THS Investigates (2009)

If the composite on the left looks familiar, it’s for two reasons: (1) it resembles a young Michael Bolton; (2) it may be the source of an age progression image (right) that was first seen on THS Investigates (THS) and has since been attached to a number of news stories on the Original Night Stalker. The age progression is also one of the first images you see from a Google search.

According to Archangel, the young Bolton composite is of a rape suspect in South Sacramento in July 1978. The attack apparently did not resemble an EAR attack. Richard Shelby, however, describes the same composite as being connected to a possible EAR attack in Sacramento some time in 1978.

Comparing the two images, I’m satisfied with young Bolton (left) being the source of age progression Bolton (right). Look at the hair, which is parted in the middle and falls around the ears the same way. Then, look at the somewhat bulbous tip of the nose, the thin eyebrows, the thin lips, the folds of hair in front of and below the ear, the amount of ear revealed, the marks that indicate depth and shape of the chin. Even his left jawline is remarkably similar. Although possible, it’s hard to believe that the image on the right did not stem from the image on the left.

And yet, this needs to be addressed: the age progression seems to come from another composite–not the young Bolton above. An added problem is the quality of the available screenshot of this other composite, which I’m calling “Young THS”:

THS young
Young THS

Here’s a screenshot of the age progression:

Age Progression

To make matters even more confusing, it looks like Young THS (on the left) comes from David Bowie, or an alternative composite of Bowie. It’s a washed-out, no-color version of Bowie, but the matching details are striking. I’ve cropped the Bowie composite to match the frame of Young THS. The first telling detail is the hair, followed by the eyebrows, and little doubt remains after noting the matching black indentation on the side of his right nose (on the left, from the viewer’s perspective). The only real difference seems to be that Young THS has a slightly longer, thinner face.

And here’s my two-minute edit of Bowie 1977, desaturated and brightened. It comes close enough to suggest that, with another 15 minutes, I could probably get it to match Young THS.

 

One of the online compilations of composites had given the source of Young THS as “March 1977, Knollwood Court,” which is the roughly the same information for Bowie. But I didn’t want to rely solely upon that compilation because some compilations have had conflicting information (shocking, I know).

This Young THS-Bowie connection is supported by (and probably originated from) another forum post from Archangel, sourcing Young THS to a Knollwood Court sighting in March 1977: “The composite of the younger-looking suspect is associated with the yellow step-side pick-up mentioned in the SCSD department memo.” In the Vehicle section, the memo states: “Still outstanding is a 1952 or 1953 Ford or Chevrolet, bright yellow step-side pickup. This vehicle was seen on Knollwood each day for three days prior to the rape on Thornwood.”

From Shelby’s Hunting a Psychopath (HAP), neighbors noted this about the truck and its driver: “They saw this pickup at the same location several nights in a row. Each time they saw the driver, he was walking towards the back of their neighbor’s yard where they assumed he was going to visit.”

Validity: After receiving a comment from Todd Lindsey (writer of the THS episode), I am going to revise the validity section. I appreciate the clarification he has provided.

In a previous version of this entry, I considered whether the THS producers had created aged Bolton without LE’s input.

According to Lindsey: “I can tell you that THS did not manufacture any of the composites, they were given to us by LE sources and came from eyewitness accounts.”

This is incredibly helpful information. I am still curious, however, about what that means for the “age progression” sequence. Right now, two possibilities stand out:

1. LE created the age progression sequence that led to the aged Bolton image.

2. Aged Bolton is an actual composite from an eyewitness account, and the “age progression” sequence is suggestive rather than real. That is, it is suggestive of an aging process that would connect an EAR-timed sighting (young THS) and an ONS-timed sighting (aged Bolton). When you re-watch that sequence in the documentary, that is certainly one way to interpret it.

Either possibility is very interesting. With Possibility #1, it suggests that LE created age progressions for other composites as well. With Possibility #2, it means that aged Bolton is an actual composite (possibly from the ONS crimes). Given Lindsey’s statement and a re-watching of that sequence, I lean toward the second possibility.

Nicknames: Michael Bolton; aged Bolton; Young THS / Bowie THS

 

 

 

 

Point Reyes Way (10/1/77)

The composite known as “Bill Mumy” is one of the more popular renderings, probably because he looks so nefarious–the narrow eyes (even narrower in the enhancement), the elongated chin, the thin lips. It’s how you want EAR to look, which is not a logical reason for giving it more weight than any other composite. But here we are.

Mumy comp

Context: This composite is associated with victim #24 in the La Riviera area on October 1, 1977. A man in the neighborhood saw him leaving the area after the attack.

Validity: In Hunting a Psychopath, Richard Shelby provides two stories that seem to support this composite. The first story involves a stalker: a witness contacted Michelle McNamara, telling her that this composite strongly resembled the stalker; notable differences included hair parted on the opposite side, a less elongated jaw, and a “rough/reddish complexion with some possible acne scarring.” The second story, also from McNamara, involves a jogger: an FBI agent saw a jogger with a somewhat similar description (plus a mustache) who was unknown to him–unknown and unusual enough to warrant a report.

When comparing composites, some have noted a resemblance to one of the Maggiore suspects, which is interesting when you consider that Shelby’s chapter on attack #24 is titled “An Accomplice?” Readers may recall that the victims heard a series of sounds while EAR was still in the house: a honking car horn, multiple doorbell rings, a knock on a window, and muffled voices.

The enhancement by AETV user icyu2 is interesting.

Mumy enhanced

It depicts blonde-brown hair in the back and brown hair in the front. In addition to describing him between 5’8″-5′”11, the composite info available notes “Blnd.”

