Joel Bremmer (b. 1958) was the police reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He was raised in a suburb of Austin, Texas by his mother in a single-parent home, seeing his father, an itinerant blues-musician, once or twice a year at most. His mother was described as "a disciplinarian and plain mean-spirited when it came to her son"; she died of complications stemming from alcoholism in 1972. At that time, he was sent to a state boys' farm, where he wrote for a student newspaper. Bosch described him as overweight, with thinning hair and a thick beard.
He wrote a best-selling book about the Beauty Shop Slasher (Harvard Kendal) which featured Bosch and his partner at that time.
He covered the Dollmaker serial murder cases that LAPD detective Harry Bosch investigated in 1989. In September of 1990, he covered a break-in at WestLand National Bank. He later wrote a book titled The Dollmaker describing the Westside Strangler investigation, which was published in September of 1991. To all outward appearances he was a normal, successful journalist and author. However, he had a very dark and sick side to his personality that he kept well hidden.
Beginning in July of 1989, he began copycatting the Dollmaker murders, having such intimate details of the murders as his access to the investigation gave him. He attacked one former adult film performer, Velvet Box, on an outcall at the Hollywood Star Motel on 17 June 1989, then proceeded to killed two former adult film performers on outcalls – Nicole Knapp on 6 July 1989 and Shirleen Kemp on 28 September 1989. Both murders were credited to the Dollmaker, complicating the investigation of that case due to the irregular schedule of killings they created. But unlike the Dollmaker, he left his victims in public places where they would be found.
After the death of Norman Church, Bremmer was forced to conceal his victims in order to not attract too much scrutiny, though he continued to following the killing model of the Dollmaker. He killed four more ex-pornstars – Candi Cummings, Gallery, Dee Anne Dozit, TeXXXas Rose – over the next two years, murdering roughly every six to seven months. Additionally, he killed Rebecca Kaminski in January of 1992, another victim around August of 1992, and Mood Indigo in March of 1993. He buried Kaminski's body in the concrete foundation of Bing's Billiards.
Meanwhile, Bremmer continued to work as a journalist with close ties to the LAPD. Bosch leaked the results of Calexico Moore's autopsy to Bremmer in December of 1992. On 2 October 1993, Bremmer wrote an article titled "Armed Robbers Hit Mid-City Check Casher", a case which had a link to the Bonnie Brae arson case.
Bremmer covered the civil court case in November of 1993 when Deborah Church sued Bosch for the wrongful death of her husband, who Bosch had shot to death at the culmination of the Dollmaker case. He wrote a Dollmaker-styled letter to Bosch describing the location of Kaminski's body and left it at the Hollywood Division police station, as well as mailing a photocopy to civil rights attorney Honey Chandler, who was representing the widow Church. In addition, he wrote an article for the Times tying the trial to the recently-discovered body and the new letter, but the article was published two days after the postmark on the letter to Chandler, indicating that the letter writer knew in advance what was going to be printed in the Times.
Chandler kept the envelope that Bremmer's letter came in, with its incriminating postmark. Realizing that the postmark date could implicate him, Bremmer tortured Chandler to get her to give him the envelope. This included biting and burning her with a cigarette. She did not give up the envelope, and he killed her in Dollmaker style. Bosch discovered the envelope in her house while investigating her murder and realized what the postmark meant.
Bremmer was later cornered and arrested in his apartment by Bosch, who secretly recorded Bremmer confessing to the murders. Imprints of his teeth were later matched to the bite-marks on Chandler's body, while his pubic hair was matched to hairs found on the bodies of Knapp and Kemp. Soon after, a storage locker that Bremmer had rented in Culver City under the name of Woodward was located, and police found videotapes of the murders along with "cuffs, belts, gags, a knife, and a Glock nine." At that time, Bremmer decided to make a deal with the district attorney's office, accepting life in prison without the possibility of parole in exchange for giving police the locations of his remaining victims' bodies.
His position as crime beat writer was filled after his arrest by Keisha Russell.