Paul Holes would probably like his cases the way he likes his bourbon: neat. That’s not always the case (PUN) of course. Crime is messy and that’s what he likes about it, the challenge, which is what drew him to cold cases. And that’s part of the reason why Paul was able to finally help catch the Golden State Killer. He carried that case with him for over 20 years, never giving up. I spoke with Paul for 75 minutes but I honestly could have spoken to him for 75 years. He still has cases on a thumb drive, and not in 100 dusty boxes like I obviously pictured, and those are stories you want to hear.
Catch Paul Holes (and Billy Jensen!) at our Death Becomes Us true crime festival Saturday, November 9, 2019! Grab your tickets here. (And click here if you’re interested in a meet & greet!)
Brightest Young Things: I heard you were kind of excited about the True Crime PUB.
Paul Holes: That sounds like fun. I had the Washingtonian article forwarded to me and I thought it sounded cool.
BYT: It’s very cool! What’s your preferred drink?
PH: I just drink bourbon neat. In fact I’ve got a glass right now.
BYT: Then we’re off to a great start. So I’m sure you, as a person whose job it was to work in actual crime, is not out there actively listening to true crime podcasts because that would be work…
PH: I’ve never listened to a podcast. I’m doing podcasts now but I’ve never listened to one.
BYT: Here’s what I want for you, will you promise me something? Don’t listen to any podcasts before the festival except for the ones you’re on but they don’t count. If you can stand hearing your own voice then you’re a better person than me.
PH: I can’t do that. I don’t watch myself. I don’t listen to myself. I don’t read anything I say. I just show up, I do something and I leave then move onto whatever the next thing is.
BYT: You’re such a cop. Here’s what we’ll do…we’ll pick out a podcast for you to listen to, your first. It will be a Paul Holes Listening Party. You’re retired so there might be more time to do this.
PH: I was actually retired for 3 weeks when we caught DeAngelo (Golden State Killer).
BYT: Isn’t that an awesome case to go out on?
PH: It really is. The irony is I just found out…I sat in front of his house the day before I turned my badge and gun in. I didn’t realize he was going to really turn out to be the Golden State Killer. He was just a possible suspect at the time. It turns out he and I retired at the same time. He retired at the end of March, as did I. I think my retirement’s going a little bit better.
BYT: Yes! I think your party is much better than his party. I do not think he got a gold watch. Let me ask you this, did you get a good look at him?
PH: I was looking at him and watching the whole thing…I was right there.
BYT: Did you get close enough to see how dead his eyes are? Pretty dead, yes?
PH: When he was in the interview room I saw a very despondent individual. He did not think that day was ever going to come. It was a very good thing seeing this monster being absolutely depressed.
BYT: Do you think it was depression or do you think he was somewhat relieved? A lot of these people secretly want to get caught, so there is a certain amount of relief there.
PH: I can’t say what he internally thought. I would say his external actions during the course of his attacks and over the years…he was all about self-preservation. He did everything he did not to get caught. I was always of the opinion he would continue to fight and try to escape if he thought we were getting close. During the surveillance leading up to his arrest, at one point he does counter-surveillance maneuvers trying to see if there’s a tail. We don’t know if he was doing it because he got hinked up by something or he did that routinely because he was so paranoid. He definitely did not want to get caught.
BYT: Well, it didn’t work. That must have been the best feeling in the world. Speaking of feelings, and I don’t want to stay on this topic for too long but…#HotForHoles. I love wordplay and puns and while I would never make or wear this T-shirt I did come up with one on my own that reads I Dig Paul Holes. I think the Internet would love it.
PH: I’ve had some things forwarded to me that are pretty out there.
BYT: Can you tell me what is the weirdest thing you’ve been sent?
PH: The weirdest thing I have seen, well a couple of things. One was a play on the 50 Shades of Grey book but it was me in my dress down uniform…50 Shades of Holes. Just recently somebody told me about a meme of some woman squatting that reads Squat Like Paul Holes is Watching.
BYT: I don’t even know what that means! Why would you be watching that???
PH: There is also a prayer candle with my face on it.
BYT: Oh that’s nice! What do you think of people who are so obsessed with true crime, because that was your job.
PH: For the most part they’re not any different than I am or I was. There’s a reason why I got into this field. I think there is that fundamental fascination about real crime. I think different people look at it different ways. Ultimately in one sense it’s that kind of facing your mortality and seeing what has happened to other people. On another front it’s, “Why do these guys do this?” There’s that fascination with the criminal mind. I’ve always been more fascinated by the predator type such as Golden State Killer, your serial killer, your serial rapist….fantasy-motivated types of criminality versus monetary motivated.
BYT: Being motivated by money seems superficial. It’s almost more disgusting. I feel like I’m backing myself into a creepy corner.
PH: Nope, no you’re not. I get it.
BYT: The other side of the coin is some kind of sexual satisfaction.
PH: In many ways they’ve sexualized violence. For different offenders it’s different things but fundamentally…and I teach a serial predator course in terms of sort of an introduction and recognition of the serial predator.
BYT: What do you teach in this course? What can I learn without paying for this course.
PH: It came out of my experience having to work cases, and in particular cold cases where responding officers or detectives kind of treated the case as a normal case and failed to recognize something different was happening. This is where I say know thy enemy. It’s understanding that your serial predator and the paraphilias that drive this person will manifest themselves in what you’re seeing at a crime scene. You need to be on the lookout for things that are weird.
These guys do not think like you or I. I use Gary Ridgeway as an example, the Green River Killer. Here’s a guy that was going back to his victim’s bodies days afterwards and having sex with them. At one point during his interview he said he was brushing the maggots away so he could have sex with the bodies. You gotta understand that’s not normal. You have a decomposed body that a pathologist is saying they won’t do a sex kit because there won’t be any evidence there. You go hold on, she may have died two weeks ago but what if the guy had sex with her yesterday. You have to understand how these guys think.
BYT: I feel like I’m a pretty good student of the human brain, as a casual person, not a professional. I gotta say I am completely confused by necrophilia.
PH: You just can’t go there, right?
BYT: Yeah, that’s on my list of no-no’s in any relationship.
PH: Bringing up people like Bill Cosby…he’s drugging women to the point of unconsciousness so he can have sex with them. In many ways that’s a version of necrophilia.
BYT: That does seem to be the motivation…not the death necessarily but the idea that the person can’t fight back. You can do whatever you want.
PH: That’s where you start looking at that overlap of human behavior, especially on the criminality side…you see that you have these gradations. You have something that’s expressed a little bit in somebody and you have something that’s expressed a lot in someone else.
BYT: Does it help you to figure out why someone is doing what they do or is that something you work on after the fact? I suppose that’s the criminal profiling aspect of the investigation.
PH: From an investigative standpoint is really is trying to get a feel of your offender. What is, on a gross scale, what kind of offender am I dealing with here? I just recorded part of a podcast with Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler. The FBI has this big overarching view of these offenders, a whole spectrum they go through and they look at how these guys are. They avoid trying to bend them outside of organized vs disorganized concepts.
I use this rapist typeology…power reassurance, power assertive, anger retaliatory and sexual sadist. I bend them grossly into what this guy is doing, what he’s thinking. If I’m looking at a variety of unsolved cases I’m grossly trying to see if those cases exhibit aspects of an anger retaliatory offender vs a power reassurance offender. If I have a case where it looks like he’s anger retaliatory and this other unsolved case is anger retaliatory there might be a link there and I can explore that.
BYT: That’s so fascinating. I think I missed my calling. Is it too late to switch career paths? I don’t want to go back to school at 38.
PH: Hey I hear ya. I probably did not attend 80% of my courses…my move was having a textbook open while strumming the guitar and watching TV.
BYT: Hold on Paul, you just told me you play the guitar.
PH: Play is kind of a broad term. I bang on a guitar every now and then. I started when I was 14. I got pretty good by 15 and I haven’t improved since then.
BYT: Should we do this at the festival? We’ll dust off the ol’ acoustic guitar. Paul, may I ask what year you were born?
BYT: So it was 1982 when you were strumming that guitar. You probably weren’t doing some early 80’s Cure but maybe some late 70’s Clapton?
PH: The first year on guitar was classical guitar but at the time I was into Van Halen and Def Leppard and all the hair bands. That’s what I was learning on the electric guitar. Over time I’ve moved into different genres. I don’t consider myself proficient at the guitar at all.
