Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara’s Relationship, Explained

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a new HBO docuseries that will focus on the hunt for the Golden State Killer, the serial killer, rapist, and burglar who terrorized California from 1974 to 1986. The series also focuses intently on crime writer Michelle McNamara’s tireless, decades-later hunt to track the Golden State Killer down. The series intertwines the story of the GSK with her investigation process, which eventually became her book of the same name.

McNamara was writing I’ll Be Gone in the Dark when she suddenly passed away in 2016, and her husband Patton Oswalt helped to complete the book. The couple had been married for 11 years and had one child together. Here’s what else you need to know about their relationship.

Patton Oswalt and Michelle McNamara first met in May 2003.

Oswalt told People that he first laid eyes on McNamara after performing at a club in Los Angeles. “During my routine, I admitted to my weakness for Irish women, how they were my Kryptonite. And after the show she was walking out with the crowd and she touched my left arm and said, ‘Irish girls, nice!'”

Oswalt hilariously explained that while he was “so stunned by how beautiful she was that I let her walk away,” a friend of his prodded him to go talk to her.

“It was love pretty much immediately for me. I think it took a few months for her,” Oswalt further revealed. “But it must’ve turned to love pretty solidly because by September she’d moved in with me.” Oswalt and McNamara got married on September 24, 2005, and they had a daughter, Alice, in 2009.

Oswalt and McNamara in 2011.

Jim SpellmanGetty Images

McNamara was a true crime writer, and she helped to coin the moniker Golden State Killer.

McNamara’s fascination with true crime reportedly originated from the still-unsolved 1984 murder of a young woman named Kathleen Lombardo that happened two blocks from where she lived in Oak Park, Illinois.

McNamara started the site TrueCrimeDiary in 2006, and by 2013, she was deep in her investigative work. “By day I’m a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom with a sensible haircut and Goldfish crackers lining my purse. In the evening, however, I’m something of a DIY detective,” she explained to LA Mag. “I delve into cold cases by scouring the Internet for any digital crumbs authorities may have overlooked, then share my theories with the 8,000 or so mystery buffs who visit my blog regularly.”

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Harper Perennial
amazon.com

McNamara had a specific focus on the Golden State Killer, and she’s actually the one that coined his name: “Yet the Golden State Killer has little recognition; he didn’t even have a catchy name until I coined one…I came up with the name ‘Golden State Killer’ for this article because his numerous crimes spanned California, confounding authorities throughout several jurisdictions. Also, at the very least, this ID is more memorable.”

Oswalt and McNamara remained married until her death in 2016.

McNamara was working on her first book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, when she passed away from an accidental drug overdose on April 21, 2016. In his 2017 Netflix special, Patton Oswalt: Annihilation, Oswalt described her death as “the second worst day of my life. The worst day of my life was the day after when I had to tell our daughter.”

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was released posthumously on February 27, 2018, and it was updated and finalized by Oswalt alongside true crime writers Paul Hayne and Billy Jensen. The book reached number two of The New York Times Best Seller list for non-fiction and number one of non-fiction combined print and e-book.

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On April 25, 2018, Californian authorities arrested and named Joseph James DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer, and it’s believed that McNamara’s research led to his arrest.

“Even though the cops are never going to say it, your book helped get this thing closed,” Oswalt said in an Instagram video. “Also, the cops will NEVER and HAVE NEVER credited a writer or journalist for helping them solve a case. But every time they said #GoldenStateKiller they credited the work of #MichelleMcNamara and #IllBeGoneInTheDark,” he later tweeted.

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Oswalt married actress Meredith Salenger in November 2017, and the couple said that their love of McNamara helped bring them together.

“Finding out about Michelle made me love Patton even more,” Meredith told People. “I was like, ‘He likes smart girls and he likes good girls.’ My friend said, ‘I think Michelle orchestrated this from heaven.'”

On what would have been McNamara’s 50th birthday, Oswalt tweeted, “Happy 50th, Michelle. I hope wherever you are there’s good coffee, a strong WiFi connection, and endless mysteries for you to crack.”

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In June 2020, Yahoo asked Oswalt about what he would think McNamara’s response would be to DeAngelo’s arrest. He responded by saying that while he didn’t know, he knows it would have been something insightful:

“The thing about her was that she always had such a surprising take on anything that it just feels to me it would be reductive to go, ‘Oh, she would’ve thought this,’ or ‘She would’ve felt this.’ I don’t know what she would have thought, but it would have been something totally unexpected and insightful that would have made me go, ‘Oh yeah. I didn’t think about it that way.’ Part of me thinks maybe she would have wanted to be in court, but she might have viewed it as taking focus away from the victims. I’m happy to say that I don’t know.”

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