Here we have a chart that I created showing the types of incidents (mere prowling, a burglary/ransacking, and the two violent confrontations) attributed to the Visalia Ransacker throughout his known criminal career (1973-1976). Most likely it appears quite small in your browser window — simply click on it to enlarge it.
Laid out in this manner, not only can you see the ratio of prowlings to ransackings, but you can get a feel for any patterns that might’ve occurred, and you can clearly see when he was most active and when he was dormant. You can also see what seems to be escalation and a frenzy of activity at certain points.
It’s my hope that this can help folks gain a better understanding of how prolific this offender was, and that insights can be gained as to perhaps why he was active at the times that he was, and why he might’ve laid low during some of the quieter times. It’s also interesting to note that the first incidence of violence, the Snelling murder, didn’t stop him, but he did seem to be gradually slowing down after what appears on the surface to be the 1975 peak. I should also note that the data becomes a bit skewed in that month because of the fact that the Snelling murder, being a homicide investigation, resulted in a much more thorough sweep of the area and more prowling incidents were recorded that would’ve otherwise been left unreported.
The Visalia Ransacker, a unique brand of offender who terrorized a very small area of California for a period of over two years, caught my attention a long time ago due to the case’s possible association with the East Area Rapist.
This is an actual photo of the spent rounds from the gun that killed Claude Snelling. Sorry for the low quality of it… I’ve been unable to obtain a better version. It’s still chilling to see, and I thought it would be the perfect item to use to remind people about this tragic murder.
On September 11th, 1975 at 2:20 AM, journalism professor Claude Snelling was shot to death while interrupting the abduction of his daughter by a masked man. The man was suspected of being the Visalia Ransacker, a sexually-motivated burglar who had been targeting the small town of Visalia, California since 1973.
While examining the physical evidence, investigators carefully noted ballistics information on the bullets that killed Snelling. They didn’t have a match for them, but since the Ransacker was suspected of being the killer, they began digging.
On August 31st, 1975, the Visalia Ransacker stole a gun during one of his many burglaries. Even though the gun had been stolen, the owner of the gun had filed a police report and when they came into contact with him again, he told investigators that they could find some old rounds that he had shot into a canal bank at a location nearby. These rounds were recovered and the ballistics were tested against the ballistics from the gun that killed Snelling.
They were a match. The Visalia Ransacker was the killer.
The weapon has never been recovered, and unfortunately, the Visalia Ransacker has never been identified. Some researchers feel that he later evolved and became the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer. Identifying one or both of these criminals would go a long way toward finding closure and justice for many victims.