BYT: What was the thing/story/movie that made you want to pursue crime as a career?
PH: I would say two different things…one when I was a younger kid around 10 and the other when I was older. When I was young it was a TV show called Quincy. I was fascinated by that TV show and I thought I was going to grow up and become a forensic pathologist. My grades weren’t on par with getting into med school. I also interned at an Air Force hospital. All those doctors were so bitter about their med school experience it turned me off so I started exploring other options.
I was a bio-chemistry major and ended up looking at pharmaceutical sales jobs. I was at a job fair, standing in line for another biotech company which was the up and coming field at the time, in 1990. I look over and there was another booth that had an old style CRT TV setup and on the TV there was a man laying in the middle of a kitchen floor with a pool of blood around him. So I get out of my biotech line and go over to that line where a guy was talking about criminalistics which was forensic science. I wanted to become the guy who goes out to crime scenes and investigates crime scenes and applies sciences to solving cases.
BYT: Was that an actor they hired to lay in a fake pool of blood?
PH: It was staged.
BYT: I was gonna say, that’s some great marketing!
PH: [laughs] Yup, here ya go! This guy just blew his brains out. Ultimately I got hired as a forensic toxicologist which is boring as hell, but my parents of all people, when they were stationed in Bethesda, MD…for my 25th birthday they sent me two books. One book was Crime and Human Nature and the other book was Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives by Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess and John Douglas.
BYT: Oh oh! Who’s ready to meet their hero?
PH: I’m really excited about that! So reading the Sexual Homicide book I figured out that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to become a profiler so I started consuming everything I could about the psychology of criminality, the psychology of serial predators and during that same time frame I’m also getting interested in cold cases.
Cold cases were something that just fascinated me, number one because it was a different era when these cases occurred, number two somebody else tried to solve them and they struck out so I always thought, “Let me see if I can come in and hit the home run.” Part of what I was doing in the early 90’s was not only doing a ton of CSI work but I was also working in the lab doing scientific work. This was in the early infancy of DNA in local law enforcement crime labs. I was on the front edge of using DNA in casework and the very first cold case I ran across was the East Area Rapist case aka the Golden State Killer. I was like, “Oh, here’s an unsolved serial rape case, let’s see if I can use this new DNA technology to solve it.”
BYT: And did you? Just kidding.
PH: It happened!
BYT: That was your first cold case? That’s nuts.
PH: That was the first case I decided to work on and I just kept it with me. I grabbed it and ran with it. When I promoted up I kept the files with me. When I moved over to the DA’s office I kept them with me. This was in 1994.
BYT: Are there any crime scenes that stand out to you as particularly odd? Strange?
PH: I would say probably the strangest case I worked on, which includes the crime scene…I get sent out to a bludgeoning death of a male found inside an upper class community in Contra Costa County. It’s a very nice area. The house is in the middle of the woods and as I’m approaching the door I’m hearing this buzzing sound. I thought it was some sort of electrical issue. It’s over 100 degrees out…June 30, 1999.
BYT: You remember the date???
PH: I have a weird thing about the dates of my cases. I can’t remember my wedding anniversary or my kids birthdays but I remember those.
BYT: Ha! Now who’s weird! Kidding.
PH: [laughs] Yes. So I open up the door to go into the house where the victim is and it’s a cloud of flies. I go inside and the victim is in the process of decomposing. He’s laying there, his face and skull have been caved in…blood spatter is everywhere. The room that he’s in is medieval. It’s dark, wood panels with these velvet red drapes. There was an old medieval table with chairs and chalices on the fireplace.
BYT: You just described my dream house.
PH: It was actually very cool.
BYT: Yes! Even with the blood which probably made sense for the room.
PH: Yeah! Ultimately I get to a point to where I’m now cutting the victim’s clothes off. This is a bloated, decomposed body with maggots feasting on the face and the crushed head.
BYT: How was the smell? What’s the smell doing?
PH: It’s very pungent, very unique. It’s a sickly sweet smell. It’s so hard to describe. Everybody smells the same for the most part when they’re cut open. Decomp is like that smell 100 times stronger.
BYT: So death truly is the great equalizer. We all smell the same.
