Back in the late 1970’s around Sacramento Ca. there was a wave of fear that gripped every woman that walked the streets, the fear of the East Area Rapist AKA The (Original) Night Stalker. Writer/ Director Cameron Cloutier, sets out to shed some light on a Serial Rapist and a girl that time has almost forgotten.
This a a project with a purpose that needs support. Intrigued by it, I sat down with Cameron to talk about the film and the incredible girl that inspired him.
1. The intense serial killer drama you are making is based on actual events. What can you tell me about it?
The film is called, “Bird with a Broken Wing” and it’s based on the true story of Janelle Lisa Cruz, the last known victim of the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker; California’s worst (and still uncaught) serial killer/sex offender.
It will chronicle her life as well the killer’s crimes as they each continue to move a step closer to meeting that fateful night, examining why she may have been the last.
Based upon my own extensive research and interviews with the family members that I’ve conducted over the last four year, making the FBI look carefully at a few new suspects.
2. You have been working on this story for some time. What is it about Janelle that stayed with you?
That she is sincerely one of the bravest people I’ve ever heard about.
She was a beautiful young girl; also a writer, a best friend, a lover, a daughter, a sister, with the inner spirit of a warrior that never let her quit—even when things were at their worst.
Her passion for following through and never betraying herself has been an inspiration for myself every step of the way of this project.
Literally everything I’ve learned in regards to her has impressed me.
3. I’ve lived here my whole life and never heard of this case. Why do you think it has never gained mass attention?
You got me.
I’m in the same boat. I have lived in a number of these neighborhoods myself and never once heard of these crimes either. Not until two friends told me about them. I remember thinking, “Oh, come on. Something this big never happened. There would be so much press if it did.”
Nope. It did happen. End of story.
Although I do think the crimes were buried for two reasons:
1. The police never caught him. It took over 15 years to connect the same guy in all the attacks/murders through DNA connection. Even with having his fingerprints and DNA on file, no viable suspect has ever been on law enforcement’s radar.
2. The many people who were affected by these crimes and lived just want this story to go away. It’s the ostrich syndrome. Out of sight, out of mind, you know? I can understand not wanting to inspire possible copycats but this is one guy who should not get away with what he did.
4. As you did your research, did you uncover conflicting views of whom Janelle was as a person that may have led to her death?
Surprisingly no. Everyone I have talked, whether it be family or friends, have all said that she was a wonderful person.
That she was one of the sweetest, nicest people you would ever meet. But if you crossed her, or dared to mess with someone she cared about, then all bets were off.
The transitions Janelle made from sugar and spice sweetness into full blown aggression are definitely considered epic and jaw dropping to those who knew her.
My kind of girl.
5. Do you have any personal theories on The Original Night Stalker and do those play a role in the film?
I think it’s next to impossible to not have some theories after you’ve delved into these cases for any substantial length of time.
However, most of those have to go by the wayside when chronicling this story because I wouldn’t want to veer potential witnesses away from coming forward.
It’s definitely a tightrope act when dealing with such sensitive material, but absolutely essential. One should only put down the facts of what is known, not theorized.
That being said, some of the incidents which happened to Janelle prior to her death may have contributed to why he came out of hiding for her, but of course, no one really knows.
6. You’ve already attracted an interesting cast and crew. How did Harry Manfredini come onboard as composer?
I met Harry at one of the Creation Weekend of Horror Conventions so when this project came up, I immediately reached out to him–and he was just taken by it all.
I remember asking him if he would like to be involved and he confidently replied, “Yes, of course. Do you have to ask? This film needs to be made!”
7. Lynn Lowry is a genre fav as well. What part will she be playing and did she bring any knowledge of the case?
Lynn is currently interested in playing the part of Janelle’s mother, who severely struggled in many ways to help her daughter through a variety of emotional, behavioral problems. Definitely a challenging role but it’s one that I’m sure Lynn will gladly embrace.
Like many others, she had never heard of these cases either, but after watching a trailer I made (using an interview I conducted with Janelle’s mom), she was literally speechless.
8. You have Alia Omran as Janelle. What was it about Alia that captured Janelle?
Alia is a very accomplished actress on stage who is currently looking to break out in features.
Right now she is auditioning to play Janelle and has been gracious enough to do some test shots for the film’s publicity.
Like others, she is determined to help get this story to the screen.
9. You’ve done quite a bit of work on this film already. Would you say that you’ve become obsessed by the story?
I was incredibly interested in telling the story of Janelle Lisa Cruz and the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker right from the start.
After a year or more of research, another two for writing and trying to raise the financing, I can say with confidence that I’m in it for the long haul.
Each new obstacle that comes my way only focuses me more and when this film is done, I can assure you its story and characters will blow people’s minds.
10. What do you want people to take away from this film?
That this is a true story and that it all really happened. This isn’t one of those b.s. horror movies that states, “Based on a true story” and the only thing that maybe, kinda, sorta happened is that something similar, but probably not, not really occurred. No, these are a series of crimes that really did happen to real live people.
I want people to know this killer/rapist has still never been identified, caught, or arrested and that is a real shame. Maybe someone out there knows something. One can only hope.
I would also like people to know that we can all be like Janelle. We can all look evil in the eye and say, “No.” And even though she died, the E.A.R./O.N.S. never struck again after encountering her, so it is my belief that Janelle’s actions that night did save others from a similar fate.
I mean, having that kind of inner strength is something we can all honestly learn from.
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