The Unified Theory

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[The essay  below was contributed by a longtime poster on the AETV message board concerning the case, nickg ,who was assisted by another poster, night driver. It presents the theory that the crimes attributed to the East Area Rapist in Northern California, as well as the crimes linked by DNA in Southern California and the Goleta home invasions were all committed by one individual. Most proponents also include the Goleta crimes as well. This theory is also sometimes`called the deus ex machina theory because it depends on postulated unrevealed police knowledge concerning the cases to tie up its loose ends.]


The Unified Theory

This theory is basically that, through DNA inks and by similar methods of operation (MO), one suspect committed all or the majority of the rape attacks in Sacramento attributed to the East Area Rapist (EAR) from about 1976 to 1978 and the murders attributed to the Original Night Stalker (ONS) in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and Orange County from about 1979 to 1986, making him the EAR-ONS, not to be confused with the already-imprisoned serial killer Richard Ramirez who was known as the Night Stalker. 

DNA links the ONS to three of the last series of rapes attributed to the EAR in Contra Costa County in 1978-9, about 65 miles southwest of Sacramento, and to one murder scene in Ventura County (the Smiths) and three murder scenes in Orange County (the Harringtons, Manuela Witthuhn, and Janelle Cruz).

This theory also postulates that the EAR-ONS is linked to all or almost all of the other rapes in and around Sacramento, and in Goleta in Santa Barbara County to two other murder scenes and one failed attack, by method of operation.

The weakest part of this theory is the linkage by MO, but the theory also takes into account that non-public information from the investigative files provides additional information that has led the majority of law enforcement investigators to believe there was one and only one suspect in this string of some 50 rapes and 10 murders.

[This point is debatable (discussed elsewhere on this website, but surely the majority of police or retired police presented on various tv shows believe there was only one individual.]

The MO linkage would include things that were said to the victims and specific things the suspect did, such as statements that he was only looking for food and money, specific statements designed to terrorize the victims mentally, and specific acts and sequences of attacks such as, in the attacks on couples in Sacramento, separating the male and the female, threatening to kill everyone if they did not comply, tying up both victims, rummaging through the house, sometimes placing dishes or similar objects on the male's back so he could hear any movement, untying and sexually attacking the female and then retying her to a chair and rummaging some more - specific acts such as this.

The weakest link in the theory is to the non-DNA-linked murders of two couples, and the failed attack in Goleta, where the MO is similar but there are some significant differences in the attacks, such as evidence of a dog at two murder scenes, no sexual attack, and the actual use of a gun as opposed to just threatening with a gun. However, unified theory proponents believe there are enough similarities, such as size 9 or 9 ½ footprints, use of pre-cut bindings, and leaving behind "calling cards" such as small piles of fibers placed on the dead victims and burned wooden matches left in the home, that have been found at the scenes of some of the DNA-linked murders (see newspaper article at the end of this post). Proponents of this theory believe variations in MO and behavior in some of the rapes in Sacramento and the murders in Goleta may be attributed to the mental instability of the suspect. It is believed by many that the victims who survived the failed attack in Goleta provided valuable non-released information to law enforcement, clearly linking the Goleta crimes to the other crimes.

Another interesting aspect of this theory, not supported by all proponents (although three such proponents have been Visalia law enforcement officers), takes the series of crimes back even further, to a strange series of break-ins and ransacking of homes, and possibly one attempted abduction of a teenage girl, and the subsequent murder of her father who confronted the attacker. These crimes occurred for several years in the Visalia, California, area, prior to the commencement of the crimes in Sacramento. Similarities in the MO of the unknown suspect who became known as "the Visalia Ransacker" and the East Area Rapist, such as excessive ransacking and frenetic rummaging of homes, and the taking little trinkets and things of little value, did not go unnoticed by law enforcement investigating the rapes in Sacramento at the time.

This is basically the Unified Theory. Whether it is right or wrong will not matter if a suspect is brought to justice, because the suspect will most likely just face charges on the dna-linked murders.

Here is the article referenced above:

The Path of the Original Night Stalker

[This article can also be found with other articles from Ventura by clicking here.]

By Colleen Cason
Ventura County Star, November 28, 2003

Cases linked to DNA evidence:


Known as the East Area Rapist.

Victims: At least 36 female victims living in middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods. At first preyed on women; then targeted male-female couples.

Manner of entry: Usually pried sliding-glass doors with a screwdriver.

Bound?: Always with pre-cut lengths of rope or shoelaces. Had the woman tie up the man and he tied up the woman. Usually took jewelry and driver's licenses. None of the items were recovered. Detectives believe he kept them as souvenirs.

The rapist's quirks: After the man was tied up, he put dishes or perfume bottles on him, threatening to kill everyone in the house if they rattled. Prowled in neighborhoods before he committed the rape. Ate food out of the victims' refrigerator.


Victims: Lyman Smith, 43, an attorney; Charlene Smith, 33, sold gold jewelry and did interior designs.

Found: By Lyman Smith's 12-year-old son, Gary, in the master bedroom of the single-story house on High Point Drive, overlooking the ocean.

Cause of death: Both were bludgeoned.

Murder weapon: Fireplace log found on the bed.

Manner of entry: No sign of forced entry.

Bound?: Yes, with pre-cut lengths of drapery cord, left on the bodies.

Sexual assault: Charlene was raped. Evidence collected at the scene stored and later analyzed for DNA.

