Anne Penn is the pen name of Laurie, a woman with a personal connection to the East Area Rapist / Original Night Stalker case. She has written a book about the case entitled Murder on His Mind.
Thank you Laurie for this interview!
Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Laurie. I am also Anne Penn the author of a first and second edition book called Murder On His Mind Serial Killer. The second edition I added “A Family Member Speaks.” Anne is my pen name of course. I am the granddaughter of Lyman J. Smith Senior the father of murder victim Lyman Robert Smith and his wife Charlene Smith. They were killed March 13, 1980.
My family are longtime Sacramento, CA natives. I grew up in Sacramento, a mile away from my grandparents near Land Park, spending quite a lot of time with them over 35-40 years. I was born at Mather Air Force Base and grew up in the same home for 18 years. I was in Sacramento beginning my career 1976-1978 in downtown Sacramento when the East Area Rapist began his crimes breaking into homes and raping women.
In your own words, who was the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer? What do the terms refer to?
The East Area Rapist was a man who came into my awareness from news reports and people talking about him in 1976. People were saying he was breaking in and attacking women, raping them in East Sacramento. Back then I was made more aware that I should be careful. The reports about him made me think twice about everything I did. The East Area Rapist was a man to be feared and he was the worst thing I could think of – the idea of being intruded upon and raped was very terrifying. Everyone was worried because it went on for two years. Nerve racking. I do not call him The Golden State Killer. To me and most people that knew of him then (when the murders began) he was known as The Original Night Stalker. Most people who have lived with this case for 35 years or more know that name.
The Original Night Stalker was a person’s worst nightmare. He did not care if he broke in to homes with couples. He began to break in and rather than rape, ransack and leave he began to murder. I would say what those names mean to me is a man who was a terrorist in the truest sense of the word.
You have a personal connection to his crimes. Can you tell us about this?
My connection to the events of EAR and ONS was that I was there in Sacramento when this terrorist began and then less than two years after he left Sacramento attacking elsewhere my Uncle (we called him Bob) Lyman Robert and his wife Charlene were murdered in Ventura, CA.
At the time no one knew that his activity was connected to the East Area Rapist and that he had indeed become a serial killer. That was not proven until many years later through DNA evidence that was tested from the very old crimes. When my uncle and his wife were murdered I was there after my grandparents were told and saw how devastated my grandfather Lyman Senior was at the loss of his son. He was very proud of Uncle Bob and was never the same after that. Just a few weeks after the memorial service for my Uncle I was married in Auburn in an old church there.
As I was walking back up the isle having just been married I realized that my grandparents were in the vestibule of the church where my grandfather was sobbing and sobbing. No one could console him, we could think of nothing we could do. It had only been about 7 weeks since he had learned of his son’s murder. He had not wanted me to postpone my wedding and had insisted he and my grandmother would come as scheduled and would not miss it. My close friends recall the scene to this day 37 years later.
(Lyman and Charlene Smith)
How did these crimes affect your family?
The murders affected my grandparents of course. These were horrific murders and the idea that they had been killed in this way was difficult to say the least to come to terms with. I personally was absolutely terrified at hearing the details of how The Original Night Stalker had come into my Uncles home and that he had bludgeoned them both to death. I was afraid from that moment on of sliding glass doors and strangers, work men. I did not want to be seen in my yard or at night in my car. My grandparents were frustrated at the lack of answers and upset that law enforcement went down the wrong path to find their son’s killer.
I moved away from Sacramento in 1984 because I did not feel safe.
What was it like to live in fear of this criminal? What kinds of precautions did people in your area take against him? I have read that burglar alarm systems and personal firearms sold like crazy…
People in the area in Sacramento during the crimes of EAR bought locks and guns and held town hall meetings in order to talk about safety measures. Classes were held for women to instruct them on many different avenues to try to stay safe. Personal safety measure like alarms were installed, but it seemed the East Area Rapist could get around all of it and still was not caught.
(Newspaper article from the 1970s)
The East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer has recently gained new momentum after decades of being known only to relatively few true crime aficionados. Why now?
It is time to try to resolve the case especially since we have new technologies and advances in testing evidence. DNA linked all of the crimes together in about 2001. Santa Barbara County finally had their DNA tested about 6 years ago so we then knew the Original Night Stalker had killed at least 10 people and was in fact the East Area Rapist. Chances are good that he is still alive. The detectives that worked the cases in the beginning many are still with us and still want to see justice.
Let’s talk about the criminal himself for a second. What, in your opinion, was the driving force behind this guy’s intense need to rape and kill?
