(YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif.) — A possible brutal murder in one of the most scenic places in America goes unsolved, a serial killer confesses to more than 100 murders and two generations of detectives try to crack the case.
The second season of “Wild Crime” on Hulu launches on Oct. 24. The case at the heart of this season begins in June 1983 when a man out walking with his friends’ son in Yosemite National Park finds a hand in a meadow.
“It was pretty obvious it was a human hand,” said Tom Day, who stumbled upon the crime scene. “I knew I had to get a hold of law enforcement and get somebody up there to look at it.”
“We had no idea of the who, what, when, where, why, or how this hand had come to Summit Meadow,” said Kim Tucker, former criminal investigator at the National Park Service.
The officers faced obstacles from the outset: the crime scene was in the complete wilderness, there was no widespread DNA testing at the time and there were no clues in the surrounding area.
“We didn’t have any known missing people from the immediate area,” said Tucker, “so it was very difficult to think, well, what is the next thing we should do?”
Investigators would eventually turn to a forensic anthropologist, who suggested the deceased was a young woman.
In the spring of 1984, when the case had gone cold, investigators were contacted by the California Department of Justice, who gave them a tip that an alleged serial killer was confessing to murders across the country, including one that could fit the profile of the Yosemite case.
Investigators thought this might be a breakthrough in the case, and went to meet this alleged serial killer, whose name and frightening backstory is revealed in “Wild Crime.”
The alleged serial killer was confessing to things like necrophilia and cutting up victims into “little tiny pieces” and during four months in police custody he admitted to committing 156 murders, mostly female victims.
One place that he said he had committed a homicide was “a mountainous national park in California,” said Tucker, which gave investigators a potential lead for the first time in the case.
Additionally, the alleged serial killer said in an interview with the police that he had “specifically across the United States left evidence to show I was doing the crimes.”
Investigators went to meet the alleged killer in the Sacramento county jail in August 1984.
He gave them his testimony, confessing to killing a young woman in the national park by strangulation.
A few months later, in Texas, the alleged killer provided even more details, saying that he and the alleged victim had had lunch together, eating “some fried chicken wrapped in tinfoil” and beer, before he killed her. He also said that he remembered trail markings near where the murder occurred.
These markings, the investigators realized, could have been the cross-country ski trail signs nailed to the trees in Summit meadow.
“It’s like, ‘This guy has been to the crime scene,"” said former criminal investigator for the National Park Service Don Coelho. “That’s when it hit us.”
Back in Yosemite, the investigators made crucial breakthroughs with leads from the alleged killer’s confession. They found beer cans, wrapped-up tin foil, a canteen and what seemed like a piece of fabric that could have been from the victim’s jacket.
“I don’t know that what we found was proof,” said Tucker, “but I felt like we had found the scene that he described.”
The story continues to get stranger and more unbelievable.
Aspects of the case begin to fall apart when the alleged killer recants his confession. A human skull, found across the street from the meadow, brings investigators closer to identifying the victim.
The case would eventually be taken over by National Park Service agent Cullen Tucker, Kim Tucker’s son, nearly 40 years later.
“This unidentified skeleton has a name,” said Cullen Tucker. “We need to find it. We need to help bring justice to these people, to the families.”
The rest of the investigation would lead them to name the suspected victim and uncover their relationship to an alleged bizarre California cult.
Watch Season 2 of “Wild Crime” on Hulu to learn how the story ends.
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