Investigator Paul Holes on Becoming a True-Crime Sensation and Hosting 'DNA of Murder' (Exclusive)

Paul Holes

Holes, who helped identify the Golden State Killer, opens up about his fandom, his Oxygen series and his interest in cold cases.

Fans of the true-crime genre probably know the name, Paul Holes. 

Now retired, the former Cold Case Investigator and Chief of Forensics for the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office in California spent two-and-a-half decades tracking down the Golden State Killer. In April 2018, Joseph James DeAngelo was finally identified as the alleged longtime murderer and rapist and taken into custody

Soon after, Holes emerged as the unexpected face of the case, interviewed on-camera about his longtime work, talked about on true-crime podcasts like My Favorite Murder, and subsequently fawned over by fans, who used #HotforHoles to tweet about him. 

“I never received the type of media attention that I got,” Holes tells ET. “I remember talking to a co-worker -- because I was working this Golden State Killer case and back then, it was known as East Area Rapist -- and this co-worker said, ‘Hey, if you solve that case you're going to become famous.’ And my response back was, ‘Well, who solved the Green River Killer case? Who solved BTK?’ Those investigators did great work, you know. So I just thought I would just be an asterisk at the bottom of a Wiki page.”

An anonymous investigator no longer, Holes became an overnight hero and, just as quickly, the internet’s true-crime boyfriend. “Absolutely flattered by #HotforHoles,” he tweeted on May 8, 2018, just two weeks after DeAngelo’s arrest.  

“It’s been surreal,” Holes says, acknowledging that it’s given him some opportunities to expand his career into media, which now includes co-hosting the Murder Squad podcast alongside investigative journalist Billy Jensen, who helped update the late Michelle McNamara’s Golden State Killer novel, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and leading the investigative TV series The DNA of Murder With Paul Holes.  

“It's given me a platform to help out on issues,” he continues. “You know, to be able to get involved with forensic genetic genealogy and trying to ensure that tool is something that will be maintained for law enforcement to be able to use. And as we move forward, to be able to give other law enforcement individuals a conduit in order to be able to talk about their cases, like we do on the Murder Squad.” 

On DNA of Murder, which is now halfway through its first season on Oxygen, Holes and a team of experts -- Loni Coombs, Yolanda McClary and Laura Richards -- travel around the country to dive into unsolved homicides by analyzing the physical and emotional “DNA” left behind by the crime. “You’re getting into the fundamentals, the foundation of the case, the DNA of the case,” Holes says of taking audiences inside his methodology and approach to trying to solve these real-life lingering mysteries. “Each case, there are so many complex aspects that have to be taken into consideration.” 

So far, they have revisited a 1980 murder in Williamsburg, Iowa, where two hotel guests were founded bludgeoned to death in their room; gone to Kansas City, Kansas, to attempt to solve the 1989 murder of an 18-year-old teenage girl; and, in the next episode, will investigate the 1994 killing of a 41-year-old smalltown Montana mother who was stabbed to death days after Thanksgiving. 

Laura A. Oda/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Doing the series, Holes says, has allowed him to continue to explore a passion that drove his professional career for so many years. “There was a reason why I did cold case investigations throughout the majority of my career because it’s what I truly love,” he explains. “And that was my fear when I retired. You know, we had that role in solving the Golden State Killer case, I kind of felt a void in my life. I've kind of done this and I probably won't have an opportunity to do that again.”

With DNA of Murder, he’s working on cases all across the nation. While it’s from the media side, “it is enough to where I'm feeling like I'm accomplishing something,” Holes says. On top of that, the series seems to be connecting with fans. “Through social media, I’m seeing that viewers are enjoying the content of the show,” he adds.

Interest in Holes will surely continue if anyone decides to do a scripted version of the Golden State Killer case. While a likely possibility given the true-crime craze, nothing’s been formally announced. Though, Holes has heard people say Brad Pitt should play him. “That’s very flattering,” he says, revealing that he likes Josh Duhamel. “But, you know, it really doesn’t matter. If it comes to be, whoever plays me, I would be perfectly happy with.” 

In the meantime, HBO is currently working on a new docuseries based on McNamara’s book directed by Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Liz Garbus with Jensen and McNamara’s researcher Paul Haynes heavily involved. “They ended up filming with me,” he says of Jensen and Haynes, adding that he’s planning to sit down for an on-camera interview “as they’re closing in on wrapping up the filming for that project.” 

While the HBO documentary will likely be the definitive take on the case, Holes doesn’t expect it’ll be the last time he talks about it. “I fully expect that I’ll be 80 years old and long retired and some reporter’s going to knock on the door, saying they’re doing a story about the Golden State Killer. I fully expect the case will stay with me for the rest of my life.” 

The DNA of Murder With Paul Holes airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. ET on Oxygen.