PH: Oh absolutely. When I go trail running or I’m out and about I’ll get a whiff of that smell and I’ll know there’s a dead body somewhere. It’s not necessarily human but I know.
BYT: Well I guess we’ll take you on a little walk around D.C. and see what we can find.
PH: I’m like a bloodhound. So I’m cutting the victim’s clothes off and I’m careful to preserve the blood patterns. I get the clothes off and I am looking at female genitalia and somebody who has had a double mastectomy.
BYT: Were they transitioning?
PH: That’s what people thought. It turns out the victim, whose name at the time of death was Emmon Bodfish…she was born Margaret Bodfish. The Bodfish family is a big Chicago banking family, old money out of Chicago. She was very wealthy and lived miserly as a recluse but loved cars. She had a Bentley in her garage and was a third order priestess in the Druid religion.
BYT: As in the Celts?
PH: Yes, the Druids are out of the British isles…the Celtics. There was a letter I found in the trunk of her Bentley and I can’t recite it verbatim but it was a weird letter talking about while pouring some milk her right hand failed her. Now she’s screaming at her right hand calling it a stupid piece of shit. Obviously there’s a mental illness going on. That was the first clue. Then we found her diaries. She had 17 years worth of diaries. It turns out as a child her parents hired a nanny who used to verbally abuse her.
Margaret internalized that nanny so now there was an inner voice who would constantly insult her. She called this inner voice Blue Demon Conscience. I believe she was a paranoid schizophrenic. What ended up happening was that in 1977 she had a hysterectomy because of cervical cancer. She never got proper mental care after that and ended up feeling like she was spayed, and that’s how she writes that in her diary “I have been spayed.” Now she’s getting her breasts removed to complete the spaying process. Most people think she was transgender. She never writes that in her diary. She still identifies as a female even though she had her breasts removed and started dressing as a man.
This was a business woman existing in a man’s world which is what she was doing. She believed in reincarnation and thought this demon would follow her into the next life. After a violent car accident the demon got quiet and she realized she needed to die a violent death and she used to hit herself on the head where the demon would reside. She figured out how to quiet the demon, is how she writes in the diary. She died the way she needed to to separate her soul from the demon. I believe it’s assisted suicide in many ways even though these guys committed murder, and I believe there were two men.
BYT: Did she pay these two men to kill her?
PH: There were two paintings taken off the wall, one shows evidence of being torn apart and retaped. I believe there were instructions on the back of the painting. I found a book on her bookshelf called How To (Poof) Disappear and in the margins of that book she wrote about setting up a Japanese bank account then transferring funds to a Swiss bank account. She is setting up a mechanism to hide money. I believe that painting probably had account information as a reward for whoever came in to kill her.
BYT: May I say something. And I would never say this to anyone but you because I think this should be outlawed but…start a podcast. We should start one. I’m after the truth, justice and of course the American way.
PH: I do have a podcast that is currently in pre-production. I’m already paired up with a guy.
BYT: Paul, in these tough 2018 times does the world really need two men on a podcast?
PH: And I brought that up. We need to have that quick-witted female voice.
BYT: Paul that’s me, and I have a great voice for radio.
PH: I think you do.
BYT: Did we just start a podcast? Should we call it Bullet Points? So when can we expect to hear your new podcast?
PH: It will be announced hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m also doing stuff for Oxygen.
BYT: That’s exciting! Back to the story, how did the case end?
PH: Technically it is an unsolved case. The sheriff’s investigators and myself have had a friendly disagreement over the years. They think the son did it. He was found curled up in a bath tub after dissecting his neck and his forearm, committing suicide down in Santa Monica. I don’t think he did it. I read his diaries and just about every morning he would write “Today is the day I’m going to do it,” but never did. Once he found out about his mother’s death I think that’s what did it.
BYT: Ya know if I wanted to hire someone to kill me…where do you start? Craigslist? Who are those people? That’s the craziest part, right?
PH: Part of the research I did was reading about the Pagan beliefs. They believe in assisted suicide if it’s a terminal condition. A year prior she started telling people she had terminal cancer but there was no evidence supporting that. It appears she approached someone with the Pagan world and told them she had a terminal condition and needed help killing herself, but in this special way.
BYT: Well it certainly was special. I don’t think that’s how I’m gonna go.
PH: I would not recommend it.