THE SLEEPING LADY: The Trailside Killings Above the Golden Gate by Robert Graysmith

THE SLEEPING LADY: The Trailside Killings Above the Golden Gate

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An overly detailed, often needlessly confusing look at a series of rapes and murders that plagued the San Francisco Bay area in the late 70's and early 80's. Graysmith (Zodiac, 1987 paperback) tells the grisly story of the crimes, capture, and conviction of David J. Carpenter with painstaking detail, loading his narrative with names and dates and incidents going back a quarter-century. Carpenter, a severe stutterer and abused child, was a ship's purser in 1955 when his odd behavior toward her daughter aroused the suspicions of Roberta Patterson. Twenty-five years later, Roberta's recognition of a composite drawing convinced police to consider Carpenter a serious suspect in the Bay area slayings. Since 1960, he had spent over 18 years in prison on numerous charges of attempted murder, burglary, and rape; his record for sex offenses went back to his early teens. Now in his 50s, Carpenter's rage and compulsion had become, if not controlled, then more intensely directed as he methodically followed his victims along the hiking trails of Mt. Tamalpais (""The Sleeping Lady"") and through the parks of Marin County. The case was so well publicized that even with a change of venue to L.A. it took 83 days to seat the jury. Following a conviction on two counts of murder for the Mt. Tamalpais killings, Carpenter was sentenced to death. He then went to trial for the Marin County murders. Held in San Diego in January 1988, he was found guilty on five counts and again sentenced to death. However, the judge was forced to order a new trial when it was learned that one of the jurors had spoken to friends about Carpenter's earlier conviction. Good reporting if grim, though the excessive detail, along with Graysmith's apparent emotional distance from his subject matter, makes for a difficult, uninvolving read.

Pub Date: May 28th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton