SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco police are stepping up efforts to try to catch a serial killer who has eluded authorities for almost 50 years.
Cold case inspectors hope a big reward and a new sketch will finally lead to an arrest.
The sister of one victim is still searching for answers.
Police said a call to 911 dispatch from a man reporting a dead body found at Ocean Beach on January 27, 1974, was the first victim of a serial killer who preyed on gay men.
“It’s a little chilling. It’s late in January. It’s cold out and this person is walking on the beach,” police cold case investigator Daniel Cunningham said.
The 911 caller is a person of interest.
Over the next 17 months, five other men were killed, mostly the same way, stabbed multiple times at this beach and elsewhere.
The victims included Fred Capin, a decorated Vietnam vet who worked as a nurse. And Joe Stevens, a 27-year-old female impersonator and cabaret performer.
“It feels good that somebody cares. It felt like nobody cared,” Stevens’ sister Melissa Honrath said.
She’s grateful investigators are looking for new leads.
She said at the time of the killings, there was not much attention on this case because of negative attitudes towards the gay community.
“A lot of heartache, a lot of sorrow, a lot of pain. It’s just horrible,” said Honrath.
Police said there were two additional victims who survived being attacked in two separate incidents. Both took place at the Fox Plaza Apartments where they lived.
One survivor was able to give a description of the man who attacked him to the police to develop a composite sketch
A new, updated sketch was released Tuesday.
The reward has been increased to $250,000 for information leading to the killer.
Investigators said they are looking for people who called the police after the original sketch was released, including one woman who called twice but wished to remain anonymous.
“People have been disappearing from bars lately. Sometimes, their half decayed bodies show up on a beach,” Mark Abramson said, reading from a book he wrote about life in San Francisco during that era. “It was scary. It didn’t make the papers back then. It was talked about.”
The killer was called the “Doodler.”
Police said the suspect had told one survivor he was in art school studying to be a cartoonist.
A lot of the stories that have come out over the years that the guy was in pubs, restaurants and that he was drawing them, that’s not the case.
Investigators said they have a strong person of interest in mind and that he is alive and living in the Bay Area.
Stevens’ sister says when the killer is caught, she wants to ask him why he killed her beloved brother.
Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at [email protected] or text/leave a message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU