A Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist is lending his talents to a crime-fighting television show in an attempt to track down the killer of a young musician who was slain nearly three decades ago.
Berkeley Breathed, best known for the 1980s political comic strip “Bloom County” and the quirky “Opus” cartoon, has more than a passing interest in the 1979 case. Authorities say the killer may have burglarized Breathed’s home when Breathed was a student at the University of Texas in Austin.
The cartoonist’s drawing of the burglary scene will be aired Saturday night on Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted.”
“I had forgotten about it for many years,” Breathed said Thursday in a telephone interview. “Once ‘America’s Most Wanted’ called, I got angry about it all over again.”
In Austin, Michael Cahill’s slaying is remembered as the “Book of Days” murder because the killer was suspected of breaking into the homes of Breathed and several other student photographers who contributed black-and-white pictures to a 1978 desk calendar by that name.
Cahill, 28, was shot to death April 13, 1979, when he confronted a burglar leaving his apartment with his guitar. The University of Texas dropout worked as a cook, but his main pursuit was a music career.
Driving up to his home with friends, he saw a man walking away with his guitar in its case. He jumped from the car, chased the man and was shot to death in his driveway. The killer escaped and was never identified.
Investigators believe the same person who shot Cahill had just broken into the apartment of a photographer in the same building.
“It seems like there was a lot of clues out there, but not the kind of clues that lead to solving the case,” said Sharen Soliz, a detective with the homicide cold case unit of the Austin Police Department.
“What we’re hoping is that by ‘America’s Most Wanted’ featuring this, someone out there knows something,” Soliz said. “If it is the ‘Book of Days’ burglar that committed the murder, someone out there knows. Someone has seen that guitar.”
In 1979, after police went public with the possible connection to the “Book of Days” calendar, the burglaries stopped, Soliz said.
Breathed believes he surprised the intruder during the break-in at his home about a week after the shooting. He said the burglar had stacked albums by his door, including “Dark Side of the Moon,” by Pink Floyd.
“The house was turned upside down, and it took a few minutes to understand what happened,” he said.
Like similar break-ins at the time, the perpetrator seemed to be focused on a few selected items.
“He ended up killing a musician, and he was stealing music as well as photographs and photographic equipment,” Breathed said. “There was this odd connection between the music and photographic community.”
At the time, Breathed recalled, he and his fellow photographers at the university began to view one another suspiciously.
Breathed did not know Cahill personally, but had heard of him from the city’s vibrant music scene.
“I found it very exciting to help out,” he said. “Mike Cahill might not be completely forgotten. ... I’m quite hopeful and thankful that we get a second chance. It doesn’t happen often.”