In the 1970s, the San Francisco gay community was living in fear. For more than a year, an unidentified serial killer, responsible for at least 14 murders and 3 attacks on gay men, was roaming the dark streets and alleys of San Francisco.

Between January 1974 and September 1975, the mysterious killer, dubbed as the Doodler, was targeting and sketching his victims in gay nightclubs, bars and restaurants, prior to having sex and brutally stabbing them to death.

On January 24, 1974, a dead body of a 49-year-old Canadian-American immigrant, Gerald Cavanaugh, was discovered lying face-up on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Considered to be Doodler’s first victim, Cavanaugh had resisted his killer before getting stabbed to death.

Another victim, Klaus Christmann, was found on July 7, 1974, violently slashed in the throat and stabbed in multiple areas of his body. Christmann, while married with children, was believed to be a closet gay.

All of Doodler’s victims seemed to share the similarity of being gay. Also, all the victims had been brutally stabbed to death.

Although to this day, the suspect has never been publicly named or apprehended, the Black Doodler investigation led police to question a person of interest. Sadly, the investigators couldn’t proceed with criminal charges because the three survivors didn’t want to “out” themselves by testifying in court. While the suspect was very cooperative, he never admitted guilt towards the murders or the surviving attacks.

Composite sketch of the Doodler. (Credit: SFPD)

Many investigators who had interviewed him strongly believed that the man was, in fact, the murderer. However, after the survivors failed to appear in court on multiple occasions, the man was never tried or convicted.

The reason behind the aftermath of the survivors was explained by public political and LGBT activist Harvey Milk stating that the survivors feared ridicule by family and friends if they were publicly acknowledged as being gay.

There are still many questions unanswered about the Doodler case. Why the real identity of the prime Doodler suspect had never been revealed?

After more than four decades of an extensive investigation, the Black Doodler is still on the loose… and might be near you right now.

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