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Chase Darkness With Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders
by Billy Jensen
Sourcebooks, 2019


Want to know what a life-long obsessive quest for truth and justice looks like? Look no further than true-crime writer turned true-crime fighter, Billy Jensen. After a life dedicated to the journalistic pursuit of telling stories about victims overlooked by society, Jensen decided to refocus his energy. Realistic about the pressure homicide detectives face due to burgeoning caseloads yet frustrated by the plunging clearance rate for murders, Jensen took the unique and groundbreaking approach of using social media to track down violent criminals. Armed with this innovative use of technology and possessing a knack for investigating, he soon became an unexpected asset to police departments looking to expand beyond the traditional way of fighting crime. His days of being a passive observer over, Chase Darkness with Me describes how Jensen came to spend his life chasing elusive criminals.

One of the original citizen sleuths, Jensen opens up about his friendship with fellow “DIY detective,” Michelle McNamara. Known for her blog, True Crime Diary, McNamara was on an intensive years-long quest to uncover the identity of the Golden State Killer*. Skilled at developing strong relationships with homicide detectives not used to sharing information with citizens, she was also an early adopter of inputting DNA into public databases to track criminals. After their collaboration was cut short by her tragic death in 2016, Jensen (along with researcher Paul Haynes), helped finish her book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. In Chase Darkness with Me, Jensen provides a riveting first-hand account of events as they unfolded after learning police were to set to announce the arrest of Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo.

Jensen also explains the phenomenon well-known to the true-crime community of having white whales. Michelle McNamara’s was the Golden State Killer. Jensen admits to having more than a few. A white whale is that one case that ‘grabs you by the throat’ and won’t let you go. It is that case that gnaws at you. That case that pushes you to advocate for those no longer here to advocate for themselves. Jensen’s biggest white whale is the Bear Brook murders, also known as the Allentown Four. For me, those cases are Paige Renkoski, the 24-year-old who disappeared from the side of a busy Michigan highway never to be seen again and more recently the still-unsolved murder of 27-year-old Egypt Covington, the vibrant and talented bartender I had met at my local watering hole. Ask any amateur detective, and they will easily recount theirs too.

Jensen’s belief in the power of the citizen detective is compelling. His call to action is compelling and instructive. He knows there are others like him. Others who grew up with a father taken with true crime stories, like his. Who handed down the obsession, like his. To these like-minded sleuths who want to make a difference, he offers lessons learned, rules to live by, and proven tactics to employ. It is all part of his quest to raise an army of citizens that will revolutionize crime-fighting by offering valuable resources to cash strapped law enforcement agencies.

Maybe it is my midwest love of hockey and my affinity for the Bob Probert’s and the Darren McCarty’s of the world that makes me appreciate Jensen’s scrappy nature. Jensen is a prime example of what dogged persistence and an all-consuming passion can accomplish. Long after others would have given up the mission, Jensen continues to endure separation from his family and financial burden in his quest for justice. His answer to the question of why he does what he does is, “I simply cannot fathom that one person believes they can have such dominion over another that they can take away a life. And I cannot fathom that person living life free of consequence.” It’s this sentiment that endears Jensen to the true crime community and to which we can all relate.

*McNamara coined the term Golden State Killer. Known for attacks over a large geographic area with different modus operandi, the Golden State Killer had previously been known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and/or the Visalia Ransacker.


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