Detective. Scientist. Hero. Hunk?
Paul Holes — the investigator who dreamed up a clever way to genetically track one of California's most elusive bad guys, the Golden State Killer — has become an unlikely internet obsession for thousands of mostly-female true crime fans.
"He’s just a babe," said Sacramento designer Annie Breault, 24, who started crushing on Holes after he was mentioned in Michelle McNamara's book about the case, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark."
"Being in forensics and being so smart to solve that case ... he’s every girl's hero right now," she said.
Fans like Breault frequent Reddit threads and Facebook pages on serial killers, unsolved cases and the people who pursue the perpetrators. One Facebook group dedicated solely to Holes started two weeks ago and has earned 300 members. On that page, fans make memes hailing his hotness, imagine what his wife thinks and dissect his every interview, of which there are now dozens.
Breault even made a coir welcome mat that reads: "You better have pizza, wine or Paul Holes with you."
It sells for $38.50 on Etsy.
Holes, 50, also has his own hashtag, #hotforholes, which is trending in certain social media circles. It was coined by fan Allison Birdsong of Atlanta.
"Is he nice to look at? Absolutely," said Birdsong, a 38-year-old nanny who added that her "husband is horrified" by her Holes hobby. But she is undeterred.
"Women who are fans of true crime worship the ground he walks on," she said. "There are tons of other (true crime investigators), it just so happens Paul Holes is the best to look at. We cannot help that."
The Holerinos, as some fans including Birdsong call themselves, don't show any signs of losing interest soon. On Wednesday, about 16 hours after creating his first Twitter account, Holes had 5,604 followers.
They want details about their icon, a trim and intense guy who they say exudes confidence, capability and modesty: What does he smell like, they want to know. What will he do next?
The attention on the recently-retired Contra Costa County criminalist has grown so intense that he hired a talent agency, XG Productions, to handle press and help him negotiate a Hollywood deal for his 20-plus years investigating the Golden State Killer, also called the East Area Rapist.
He started his search for the rapist and killer as a fresh police academy graduate and forensic toxicologist in Contra Costa when he was in his 20s. He had graduated from UC Davis with a degree in biochemistry, but back then, being hired in the crime lab meant going through the police academy and being a sworn officer as well.
Despite his scientific background, the lure of the chase was too much, so he became an active-duty cop instead of an evidence technician.
"I very quickly got more interested in the investigative side to the point where the other guys in the lab were saying, 'That’s not your job,' " Holes said.
One day, not long after becoming a deputy, he discovered a dusty metal file cabinet in the department library. In the bottom two drawers, there were forgotten manila folders labeled "EAR," he said, the acronym for East Area Rapist, though he didn't know that at the time. After pulling them out and discovering the sordid and unsolved cases inside, he was hooked, he said.
The case became a career-long obsession.
Holes said he plans on writing a book about his pursuit of the East Area Rapist and maybe other cases. But right now, he hasn't "even had a chance to digest anything" since retiring in March, just before the DNA evidence led to the arrest of a suspect.
The attention toward Holes began April 25 when he attended a press conference announcing the arrest of Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo in Sacramento. Without him uttering a word, true crime fans recognized the previously quiet investigator and began posting about him online, some of it sexually graphic.
"A lot of people in (the true crime Facebook group) were like, 'Who is that hottie standing in the background?' " Birdsong said.
Since then, he's turned into a "rock star," said Jim Clemente, one of the principals of XG Productions and Holes' new talent agent.
XG Productions — short for ex-G men — specializes in representing former law enforcement members. Clemente himself is a former FBI profiler who helped catch the D.C. snipers. In addition to his duties at XG, he also serves as a writer and co-producer for the television show "Criminal Minds."
Clemente recently took Holes to a true crime convention in Nashville, Tenn., where Clemente said there were "about 3,000 women ... who all think he's very easy to look at."
"I was surprised," Clemente said. "But he was, too."
Holes, who lives in Vacaville, said he didn't expect to become a sex symbol after 20-plus years of toiling as an obscure lawman in the Bay Area, but he didn't mind the gaggles of ladies requesting selfies with him at the gathering.
"They are all wanting to come up and get photos, but they are all super nice, and (it's) nothing overtly sexist, like all the sudden I am feeling like an object," Holes said. "Here I'm a 50-year-old-guy, but at the same time it is flattering."
Holes said he doesn't follow any of the online sites. "I am just being told about it and getting a good chuckle," he said.
But his wife has checked out his internet groupies and "is starting to get a little, 'Wait a minute ... ,'" he said.
The women who admire Holes are quick to say it's for more than his looks — which include good teeth with an even smile, a slightly receding hairline and the occasional wearing of black-framed glasses. They stress it's about what they describe as his integrity, smarts and dogged determination. And they all say they mean no disrespect to his Mrs.
"Literally, he’s like a detective out of central casting to me," said fan Teri Smith, 50, of Utah. "If you were putting an ad in Variety for open casting, he would be who you pick out for smooth, handsome, unflappable detective."
Adds Birdsong: "The time and the energy and the dedication he put into catching the Golden State Killer, that is something that women everywhere have to appreciate."