THE OBSIDIAN SERPENT

by Ezra Buckley on December 1, 2017

A homeless father, a Marine’s death, and the making of a serial killer.

Around 9 p.m. on the chilly night of December 20, 2011, outside a strip mall in Placentia, California, James McGillivray lay down to go to sleep. Fifty-three years old, with a furrowed face, a graying beard, and disheveled, thinning hair, McGillivray was a familiar presence in the homeless community that lived along the Santa Ana River south of Los Angeles. That evening he’d been seen wandering around a liquor store. Now he settled onto a blanket spread out on a patch of sidewalk behind one of the mall’s exterior pillars, beneath the glimmer of fluorescent lamps. It was the last light McGillivray would ever see.

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