The Visalia Question

Around April of 1974, the town of Visalia, CA was plagued by a series of "bizarre burglaries." Bizarre because whoever was responsible for the burglaries would rarely take anything of real value. This perpetrator became known as the "Ransacker."

Over 80 burglaries later, the Ransackers true intentions were finally revealed when on Sept. 11, 1975, he tried to kidnap Beth Snelling from her home at night. Her father, Claude Snelling, awakened by the struggle, was shot and killed while trying to intervene. Evidence from the crime scene tied his murder to the Ransacker.

The Ransackings continued unabated after the murder of Claude Snelling. Visalia PD detectives were staking out an area previously hit by the Ransacker. The Ransacker made the mistake of returning to the area. During a confrontation with Detective William McGowen, the Ransacker fired a shot at McGowen, hitting his flashlight. The Ransacker escaped on foot and soon disappeared.

In 1977, McGowen went to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department to compare notes between the Visalia Ransacker and the East Area Rapist. By July of 1978, this turned into a full-blown controversy as the the Sacramento Union reported a tie between the cases. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department denied such a link and lambasted the Visalia PD for going public with such a link. 31 years later, the chances are high that the cases are, in fact, linked.
















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