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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 24 October, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: The case of the serial killer who targeted homeless men

Grab a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. The Obsidian Serpent 

shutterstock_579245569 Source: Shutterstock/Prath

Homeless people are murdered in Orange County – and soon the police realise the cases are linked. The perpetrator? A serial killer who called himself The Obsidian Serpent.

(Atavist, approx 48 mins reading time – audio version also available at the link)

Itzcoatl Ocampo visited his father again not long after the third murder. This time, instead of press clippings, he carried an FBI flier emblazoned with photographs of the victims. Leaning against the light blue door of Refugio’s truck, Itzcoatl showed the flier to his father and pleaded once more for him to stay clean and be vigilant. Refugio tried to reassure him. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m a survivor. Nothing will happen to me.”

2. Young and dumb inside

If you spent much of your teens in love with bands and music, this cartoon will really speak to you.

(The New Yorker, approx 15 mins reading time)

And that’s the kind of crux of fandom, isn’t it? You love the thing for itself, but you love it more for its ability to take you somewhere, to someone. Music is a time machine.

3. Inside the Grenfell Tower fire

Budget 2017 Source: Rick Findler

A devastating account of what happened when a fire ripped through Grenfell Tower.

(GQ, approx 34 mins reading time)

The building had lately been refurbished, its bolted-on satellite dishes stripped from the outside walls and replaced by neat squares of insulating paneling, so that the building’s 1970s concrete core—for 50 years plainly and brownly exposed—was concealed behind the bluish silver of new cladding. Theirs wasn’t an objectionable home, but Talabi couldn’t be comfortable here. He had told his family more than once: “I didn’t like this place from the first day I got in here. And I won’t like it till the last day.”

4. Raising a child with cystic fibrosis

Jen Gann writes about raising her toddler son, who has cystic fibrosis, and the challenges they face along the way.

(The Cut, approx 27 mins reading time)

On the outside, this means CF patients have extra-salty skin. On the inside, it means they have thick, sticky mucus in their lungs, pancreas, and other organs, leading to digestive problems and low weight gain, clogged airways and trapped bacteria. The excess mucus causes persistent lung infections, severely limiting patients’ abilities to breathe until, eventually, they no longer can. People who have CF must treat it vigilantly, with physical therapy to clear airways, inhaled medications, and fistfuls of pills. Doing so takes lots of money and staggering amounts of time.

5. The undercover sting

washington post A still from the video on the Washington Post Source: Washington Post

A woman approaches the Washington Post with a story about Roy Moore – the story is fake, and it looks like the whole thing was a sting.

(Washington Post, approx mins reading time)

In a series of interviews over two weeks, the woman shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. During the interviews, she repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public.

6. Lonely sad deaths

Japan is the world’s most rapidly ageing society – and people are dying alone.

(The New York Times, approx 37 mins reading time)

To many residents in Mrs. Ito’s complex, the deaths were the natural and frightening conclusion of Japan’s journey since the 1960s. A single-minded focus on economic growth, followed by painful economic stagnation over the past generation, had frayed families and communities, leaving them trapped in a demographic crucible of increasing age and declining births. The extreme isolation of elderly Japanese is so common that an entire industry has emerged around it, specializing in cleaning out apartments where decomposing remains are found.


In 2013, the New Yorker looked at the life of mass shooter Amy Bishop, who shot a room full of her colleagues at the Shelby Center for Science and Technology.

(The New Yorker, approx 71 mins reading time)

For fifty minutes, Bishop said nothing. Then, just as the meeting was concluding, she stood up, pulled out the gun, a 9-mm. Ruger semiautomatic, and shot Podila in the head. The blast was deafening. She fired again, hitting a department assistant, Stephanie Monticciolo. Next, Bishop turned and shot Adriel Johnson, a cell biologist. People screamed and ducked for cover, but Bishop was blocking the only door. Moriarity did not fully register what was happening until she saw Bishop—her jaw set, her brow furrowed—train the gun on a fourth colleague, Maria Ragland Davis, and shoot her.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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