Between December 2021 and January 2022, four women wound up dead in Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa Counties. Three of the four were publicly described as “suspicious” by their respective investigatory agencies and beyond that, little information was offered “pending an autopsy.”
In the vacuum of information, social media did what it does best and the speculation began. Basing the analysis on commonalities such as gender, the geographic proximity of these deaths, and the rural sites their bodies were located, a serial killer was given life on the internet.
Social media posts began to circulate warning women to “Please be careful” and “Don’t go places alone, especially at night.”
The three law enforcement agencies investigating these crimes were contacted and all three unequivocally said there is no connection between these four women’s tragic deaths and there is no serial killer preying on North Coast women.
But, a tale as intoxicating as a North Coast serial killer dies hard.
A post on the r/Sacramento subreddit now since-deleted reignited the speculators by claiming the North Coast Killer’s geographic range had expanded to the capital city satellite town of Rancho Cordova.
The post was titled “Suspected Serial Killer in the Sacramento area – the cops are keeping it hushed.” The author of the now-removed post claimed a friend of hers knows a bar owner in Rancho Cordova who was asked by law enforcement to examine their exterior surveillance footage “to see if they could figure out who dumped the body of an area young woman at the river near the clay cliffs.”
According to the post, this bar owner reportedly had an in-depth conversation with these officers who said: “they are tracking a pattern of these discoveries that started in Mendocino, then moved to Wilkins, Napa, and now Rancho Cordova (Sacramento).”
After reportedly divulging they were investigating a serial killer spanning Northern California, the officers were said to simply ask the bartender “to keep it hushed.”
The post included a strident condemnation of law enforcement “not issuing warnings to the public.” “I understand not wanting to panic people, but people also have the right to know to be alert,” the author argued.
The post was deleted by its original author, and the moderators r/Sacramento locked the thread as Redditors digitally dogpiled on the author calling the speculation “irresponsible” and one mocked the third-hand nature of the presented information writing “Source: Dude, trust me.”
We spoke with Bobby Perry, the actual owner of the bar called Rstop in Rancho Cordova that was referred to vaguely in the post, who told us, “The post is full of false information.” She never had “an in-depth conversation with the police and they didn’t ask me to stay hushed.” The police did not mention anything regarding Mendocino or Napa Counties, Perry confirmed. She learned about the other deceased women after a social media commenter wrote about them in a comment on a post about the recently discovered deceased Rancho Cordova woman.
As per a press release from the Rancho Cordova Police Department, 20-year-old Rancho Cordova woman Emma Roark was reported missing to police on Thursday, January 27, 2022, after leaving her residence.
On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, RCPD announced Roark had been found deceased in a “secluded rural area at the river access on El Manto.” Investigators determined Roark was the victim of a homicide and an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.
Roark’s death became part of an ongoing websleuth campaign connecting her to the deaths of four North Coast women: 22-year-old Ukiah woman Alyssa Mae Sawdey, 33-year-old Willits woman Amber Dillon, 37-year-old Napa woman Crystal Lea McCarthy, and 33-year-old Guerneville woman Cynthia Crane.
The evolution of this North Coast Killer narrative began when Amber Dillon was found deceased in a rural area near the Mendocino/Sonoma County line on January 7, 2022. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office would later deem her death as “suspicious.”
Four days later Alyssa Mae Sawdey was found deceased north of Ukiah. Later the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would also deem her death as suspicious.
Mendocino County community members began to connect the two women’s deaths immediately, pointing towards their common gender, their youth, their Mendo roots, and the characterization of the deaths as “suspicious” as fodder for this serial killer narrative.
Once the social media speculative train began to move, it picked up speed quickly. Soon this North Coast Killer was suspected of being involved with the death of Crystal McCarthy, a Napa woman who was found deceased in the Napa River on December 23, 2021.
Another victim of this manufactured serial killer was identified by the name of Cynthia Crane, a 33-year-old Guerneville woman whose death was labeled “suspicious” after she was found floating in a rural Sonoma County waterway.
Approximately two weeks ago we spoke with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and Napa Police Department hoping to verify or disprove these claims as their proponents’ fervor gathered steam online.
Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Juan Valencia flatly told us, “There is no information or evidence there is a serial killer, and if there was, we would tell them. We would want the community to be on high alert and be aware of the danger.”
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall spoke to us after the back-to-back deaths of the Mendocino County women Amber Dillon and Alyssa Mae Sawdey saying after “exhaustive efforts of investigators” there is currently, “no connection between these two cases.” He added, “[I]f I thought we had a serial killer out there, the public would be the first to know.”
Detective Brandt Keown, one of the Napa Police Department’s investigators looking into the death of Crystal McCarthy, said “I did not know there were rumors. I did know about these others. I don’t think there is a serial killer.”
We will be reaching out to all involved law enforcement agencies who are investigating the cases involved in this serial killer narrative once again to check in on the status of their investigation, including the Rancho Cordova Police Department.
Fundamentally, the tragedy of these five women’s deaths is hard to fathom, but as of now, every law enforcement agency, the men and women tasked with identifying serial killers, have emphatically denied it.
These agencies are tasked with bringing closure to these womens’ families and making sense of their untimely deaths. In those efforts, they are asking the public for information regarding these five cases.
If you know anything about the circumstances surrounding Dillon’s or Crane’s death, contact Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 565-2650.
If you have information about Sawdey’s death, contact Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 234-2100 or the WeTip anonymous crime reporting hotline at (800)782-7463.
If you have information about the death of Crystal Lea McCarthy, contact Napa Police Department Detective Brendt Keown at (707) 257-9592.
If you know anything about the death of Emma Roark contact the Rancho Cordova Police Department at (916) 362-5115 or Tip information may also be left anonymously at http://www.sacsheriff.com or by calling (916) 874-TIPS (8477).
- Conjecture on Social Media Grows as a Central Valley Woman’s Homicide Is Added to the Dubious North Coast Serial Killer Narrative
- Despite Law Enforcement’s Emphatic Denials, Social Media Insists Four Women Are Victims of a North Coast Serial Killer
- Sheriff Kendall on Rumors a Serial Killer Is Behind Recent ‘Suspicious’ Deaths of Mendocino County Women: ‘Currently, There Is No Evidence They’re Connected’
- Amber Dillon
- Alyssa Mae Sawdey