The long and irregular work hours and confrontation with human sufferings, not to mention the administrative accumulation and demanding circumstances with victims’ families made homicide detectives’ work more stressful than most.

On one side, detectives work against the clock, so more murders can be prevented, but on the other, they cannot jump to conclusions and make decisions that may compromise the investigation.

Even for law enforcement with all the resources, including case files and the ability to obtain a search warrant, the works can be mentally and physically overwhelming, let alone for journalists and independent researchers. 

Michelle McNamara’s fascination with and curiosity of the Golden State Killer finally took a toll on the wellbeing of the actual crime author on April 21, 2016, when she was found dead by her husband in their home.

After taking a combination of drugs for anxiety and nightmares, she died in her sleep, primarily due to her relentless investigative works to identify the serial killer.


10 /10 True Crime Diary

The unsolved murder of Kathleen Lombardo in August 1984 sparked the investigative nature in Michelle, who was only 14 when it happened.

Although she did not know Kathleen personally well enough, they lived in Oak Park, just west of Chicago.

Later on, in 2006, Michelle created the True Crime Diary website filled with a collection of cold cases, including the Golden State Killer, which for a long while had not been identified.

Michelle wrote about the killer – blamed for 13 murders and 50 rapes across California between the 1970s and 1980s – for Los Angeles Magazine.

Kathy Hutchins /

9 /10 Accidental Overdose

In an interview with the New York Times, her husband, Patton Oswalt, said that Michelle might have accidentally overdosed.

He recalled Michelle was working long days and nights in the process of writing a book about a serial rapist and killer. She was unable to sleep due to nightmares and anxiety that kept her awake at night.

Patton then suggested his wife take a break and go to sleep, worrying about her health. Michelle took some Xanax and went to sleep. She never woke up.


8 /10 Still In Bed

Patton woke up early that day and took Alice, their 7-year-old daughter, to school. He remembered picking up coffee on the way back home for Michelle.

Once he arrived, he checked on Michelle, who at that time was still in bed. He left the coffee on the bedside table. It was around 9:40 a.m.

Hours later, Patton went to check his wife once again, only to see her still in bed, not breathing. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene. Information about the cause of death was not immediately available.

7 /10 Blockages In Her Arteries

Michelle McNamara died in her sleep on April 21, 2016; she was 46.

Nearly a year after the death of his wife, Patton revealed that the cause of death was accidental overdose due to a combination of drugs in her system, including Adderall for a sleep disorder, Xanax for anxiety disorder, and fentanyl for pain treatment or anesthesia.

Patton also explained he was not aware that his wife had atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. This condition caused blockages in the arteries, which the coroner ruled as a contributing factor.

Wikimedia Commons

6 /10 Bad Choices

According to Patton, the works his wife did on the serial killer led her to make some bad choices regarding the medications she took.

Michelle absorbed all the stressful jobs, just like true homicide detectives, when she had no experience and training as a law enforcement officer.

At the time of her death, she still had not completed the book about Golden State Killer, titled “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” which eventually went to publication in February 2018 with the help of two investigative journalists Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen.


5 /10 Obsession With Cold Cases

As any reader of the True Crime Diary website can tell, Michelle had an obsession with cold cases – especially those with pile after pile of evidence and witnesses’ account, yet still frustratingly unsolved.

Michelle had a talent to retell the crimes committed many years ago in a way that made the cases seem recent and immediate.

Difficulties in connecting the clues found in any particular case was only part of the problem leading to her mental anxiety; another heavy portion was comprised of awful memories of victims’ families and details of brutal violence.

4 /10 Joint Effort With Law Enforcement

In the search for the Golden State Killer, Michelle would recollect every detail and process each in such a particular way. It didn’t matter if the story behind it was so frontal and cruel.

She listened to and read bits of information about the Golden State Killer with the dedication of actual detectives with badges and authorities in their hands.

For her relentless pursuit of the truth, Michelle was able to convince law enforcement to work together in the case, exchanging clues and investigation results.


3 /10 Full-Fledged Partner

Paul Holes, a cold case investigator for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, considered Michelle a true partner on the Golden State Killer.

He was, in fact, one of the sources of Michelle’s articles about the killer published by Los Angeles Magazine. Michelle had proven her skill and willingness in discerning leads, personal traits that would easily impress homicide detectives.

Not long after Michelle secured her book deal, she met with Paul Holes to revisit the Golden State Killer’s crime scenes.


2 /10 One Of The Detectives

According to Paul Holes, she made herself involved in the investigation for the book deal and that Michelle had a genuine desire to contribute to the research and see the case solved.

Throughout her involvement, she turned from a journalist into one of the detectives in the investigation of the Golden State Killer.

Despite (or more likely because of) her unstoppable curiosity, she never finished the book.

The exhaustive research into the identity of the Golden State Killer was completed at best to reflect Michele’s determination by her two fellow journalists.

ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

1 /10 Joseph James DeAngelo

Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen did not take over the book, but instead, they left her existing works in the book intact.

All her completed chapters are well preserved so that readers may learn about her methodology and evolution into an amateur detective.

Many sections still read like raw, unfiltered notes, not by mistake but a deliberate choice to honor her memory.

Two months after the book was published, investigators arrested the Golden State Killer in his home and identified him as Joseph James DeAngelo. He ultimately received 12 life sentences plus eight years without parole. Case closed.

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