Of note: House was ransacked; only Charlene Smith's personal jewelry was missing.

The killer's quirks: Fibers of an unknown origin found on Lyman's ankle. A length of cord was left on the bed.


Victims: Keith Harrington, 24, a medical student at UC Irvine; Patrice Harrington, 28, a nurse. The Harringtons were newlyweds.

Found: By Keith's father, in their bedroom in a single-story house in a gated community on Cockleshell Drive, overlooking the ocean.

Cause of death: Both were bludgeoned.

Murder weapon: Blunt instrument, not found at scene. Never recovered.

Bound?: Tied with cord. Suspect took knotted rope but left lengths of cord on the blanket.

Manner of entry: No sign of forced entry.

Sexual assault: Patrice was raped. Evidence collected at scene stored and later analyzed for DNA.

Of note: Nothing was stolen; the house did not appear to be ransacked.

The killer's quirks: A single burned wooden match found inside the home.

IRVINE: FEB. 5, 1981

Victim: Manuela Witthuhn, 28, a loan officer. Alone in the house; her husband, David, was hospitalized with a viral infection.

Found: By her parents, in the bedroom of the single-story house on Columbus, a cul-de-sac, with parks on each end.

Manner of entry: Unknown, but a rear sliding-glass door had pry marks. A screwdriver was found nearby. The sliding-glass door was open when the body was discovered.

Cause of death: Bludgeoned with unknown object not found at crime scene. A nine-pound lamp and crystal carving were missing, as were her answering machine and jewelry.

Bound?: Wrists were bruised as if she had been tied but ligatures gone.

Sexual assault: Manuela was raped. Evidence collected at scene later DNA was analyzed.

The killer's quirks: Wooden matches were found in the house, some burned almost to the end, some lighted and immediately blown out. A ball of fibers was found on her spine.

IRVINE: MAY 5, 1986

Victim: Janelle Cruz, 18, a restaurant cashier.

Found: By a real estate agent, the house was on the market with a "for sale" sign in the yard. She was in a bedroom of the single-story house, on Encina, 1.5 miles from last Irvine crime scene. The house backed up to a community playground.

Manner of entry: Unknown. A male companion who left the house shortly before the slaying said he heard a garage door shut. Cruz told him it was the washing machine.

Cause of death: Bludgeoned, probably with pipe wrench discovered missing after the crime.

Bound?: Her wrists showed abrasions as if they had been restrained by the suspect's hands or perhaps a bath towel.

Raped: Evidence gathered at the scene, later analyzed for DNA.

The killer's quirks: Cruz was struck in the face, instead of on the skull as were the other victims. Cruz bore a resemblance to Charlene Smith.

Detective Larry Pool believes the following cases are linked to the Original Night Stalker by the method of operation:

GOLETA: OCT. 1, 1979

Victims: Jennifer Horinek, 33; Abraham Himmel, 33, both computer programmers.

Found: Alive by neighbors, around their single-story home on Queen Anne Lane, across the street from San Jose Creek. [Actually a tributary of San Jose Creek ran just west of the crime scene- see this map]

Manner of entry: Kitchen door pried open.

Weapon: Serrated knife.

[The knife was taken from the victims'  kitchen and was abandoned after the crime when the attacker fled.]

Bound?: Yes. Pre-cut cord and nylon twine.

Sexual assault: No. Horinek believes the suspect may have been stimulating himself.

Of note: Their attacker unplugged a TV but did not steal it. He fled the scene on a stolen bicycle.

[The attacker had stolen the bike the same night, before the attack and brought it with him to the crime scene]

GOLETA: DEC. 30, 1979

Victims: Robert Offerman, 44, an orthopedic surgeon; Alexandria Manning, 35, a clinical psychologist.

Found: By a friend, dead in the bedroom of a townhouse on Avenida Pequena, adjacent to San Jose Creek.

Manner of entry: Pried sliding-glass door.

Weapon: Gun.

Bound?: Both with white, braided twine.

[The same twine was brought to this attack as the previous one.]

Sexual assault: No.

Of note: Shoe prints linked this slaying to the attack on Horinek and Himmel.

Killer's quirks: Brought a large dog to the crime scene. Ate leftover Christmas turkey out of the refrigerator. Left a length of unused cord on Manning's body. Green material was found on Manning's leg and back. Manning bore a resemblance to Charlene Smith.

GOLETA: JULY 27, 1981

Victims: Cheri Domingo, 35, an office manager; Gregory Sanchez, 27, an employee at Burroughs Corp.

Found: By a real estate agent in the bedroom of a home on Toltec Way, a cul-de-sac that abuts San Jose Creek.

[Toltec Way does not in fact abut San Jose Creek, but is a block away. See this map.]

Manner of entry: Attacker likely reached through a window to the knob of a door off the master bedroom.

[A relative of one of the vicitms has confirmed that this was in fact the way the killer entered the home]

Weapon: Gun and blunt object, probably a pipe wrench missing from a shed after the murders. Sanchez was shot in the face, but the fatal wound was from a blunt instrument.

Bound?: Domingo was bound with shipping twine, which had been removed. Sanchez was not bound.

Sexual assault: No.

Killer's quirks: Fibers of an unknown source were found on Domingo's torso. Partially burned matches found in the fireplace were similar to those found at the Witthuhn crime scene. She bore a resemblance to Patrice Harrington.

[Although it is not mentioned, the same dog brought to the previous Goleta crime scene was also brought to this crime scene.]