Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trailside Killer of San Francisco

Shattered Peace

Sign: Mount Tamalpais
Sign: Mount Tamalpais

Edda Kane went out on August 19 in 1979 to hike the trails in a park at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, also known as "the Sleeping Lady," which overlooked San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.  At 44, she was a married bank executive with an athletic lifestyle.  On this day, she found no one to join her, so she went out alone to get her workout.  But she did not return home that day, so her worried husband contacted the police.  Believing she was in trouble, they sent out a search team, including dog handlers, just in case she had fallen and was in some inaccessible place. But despite the fact that her car remained untouched in the parking lot, they failed to locate her that night.

Found the next day, Edda was dead.  She'd been attacked from behind and had a bullet wound on the back of her skull.  The police believed, from her position on her knees with her face on the ground, that possibly she had been forced to show subservience to her killer, perhaps even to beg for her life.  The killer had removed $10 from her wallet, along with some credit cards, and had taken her glasses but had left her jewelry.  It was the first known killing on Tamalpais.

Witnesses described two lone men, one blond and acting rather strangely, and the other wearing a dark blue jacket which apparently made him sweat.  He'd hid his face with it, but people estimated that he was about 35.

The autopsy showed that Edda had been shot once with a .44-caliber gun and it appeared that she'd been the victim of an execution style attack.  Yet she had not been raped, so the motive for this unthinkable attack remained a mystery.  In fact, no one who knew Edda could think of any reason why someone might want to harm her. There was little evidence in the area to assist the police to track her killer, so the murder went unsolved.  It shook up people who used the park, but after a while things returned to normal.  Eventually, however, Edda Kane's murder would gain a different status as more than just an isolated unsolved homicide; it would become the first of more to come.

Book cover: The Sleeping Lady
Book cover: The Sleeping Lady

The principal source for this spate of murders during the early 1980s is Robert Graysmith's book, The Sleeping Lady, as well as news reports from area California papers, primarily the San Francisco Chronicle.  Another key source is John Douglas' first book, Mindhunter, because he was the FBI profiler who got involved in the case when it appeared that a serial killer was on the loose. He provides important insights into how this killer was studied, as well as explanations for why he might have been a psychopathic lust killer in the first place.

Graysmith opens his book with the legend of the Sleeping Lady: a sun god fell in love with an Indian maiden, so he carried her off into the sky.  But then he stumbled over Mount Diablo and as he fell back to Earth, she was killed.  The place where she hit the ground is where the mountain supposedly grew up into the profile of a sleeping woman.  Or a dead one.


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