Lisa Mather, 18, caught the eye of the serial rapist nicknamed ‘The Earl’, seduced by him, then buried in the Hollywood hills.
Lisa Mather is one of many young Los Angeles who get into the habit of gathering with friends to enjoy the nightlife on the Sunset Strip on weekends. The heart of West Hollywood is known for its shops, restaurants, rock clubs, nightclubs, and a huge array of colorful billboards. Lisa spends many weekends here listening to live music and dancing in clubs.
On January 11, 1985, Lisa and her friends, Aimee Steckler and Anthony O’Farrill met on the Sunset Strip. When denied entry to clubs open only to guests 21 and older, they stood on the sidewalk, where music could still be heard. The group of friends mingled with other partygoers at a nearby construction site, continuing to dance in the parking lot.
Friends last saw Lisa when she was talking to a strange man with long hair. Shortly thereafter, police arrived and asked the minors to disperse from the area. Nowhere to be found, Aimee and Anthony searched the neighboring clubs. They hoped Lisa could reach out by public phone, but they hadn’t seen her by morning.
Lisa’s mother reported her daughter missing on the morning of January 12, 1985. As the days passed, the family received no information about Lisa.
Weeks later, Lisa’s mother received a phone call from a man asking about her daughter. He said he had stolen a van on the Sunset Strip around the time Lisa disappeared. After the car was found, he discovered Lisa’s name and phone number on the matchbox inside the car. He calls Lisa’s home phone number hoping to find the thief. According to this clue, authorities examined the vehicle but found nothing. The case is deadlocked again.
Another theory has been put forward that Lisa may have fallen prey to notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez under the nickname “Night Hunter”. In the 1980s, Richard Ramirez terrified the Los Angeles community after killing at least 13 people and committing multiple rapes throughout the city. Richard was arrested in August 1985, seven months after Lisa went missing.
However, the police believe that Richard’s manner of crime is not entirely appropriate. Lisa is kidnapped on the street, while Richard often breaks into the victim’s house and attacks them. Authorities do not consider the “Night Hunter” a suspect in Lisa’s disappearance.
The clues reached a dead end until Dec. 3, 1986, nearly two years after Lisa was last seen. While piling up a tent on the clearing on the coldwater canyon hillside, a camper discovered human bones beneath the dried branches.
At the scene, investigators found a rope tied to a tree stump and handcuffs hanging from branches. Dental records confirm the remains belonged to Lisa Mather. The condition of the body left authorities unable to determine the cause of death.
Investigators tried to connect Lisa to other similar deaths in the area around the same time frame. They were lucky when they were informed by colleagues in North Hollywood that a serial rapist at Coldwater Canyon had been arrested following Lisa’s disappearance.
Edmund Matthews is a crime agent at a permanent location on the Sunset Strip. He was known as the “Count” for wearing a black robe and a high hat at a costume party. Edmund lures the victims from the Sunset Strip to Coldwater Canyon with the promise of taking them to the celebrity house party. Upon reaching the desolate place, Edmund tied them up, raped them, and released them. The victims said the rapist attacked them where Lisa’s body was found.
Police arrested Edmund on Jan. 28, 1985, after spotting him carrying a lamp and shovel down a hill in Coldwater Canyon. However, the police did not connect Edmund to Lisa’s disappearance earlier and did not search the hill where the rape victims were. When Lisa’s body was discovered, Edmund was serving a 10-year prison sentence for rape.
Two of Lisa’s friends identified Edmund as the man who spoke to Lisa shortly before she disappeared. But the police still lacked evidence to charge Edmund.
During interrogation, Edmund confessed to picking Lisa up on the Sunset Strip but claimed she voluntarily followed him. Edmund said they had consensual sex in the pool of a nearby school before he took her to Coldwater Canyon. He was allowed by Lisa to tie her to a tree to continue the game, but then she lost her balance and slipped down the hillside, entangled in the ropes, and suffocated.
Edmund said he was drunk and couldn’t free Lisa from the rope. He insisted her death was a horrific accident. After the incident, Edmund returned to the scene, and buried part of the body, but was still unable to remove the rope.
The police did not believe Lisa voluntarily went up the hill with Edmund and did not believe she died from being entangled in the ropes as he testified. Evidence at the scene suggested Lisa was most likely lying on her back, tied to a tree, and then strangled.
Although Edmund insisted Lisa’s death was accidental, the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in his Trial in May 1991. Edmund was sentenced to life in prison, unlikely to be pardoned.