There are some cold cases where investigators think that with a little bit of the public’s help they can create some real strides in the investigation, and this is one of those.Robert Rueca
The serial killer known as the “Doodler” is accused of the murders of six gay men
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) provided an update in a cold case tracing back to the 1970s. A serial killer known as the “Doodler,” is accused of the murders of five gay white men which occurred in a 17-month period.
The SFPD revealed in a news conference another probable victim was added (who was also white), taking the total number of victims to six (SFPD suspects the number of victims could be even higher). No arrests have been made. As well, the SFPD stated a $200,000 reward will go to anyone with any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the notorious killer.
The “Doodler” was known to frequent gay bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in the San Francisco area. According to a January 2022 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, then San Francisco homicide detectives Rotea Gilford and Earl Sanders concluded the “Doodler” would seek his victims in gay bars. Then he would sketch the person he selected, show them the portrait to start a conversation and entice them—leading to an invitation to engage in sexual activity. Afterwards, the killer stabbed his victims, leaving their bodies in remote areas (along parklands and beaches on the western side of the city).
The Chronicle also reported the first victim was Gerald Cavanagh, a 50-year-old worker at a mattress factory. His body was found in January 1974, lying at the water’s edge off Ocean Beach. He had been stabbed 17 times, front and back—with investigators believing the killer was motivated by rage. Local12.com, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, reported in January 2022, the second victim was Joseph Jae Stevens, a drag-queen star whose body was discovered in Golden Gate Park in June 1974. The next victims were Klaus Christmann in July 1974, Fredrick Capin in May 1975 and Harald Gullberg in June 1975.
While all five victims had been stabbed, the sixth victim, Warren Andrews, was killed in a different manner. Andrews was a 52-year-old lawyer. In April 1975, he was found beaten with a tree branch and a rock. Andrews died from his injuries two months later. Lead investigator, Dan Cunningham, believes the information related to the killing of Andrews coincides with the “Doodler” and his patterns and behaviour. “The location, the time period, the victimology—it all makes me think that it might be connected,” he told the Chronicle in 2021. “I’d be a fool not to consider him as a Doodler victim.” In a recent phone interview with the Chronicle, Cunningham says his department has made progress in the investigation: “…I think we’re closer than ever to solving it—but we just need a bit more information.” Cunningham also stated that new evidence was obtained from the Andrews crime scene is undergoing DNA testing.
SFPD spokesperson Robert Rueca stated recent advancements in the case warranted police to inform the public. “There are some cold cases where investigators think that with a little bit of the public’s help they can create some real strides in the investigation, and this is one of those,” he said. “If it [weren’t] for investigators like Dan Cunningham who are really driven to solving these cases, they would just remain on the shelf. He’s one of the best.”
The “Doodler” case has attracted attention in recent years. ABC News reported in January 2022, the case was the subject of a San Francisco Chronicle podcast—which contained new clues and new witnesses. The “Doodler” cold case developments parallel another unsolved cold case in the San Francisco area. According to the Crime Museum website based in Tennessee, the infamous “Zodiac Killer” murdered five people in the late 1960s. The killer sent coded letters to newspapers to taunt police. Though the killings stopped, the assailant was never caught. The case has generated a plethora of news stories, documentaries and podcasts—including a 2007 Hollywood movie called Zodiac.
Nancy Luebke, sister of Warren Andrews, who lives in Washington State, was resigned to the fact her brother’s murder had been forgotten. The Chronicle reported that Luebke is now 85 years old and in 2021, she was contacted by Mike Taylor (by telephone), a former Chronicle reporter turned private investigator. Taylor informed her of the latest developments in the “Doodler” case. He also asked Luebke if her brother was gay, to which she responded, “I think he probably was (gay). But back in those days, everybody was in the closet.”
Luebke admitted she had never heard of the “Doodler,” before Taylor contacted her. But she was pleased that police were still investigating her brother’s murder. “It’s been a lot of years,” she said. “I’d kind of tucked it away, and when all this was brought up again you caused me two sleepless nights thinking about this all over again. I didn’t think it would ever be investigated like this. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it certainly would be nice if the Doodler could be caught.”