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What Happened that Night: How a family friend fought off the Golden State Killer

Tracy is a family friend. She and my mom met through work, and became real-life friends. Both were recently single, blonde, and very social creature. And, like myself, Tracy’s daughters were just old enough to legally drink. This all meant I spent a couple nights of my last college-break trips home to Sacramento out at grown-up play-dates with, among others, Tracy and her twins. We went bowling, drank wine, and talked about Tinder.

And yet, I had no idea that Tracy Thomas was actually “Kathleen Scott,” the pseudonym given in Hunting a Psychopath to the twelve-year-old who–along with her mother and 15-year-old sister–came face-to-face with the East Area Rapist on August 19, 1976.

Rose Thomas, Tracy’s mother, was able to fight the Golden State Killer off after realizing she could probably overpower her average-sized, pants-less attacker. She was beaten badly, but neither Rose, nor her daughters were sexually assaulted.

When my mom texted late last night to tell me to Google Tracy’s name, I didn’t know what to expect, but it sure wasn’t this. Tracy and Rose are currently headline news in Sacramento, after going public with their story last night.


Watch Tracy Thomas’s interview with KCRA 3:

I had no idea. I mean, I try to keep the murder talk on the DL when I’m out in the real world.  I have learned that is not, in fact, a good way to Win Friends and Influence People. I knew Tracy was a born-and-bred Sacramentan (Sacramentian?), but EAR/ONS just never came up.

Understandably, Tracy hadn’t told her daughters, either. That is, until Tracy learned on Wednesday that–nearly 42 years after she awoke the East Area Rapist prying open the screen on her bedroom window–her assailant had been captured.

Tracy then wrote a letter to her kids, about “What Happened That Night.” One of her daughters then insisted Tracy should go public with her story, which she did, wanting her mother’s story to be told while she’s still here. Rose’s husband passed away recently, and 42 years is a long time.

Today, Tracy sent me that letter (technically, sent that letter to my mom to send to me) that her daughters. She knows I write–although I’m not sure if she knew I wrote about such fucked-up shit until today–and gave me permission to post that letter here, in its entirety. While I have not in anyway altered the text, I have added paragraph breaks for clarity:

What Happened that Night

I was 12 years old and it was a hot August night in 1976.  I had slept with the window open as I often did during the summer months.  I don’t remember much about the days or the nights before but I remember everything about the night I awoke to a dark silhouette of a man trying to remove the screen to my bedroom window. 

I lay still while my mind shifted out of dream state.  I tried to make sense out of what was happening.  My room smelled strange, like a mixture of smoke and something sweet.   I wondered if there was a fire and somebody was trying to get me out.  But the silence was an indicator that there was not an emergency situation happening. 

I slid out of bed without standing up, trying to be invisible.  I walked into my mom and dad’s room.  My mom was the only one there as my dad was working nights. I told my mom that someone was outside my window.  I felt bad that I had startled her and for a moment I thought that maybe I was imagining it.  I told her I would go double check.  I walked back into my bedroom, looked out the window and I saw a man running away. I told my mom and then we woke up my older sister to tell her.  She told us to call the police and went back to sleep.

We went into the kitchen to use the phone.  I believed that we were calling the police to report a prowler.  It never occurred to me that he would enter our home once he had been seen.  So when I heard a crash, I thought my cat had knocked something over and I still wasn’t alarmed.  Not until this man came around the corner with his gun pointing at us and shouting, “Freeze or I will kill you!” My mom had not had a chance to dial a number.  He was wearing a beige sort of ski mask, a beige t – shirt, a tool belt and boots, nothing else.  I thought this guy is crazy, why isn’t he wearing pants?  In my naïve 12 year old mind, I had no idea what he was there for.

He told us to go into the living room and put our hands behind our backs.  He pulled out what looked like long leather shoe laces.  But my mom would not put her hands behind her back. 

She asked him if he knew that Jesus loved him no matter what he did.  He had a weapon that looked like a thick stick with a bean bag on the end.  He hit her head with the weapon several times, but she refused to comply.  I heard my older sister scream from her room.

My mom stood up and grabbed his gun and he continued to hit her with his weapon while she continued to try to save his soul.  The gun never discharged. As they scuffled around the living room, in the middle of all this, my mom’s knee bumped the glass coffee table and she reached down to straighten it.  I thought that was strange but so like her.

I stood there paralyzed with fear, begging my mom to do what he said so the beating would stop.  She was able to get him close to the front door.  Finally, I was able to move and I pulled his shoulders back. I still remember exactly what that felt like; the texture of his shirt and the warmth of his body heat. 

My mom was able to open the front door and get out.  As she ran towards the next door neighbor’s house, he ran out too.  I thought he was following her but he ran down the driveway and into the dark.  As we ran by our side gate, my sister ran out of our back yard, as she had jumped out the window that he had entered through.   As we all stood on the porch, I turned to look at my mom.  Blood was streaming from her head, covering her face and soaking her nightgown. 

At that point, I realized how strong and how courageous and how strong her faith in God was.  Because of this, we are listed as the East Area Rapist’s 3rd break in and the only victims that were able to get away.

The contents of this letter have since been published in local coverage, but without the back-story. The details align with those online and in Larry Crompton’s Sudden Terror and Richard Shelby’s Hunting a Psychopath. I can so vividly remember the early attack where one daughter went back to sleep and mother was able to fight off her assailant.

I am hoping to chat with Tracy in the near future about how she’s feeling after Joseph DeAngelo’s arrest. I can only imagine the miasma of weird feelings this could elicit. And if you’re reading this, Tracy–I know my mom sent you a link to this website–thank you for coming forward with your story.

Posted in Crime, Homicides, Personal, Sacramento Crime and Cold Cases, Serial Killers, Solved Cases

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