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Auburn focus in HBO Golden State Killer documentary

Serial murder suspect DeAngelo an Auburn cop in 1970s
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Media Life's Gus Thomson can be reached at 530-852-0j232 or

. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.

The Golden State Killer lurked in the shadows of California's consciousness for much of the 1970s and 1980s.

But when ex-Auburn Police Officer Joe DeAngelo was arrested in April - a 72-year-old retiree from Citrus Heights who rolled into a Sacramento County courtroom in a wheelchair - this community started to search into its own shadows to try to understand how a mass murderer masquerading as a cop could go undetected for so long.

Between being hired as a police officer in August 1976 and September 1979, when he was fired after being arrested for shoplifting mace and a hammer from a store, DeAngelo is alleged by authorities to have led the ultimate double life of a Jekyll-and-Hyde mass murderer in Auburn's midst.

HBO took notice after the firestorm of news reports on the arrest went global and soon chose director Liz Garbus, a two-time Oscar nominee, two-time Emmy winner and Peabody winner, to tell a story that will focus not only on DeAngelo but the places worked and lived. Garbus is one of the most celebrated American documentary filmmakers working today.

That story arc will be bringing Garbus and her production company Moxie Firecracker Films to Auburn and other communities to ferret out what people remember about a cop who is now suspected with terrorizing a state as the so-called Golden Gate Killer.

Moxie Firecracker's Elizabeth Wolff said the documentary has already started production and it will be based on Michelle McNamara's best-selling, true crime book "I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer." The Golden State Killer has been linked to 50 home-invasion sexual assaults and at least 10 murders. There is no working title for the HBO documentary at this time and release date has yet to be determined.

"Our hope is that the series will be as much a thoughtful and sensitive examination of what something like this can mean for a whole community as well as victims and their families as it is a look at this unthinkable crime spree," Wolff said.

Garbus' sensitive look at singer Nina Simone's struggles and triumphs - "What Happened, Miss Simone,?" a Netflix original - was nominated for a 2016 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and received the Peabody Award. "Killing in the Name," an HBO documentary was Oscar nominated in 2010.

The HBO production is seeking Auburn's help in telling the story, including sharing personal stories about interactions with DeAngelo and what it was like to live in Auburn at the time he was patrolling city streets.

Visual elements could also play a strong role in making DeAngelo's Auburn chapter come to life, including providing the production with old cans of film or photos that depict the city in the mid-to-late 1970s, Wolff said.

Of particular interest is a garage sale after DeAngelo sold his home on Granite Lane in Auburn in 1980. The new owners had a garage sale June 20, 1981, selling tools, housewares, a typewriter and other household items.

"We're interested in speaking to any residents who bought something at the garage sale," Wolff said.

The production can be contacted directly at goneinthedarkdoc@gmail.com or by calling 860-572-6324.

Media Life's Gus Thomson can be reached at 530-852-0232 or gust@goldcountrymedia.com. Thomson is a state and national award-winning reporter who writes for the Auburn Journal.