Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Trailside Killer of San Francisco

Gruesome Dump Site

Late that November, it became clear that the killer had been busier than the police had realized; four bodies were found on the same day, and the victims appeared to have been killed in pairs, two recently and two at least six weeks earlier.

Sign: Point Reyes National Seashore Park
Sign: Point Reyes National Seashore Park

A young woman named Shauna May was supposed to meet friends on November 28 in Point Reyes National Seashore Park to go hiking.  This park was a few miles north of San Francisco and had not yet become the scene of slaughter.  When she failed to show, her friends alerted park officials.  It was two days before they found her nude body.  She'd been trussed with picture frame wire, shot three times in the head, and shoved into a shallow trench. The autopsy later determined that she had been raped.

Close by, to the point of touching her, was the body of another young woman, twenty-two-year-old Diana O'Connell. She, too, had gone missing while hiking with friends.  One had been in front of her on the path, the other some ways behind.  Neither saw her slip away.

The two victims lay together, face down.  It seemed that Diana, shot once in the head, had been murdered at the same time as Shauna May, since another hiker had heard four shots in that area at mid-afternoon. Their clothing was piled onto their knapsacks and a pair of panties was stuffed in Diana's mouth. She'd been strangled with wire and raped as well.  The police assumed that the killer had interrupted one of these women in her hike with the intention of rape and the other had come along at the wrong time.  As a witness, she had to be eliminated, too.  A later investigation indicated they had not known each other.

Cindy Moreland
Cindy Moreland

But the day turned out to be worse than anyone had anticipated.  During the search, two more bodies were discovered just half a mile away — actually found first — and both victims had been shot in the head. For the first time, one victim was male.  They were identified as Richard Stowers, 19, and Cynthia Moreland, 18.  They had been engaged to be married and had gone hiking together in mid-October, in an area that Cynthia reportedly knew quite well.  They'd been reported missing on October 11, but had not been found. In fact, Rick was considered to be AWOL from the coast guard.

Rick Stowers
Rick Stowers

An autopsy placed their time of death just a few days before that of Anne Alderson.  So either there were two predators roaming the area or the same person had gone looking for victims in two different parks. Then ballistics analysis confirmed that the killer of Anne Alderson had also shot May and O'Connell.  There was one very deadly predator.

Hikers were warned in both parks not to hike alone, although being with another person had not helped Stowers and Moreland.  People who loved the nature trails found other places to go or remained home until the murders were solved. 

Sheriff Al Howenstein
Sheriff Al Howenstein

Those people who had spotted a victim with someone offered what little they could recall, and Marin County Sheriff G. Albert Howenstein Jr. had a composite drawing made to show others who'd also been in the area.  However, it was difficult to get a consensus on key features.  Douglas says that the witnesses conflicted on such things as the age of the man seen with a victim, and his facial features.

Many people still recalled an earlier series of murders in the area that had never been solved, and Douglas indicates that there was speculation about whether he'd risen his ugly head again.

 

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