What Life is Like Two Years After Convicting the Golden State Killer

Jennifer Carole Visit jcarole.com
5 min readNov 10, 2022

The arrest had more impact on my life than I ever imagined; give trauma survivors Grace because the road ahead is miserable.

In 1980, when the murder of my dad and stepmom happened, it was a big deal. I talk about it as this rush of noise, like all TV channels turned on at once. Police, lawyers, media, friends, my dad and Charlene’s friends, and more descended on our lives.

Jenny, Jay and Gary Smith in June 1980, three months after the murder.
June 1980: Three months after the murder. Me (Jenny), 18, Jay (center), 15, and Gary (right), 12. Copyright Jennifer Carole.

With her Minnesota DNA, my mom had us soldier on, sending us to school as usual and tricking us into believing this was all normal. We went about our daily routine despite the noise. As I look back, it was dystopian as hell. Whenever I read headlines about a traumatic event, I feel for the families entering that dystopia. It’s hard enough to deal with the trauma. It’s insane when it’s public.

But I couldn’t know then that a delayed arrest or trial, in our case, 40 years delayed, could be even more dystopian.

Catching the killer unleashed a tidal wave of activity.

In April 2018, I was at the height of my career. As a marketing VP in Silicon Valley, my team had just pulled off an amazing RSA (a huge cybersecurity tradeshow). I was getting feedback from industry colleagues that what we’d done was delightful and informative. We’d even secured a coveted speaking spot based on our cybercrime research. I felt amazing.

Then I got a text from my friend Lisa; there’d been an arrest.

Because Ventura’s DA assured me it was a 100% DNA match, I felt comfortable connecting my old name, Jennifer Smith, with my new name, Jennifer Carole — a name I’d used my whole adult life. That connection resulted in interest at a level I failed to predict. I managed to deal with the noise this time more easily and confidently because I was used to working with the media. I can’t imagine how someone with no experience navigates the world of cameras, vans with satellite dishes, and reporters with the same damn questions.

Add to that the followers — many genuinely care and are supportive, thoughtful, and generous. But other followers seem to be addicted to crime porn. They wanted details and didn’t seem to understand this was my life. It is insanely real, painful, and uncomfortable.

Jennifer Carole Visit jcarole.com

Trauma & Leadership Coach. Writer. Crafter. A Master's in strategic comm has served me in Silicon Valley as a marketer; my current passion is cybersecurity!