He like other guys who start out as peepers and burglars escalated to rape and then serial rape/killer. I think he was always different and between his childhood issues and whatever makes a serial killer (a chemical brain issue) personality disorder like Anti-Social Personality disorders and/or Conduct Disorder I think he was compelled to do what he did. He had to work up to it.
In your opinion, what kind of a person was he outside his criminal activity? A transient? A middle-class family guy?
I do not think he was ever a transient. I think he became a middle class family guy after the crimes stopped. I think he is successful and functions very well in society.
This guy would occasionally tell his victims about his life, and a few times he was even heard crying and repeating either the name “Bonnie” or the word “mommy”. How much of his behavior at crime scenes do you think was genuine and how much of it was a ploy to create red herrings for the investigators?
I think that a lot of the time during his crimes when he was telling his victims supposedly about himself he was trying to lead investigators wherever he wanted them. He was smart enough to play everyone. I think much of his behavior at crime scenes was a ploy to manipulate his victims and law enforcement.
How reliable do you think the composite sketches are? Which one do you think is the most reliable?
I don’t rely on the composite sketches. Law Enforcement knows that they came from people who thought they saw a guy lingering in areas during crimes. Victims never saw his face. I was told the one the FBI is using currently is the one they are looking at now.
(FBI composite sketch of the perpetrator)
Some drawings and writings were discovered near one of his crime scenes. What are your thoughts on these?
I hope the writings and drawings are from EAR. I do not know enough about them. It would seem they would have tested them for fingerprints long ago. It is thought that the landscape area drawing could be from an area in Stockton. Others think it is from other areas.
It seems someone fitting the EAR/GSK’s description was spotted driving various different cars around the areas where attacks would soon occur. Where did he gain access to all these different cars? I have often felt that this is one of the key issues in the case, a potential “case-cracker”.
I wish I knew where he gained access to all of the various cars he drove. It could be a friend or family member had a car lot.
Was hypnosis ever used in this investigation to jolt people’s memories?
Hypnosis was used to try to get better descriptions and any information they could.
Why did he choose Janelle Lisa Cruz as his final victim? WHy did he come out of hiding to kill her?
I think he came out of hiding because he could not resist and it was easy. He already knew the neighborhood from 5 years earlier. Manuela Witthuhn had been murdered in 1981 less than 2 miles away. I also think he had seen the Deliberate Stranger about Ted Bundy on television that night and he just had to do this one last time that we know of.
What do you think happened to him? Why did he disappear?
I think he knew about the advances in forensic technology and knew if he kept going he might be caught. He also likely got married and had children. This way he can become a legend and become a mystery for all time like the Black Dahlia murder. People are still interested today. He will be famous as the serial killer who they never found. He wanted fame and he will have it whether he is ever caught or not.
You wrote a book about this case. Tell us about it! What was it like to research and write it?
This was a book I had NEVER thought about writing because it was still too terrifying to look at it. Eventually it became the book I had to write because I had been studying serial killers since 1980. It made the most sense to me that my uncle Lyman and Charlene’s murders were a serial killer and not someone they had known and then it turned out to be true. I could not believe it when I found out. I was right about that. I sought to understand why a person does this kind of thing. Now I know it is a compulsion to become a serial killer. It was very interesting to research the case and to learn as much as possible because I wanted to try and figure out where he came from and where he might be. It sounded so much like the neighborhood I grew up in I could just picture it. I lived across the street from a creek that runs all through Sacramento. I wrote it for my uncle and Charlene, for the victims, for my grandparents and for myself – to face the fear it held in my memory.
2018 is here. What do you think this year will bring? Will we finally see and end to this dark saga?
I hope 2018 will bring information and the identity of the man who did these things. We have hoped that every year since 1980 especially in my family. My grandfather Lyman Smith Senior passed away in 2001 never knowing who killed his son. He only knew that a serial killer had done it.
Where can people keep up with your work?
People can keep up with my work on anne.penn.wordpress.com as well as Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. My first and second editions of Murder On His Mind Serial Killer are there. The Second edition will be the only one there shortly as I have added my family story as well as DNA, Cold Case information, forensics and information about the cases especially in Sacramento where he began. I have done a few podcasts on the case with a new one coming out on FOX 40 Sacramento February 1 with Ali Wolf.
Anything else you would like to add that I forgot to ask about?
I think you covered quite a lot of ground today. A profile of this man would be good to add in some format some time when you have the space. Those are included many places on the internet as well as my book and the detective’s books who wrote about the cases.
Fantastic interview, really gives a fascinating and palpable understanding of the case.