Visalia detective came face to face with 'Visalia Ransacker' serial killer in 1975

FRESNO, Calif. -- For decades the elusive "Golden State Killer" haunted the McGowen family, so much it was well documented in "I'll be Gone in the Dark", a New York Times bestselling novel about the serial killer. A day after Brett McGowen read the chapter on his father's role, detectives came knocking at his door. They finally made an arrest.

"He wanted to know if I was excited. I told him I was overjoyed. I jumped and yelled. It was a big ordeal for my dad and my family," said Brett.

Between 1974 to 1975, about 100 homes in Visalia were burglarized. Brett's father, Detective Bill McGowen, was assigned to the case. One night in December after receiving a tip from neighbors he staked out a home.

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"I noticed he had a patch on his eye and then he explained he had been shot at last night. It was shocking to hear it happened to your father," said Brett.
Bill gave an interview to reporters later that day, explaining how he yelled for a shadowy figure to stop. The man fired back. The bullet hit the detective's flashlight and pieces ricocheted into his eye.

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"I fell down the impact knocked me back and he continued to run throwing some items apparently taken in the area," said Bill during a 1975 Action News interview.

After that episode, the burglaries in Visalia stopped. But Bill never stopped looking.
"It was something that haunted him, and he wanted to solve it, and I'm sure most of the detectives around here would say the same thing."

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Brett believes his father was one of the first to suspect the Visalia Ransacker was the same man as the East Area Rapist. Authorities in Sacramento confirmed the connection on Wednesday.

"It brings a lot of closure to my family and I'm sure it brings a lot more closure to the victims and the families that were affected by this guy."

Brett knows his father is finally at peace.

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