Nicknames: Bill Mumy; Point Reyes Way

Bowie (March ’77)

Conflicting information on Bowie, it seems.

Bowie 1977

Context: In March or May of 1977, the man noted as “Bowie” was seen prowling near Eastwood Road, which is close to Knollwood Court and Thornwood Drive.

If the Bowie sighting occurred in March, then it is most likely attached to Victim #14 (3/8/77). In the Vehicle section of the SCSD memo, it states: “Still outstanding is a 1952 or 1953 Ford or Chevrolet, bright yellow step-side pickup. This vehicle was seen on Knollwood each day for three days prior to the rape on Thornwood.”

From Shelby’s Hunting a Psychopath (HAP), neighbors noted this about the truck and its driver: “They saw this pickup at the same location several nights in a row. Each time they saw the driver, he was walking towards the back of their neighbor’s yard where they assumed he was going to visit.”

Readers of HAP might also recall that it was near this location that other neighbors found a “cloth bag hidden inside their hedge.” The bag contained a ski mask, a pair of gloves, and a flashlight. EAR stored his supplies near prowl/attack sites–a smart move to separate his gear from his person if he were ever caught while prowling. When the neighbors had contacted police about the bag weeks earlier, they were told to throw it away.

Validity: This is of a suspicious person, as are nearly all of the composites. It is worth noting that different dates have been given for Bowie. In Archangel’s original post, the date is May; in composite compilations, the date is given as March 3.

Nicknames: David Bowie; Eastwood Road

 

 

 

Surfer Dude (May ’77)

In May 1977, the “Surfer Dude” composite was released to the public:

Surfer Boy.png

Context: Even with the heavy caveat below the picture (“glimpses,” “tentative,” and “cautioned” are key words), hundreds of tips were called in about the many California men who resembled Surfer Dude. The public was eager for a picture–any picture–to give them a sense of control. Two Sacramento City College students put Surfer Dude on T-shirts as a way to help catch EAR: “Help us find him before he finds you,” the shirt read. They sold at least 500 shirts.

The composite was published nationwide, and it remains a constant image online, one of the first images you see after a Google search.

Validity: This is widely regarded as a bogus sketch. One year after it was published, a sheriff’s department spokesman stated that the composite was “worthless.” When Surfer Dude is attached to contemporary news articles about EAR/ONS, most websleuths are critical of such a decision, knowing the composite’s weak and overblown origins.

Nicknames: Surfer Dude; Surfer Boy

 

 

San Ramon (’79)

A proper subtitle for this entry might be “A Missed Opportunity.”

Like the Solomon Grundy/Paint Man composite, this one is rare. The San Ramon composite shows up in a few composite compilations, and it is hard to find elsewhere:

San Ramon 1979.png

Context and Validity: One known attack occurred in San Ramon: victim #40 on 10/28/78. Although the composite is dated 1979, that may be when the composite was made when the victim gave this description of a suspicious man in a car.

According to Archangel, the person depicted in the sketch was later identified and cleared. Further confirmation came from a board member who provided more details from a police report: the man was driving a car in the neighborhood, looking at for-sale homes; his alibi was supported by his wife and his mother. So, this composite seems safe to dismiss.

The “missed opportunity” for a more worthwhile composite involved a different sighting in San Ramon. On November 1, 1978 (days after the only San Ramon attack), a woman saw a suspicious man in her backyard as he jumped over a six-foot fence onto the property. He was 5’10”, 160 pounds, with hazel eyes. He was sandy-haired, “well groomed,” and “very muscular in the arms and shoulders.” As he walked toward the patio, the woman’s “attack-trained” dog hit the screen door so hard it almost broke through it. The prowler was not rattled by this: “There was no response from this fellow. He didn’t flex a muscle, didn’t walk a step faster.” When she asked what he was doing, he replied in a “phony” voice that was deep and disguised: “Just passing through.” He left.

Although she reported this to the police, no composite was ever developed of this prowler.

Nicknames: San Ramon; Toyota Driver

 

Paint Evidence News (2013)

In 2013, this composite was attached to news about the blue paint evidence:

2013 Paint

The composite seems to have been pulled from all of the original news postings, which probably means that it is invalid.

My best guess is that it is an age progression of another composite and was released by mistake. The eyes and the hair are somewhat reminiscent of the “Surfer Dude” composite.

Validity: As noted in other posts, most of the men depicted in the composites were not seen directly by victims. So the “validity” of most composites is questionable. This one ranks especially low because it was pulled from the news sources and because it seems to be an age progression of another composite.

Nicknames: Paint Man; Solomon Grundy

Composites: Sorting and Contextualizing

What use are the composites? At this stage–decades later–they are probably not useful. The notion of sorting them and providing context may appear useless.

However, the composites are prominent with any Google search on the subject, they are mostly decontextualized when they show up on various websites, and people still use them when talking about particular Persons of Interest.

Decontextualized composites are not just useless, but potentially harmful to the public’s sense of the criminal.

Providing context, then, is at least a potential corrective to that danger.


I’ve divided the composites into three categories, each with a separate page:

  1. Canonical (the posts below of suspicious men, typically associated with EAR)
  2. Connected (suspects of unrelated crimes, no solid connection, yet the suspects and images circulate with EAR)
  3. Fake or Creative (not generated from an official suspect or crime, but created for some other purpose)

Sources: Most of the information about the composites originated in forum posts (A&E, now defunct; earonsgsk; ons) from members with access to LE reports. Other sources of information include the EAR/ONS timeline and Richard Shelby’s Hunting a Psychopath. See About page for more details.

Please note that this site is my attempt to gather available public information about the composites. It is not affiliated with law enforcement.