addiction, the series is a riveting meditation on obsession and loss, chronicling the unrelenting path of a mysterious killer and the fierce determination of one woman to bring the case to light.”

The series also vows to take a closer look at McNamara’s exhaustive investigation into the Golden State Killer, and the impact this had upon her own life.

“Committed to solving the case, the investigative research consumed her, and she became more and more plagued by dark thoughts and a growing sense of angst,” reads HBO’s description. 

“The demands of balancing her self-described addiction to her work with her family life pulled McNamara in competing directions and she became increasingly reliant upon prescription drugs to manage her mounting anxieties. After a string of sleepless nights and harrowing nightmares, McNamara tragically died of an accidental overdose in her sleep with her manuscript unfinished.”

Is there a trailer for I’ll Be Gone In The Dark?

Indeed there is, and you can watch it for yourself below:

Who was the Golden State Killer?

The Golden State Killer was an incredibly violent predator, responsible for at least 50 home-invasion rapes and 12 murders.

The killer was later unmasked as Joseph James DeAngelo, an ex-police officer who was fired from the Auburn Police Department after he was caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellant in a Sacramento drug store in 1979

During a press conference, investigating officers insisted that McNamara’s book did not contribute directly to the arrest aside from raising public interest in the case.

Responding to these comments, McNamara’s husband, Patton Oswalt – who worked hard to complete and publish his late wife’s book after her death – tweeted: “It did [help], but Michelle McNamara didn’t care about getting any shine on herself. 

“She cared about the Golden State Killer being behind bars and the victims getting some relief. She was Marge Gunderson in FARGO, not Chilton in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.”

It’s worth noting here that, as a journalist, McNamara covered both breaking stories and cold cases. As a crime writer, however, she made a conscious effort to steer away from famous murders.

Instead, she focused on mysteries that had been overlooked, or had not gained public attention, in a bid to “find the angle others have overlooked”.

Writing on her own website, True Crime Diary, McNamara explained: “True Crime Diary is not interested in looking back at notorious criminals and saying, wow. We’re interested in looking at unfolding cases and asking, who?”

Who directed and produced I’ll Be Gone In The Dark?

The series is directed by Academy Award nominee and Emmy® winning director Liz Garbus and produced by Story Syndicate. Additional directors on the series include Elizabeth Wolff, Myles Kane, and Josh Koury.

How many episodes will I’ll Be Gone In The Dark be comprised of?

The HBO drama will be made up of six episodes.

When will I’ll Be Gone In The Dark be available to watch?

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark lands on HBO in North America on 28 June. A UK release date has yet to be revealed, but Sky Crime has confirmed it will be coming to the channel this summer.

We will be sure to bring you further details as and when we get them.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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