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Little Girl Gone



This story is based on facts obtained from interviews with members of the community, from news stories and when available, from police reports.

The murder of Danielle Karlen, 23 is officially unsolved, although there were many witnesses to the horrific crime. There are many other killings, in this community and nearby Bakersfield which have attracted public attention and baffled law enforcement officials. This one is noteworthy because of its brutal nature and that it happened on a public street.

Keep in mind the details that follow are true to the best of my knowledge and that when someone is taken from the community by homicide, there are often numerous other victims whose stories are unspoken. The city itself becomes a casualty in these episodes as well.

If you know the people in this story, grant a moment of silence to those affected. If not, I ask you to do the same. And if you are someone who has some insight or knowledge of what happened, please offer your information to the proper authorities

On Beardsley Avenue

Perhaps no other street in the entire town represents the misery, Oildale has to offer. Abandoned shopping carts, fenced-off empty dirt lots, decomposing trailer parks. Large trash receptacles, parked on the street serve as a potential gold mine for the night scavengers.

As you move along the avenue, from the entrance on Chester Avenue, you notice the U-Haul lot, the new market and the clubhouse owned by the Christian Biker group. The impeccable facade of these establishments completely contradicts the dingy boulevard found a few steps within.

Parolees from prison gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, tweakers, and other outlaw types dominate this street. Sneakers hang from the electric wires between two graffitied poles. An occasional stray mongrel runs by. Half-dressed pedestrians walk into houses with boarded-up windows and cyclists ride by on bicycles they are much too old for.

A smiling girl

A smiling girl

Little Girl Lost

Like many of the young people living in the small community of Oildale, census track 000101 in Kern County, population varies depending upon which authority you seek (but it seems to be in the neighborhood of 35,000) Danielle was unsure of her future.

There is little opportunity in this little town, on the edge of the Kern River which moves through the nearby city of Bakersfield's northern border. The poverty rate in 2019 was measured at 27.5% - nearly two-and-a-half times the national average of 11.8%. This predominantly Caucasian pocket was once known as a Sundowner Town with a sign on the Kern River Bridge that read something along the lines that if you were of a certain group, you had better make sure you crossed back into the city after sunset.

Crime runs rampant and unemployment rates are double-digit. The average income of $38,274 is almost half of the state's $75,277. One of the major concerns with this area is the influx of narcotics.

Like many young people in Oildale, Karlen had some confrontations with the local demons.

References: Demographic Data Links

  • https://datausa.io/profile/geo/oildale-ca/
    In 2018, Oildale, CA had a population of 34.7k people with a median age of 32.9 and a median household income of $38,254. Between 2017 and 2018 the population of Oildale, CA grew from 34,496 to 34,723, a 0.658% increase and its median household incom
  • Oildale, CA - Profile data - Census Reporter
    Census data for {{ geography.this.full_name }} (pop. 34,763), including age, race, sex, income, poverty, marital status, education and more.

Out of the Doldrums, Into the Rough Seas

Whether it was boredom and the need for excitement in a dusty trailer park lined street with little promise, or some other influence is uncertain. But this is a fate that many young people in the area have succumbed to.

"In the 'Dale, it's mostly meth and heroin," says one unidentified resident. "You hear about fentanyl but that's other areas. For the rich kids. Here is all smack."

For little Danielle it was probably a normal stage to go through. It was probably what expected of you if you grew up here. You either participated or were an outsider. If you didn't fit in, you're a cop or worse a rat. The rite of passage that includes experimentation turns into an addiction for some. And from there, it's just a slippery slope into the netherworld.

It was a death sentence either way.

Sundown Towns - more information

Karlen in (an almost) smug pose

Karlen in (an almost) smug pose

If You Have Any Information, Call: (661) 322-4040

The Laudable and the Lore

To those who knew her and cared for her, she was a good friend.

"She was really beautiful," says Charlie. "Inside, and out. She had a good heart and people liked her." Charlie was born and raised here. Graduated high school, got married and soon found herself participating in the local activities.

The fact that in 2016, one-third of all the 1,600 drug arrests in the entire county, was made here, testifies to Oildale's prowess as a drug community.

Some say that Karlen was sucked into the life and that she met a local dealer and after trying to steal his guns, was punished for it.

Others say, jealous girls, haters, envious of Karlen's long locks and thin body, decided to do her in. The punishment though seems a rather severe one for this scenario.

From her Facebook photos, Danielle was charismatic obviously. She seemed full of life and promise and had a whole world ahead of her.

From Her Facebook Page


Theories and Other Stories

All the people I encounter who know anything about the case say: "Everyone knows what happened. Everyone knows who did it." No one will say much more. And the stories change from time to time, even some of the specific details about the murder itself.

I am standing on Beardsley Avenue now, at a fence and looking into the yard where it happened. An empty wooden shed, boarded up and stained with graffiti stands there. Probably one like she had.

People have left stuffed animals, poems, strands of silver and gold garland. Candles burn, colorful stones, a bottle of powerful liquor. I see people coming out on porches looking at me. A girl in a halter top walks by and gives me a long stare.

One young man approaches me, "I told the cops what happened and who did it. They know, they just don't want to do anything about it."

"Oh," I ask, curious. "Who did it?"

He looks away, towards the empty yard and then in the air. He scratches his head. "I can't say."

I think for a minute. "Someone told me the AB. She stole some guns."

"Yeah, people say the Mexican Mafia. But no." And then he stands his bike up and looks directly at me. "Don't tell anyone you talked to me!". He turns and I watch him peddle away.

Stolen guns, stolen drugs, gangsters. Jealous girls.

Another story says that she started dating the boyfriend of another local girl and that when this was discovered, that was it.

Hell, literally broke loose.


The Devil is in the Details

The screams could be heard all up and down the block. When people came running and saw the flames they were forced back because of the heat.

Or so it is said.

Others report that you could hear her banging on the walls of the shed and boarded up windows that were nailed tightly shut. She was in there alone, the boyfriend she lived with in the shack had left to see friends.

Another story says that someone had taken some rags soaked in water (How this was known, I am not sure) and tied her to a chair. Then they poured accelerant all over the interior and exterior and set it on fire.

If her hands were tied, how could she have banged on the walls?

As I said, the details of the story differ. The fact is though that there was a young couple in poverty, staying in the structure and it caught fire. She was the only one inside and never made it out.

No one should have had to live in that sort of squalor and certainly, no one deserved to die a horrific death of that nature.

Oildale was once known for severe racism and violence towards minorities. Beardsley Street was the criminal heart of Oildale - drug dealers, arms traffickers, racist gangs such as the "Beardsley Street Krew" BSK and the "Nazi LowRidaz" NLR, and plenty of sex offenders to boot.

— The Urban Dictionary

Heroin Alley and Whore Corner

The streets of Beardsley and McCord - just a block north - are known as heroin alley. It's the place to go when you want something. You have to be careful if you live nearby too because addicts are always looking for their next fix and will steal anything to get it. It isn't unusual to see someone pulling a cart of junk or a truck driving by with a load of (stolen) bicycles in the cab.

This is definitely a closed-in community that doesn't take kindly to outsiders and has many secrets to keep. The murder of Danielle Karlen is just one of them.

It may have been a gun runner angry that Karlen took some drugs from him (or her). It may have been a gang angry because she said or saw something she shouldn't have. Jealous rivals from her area? Possibly. It seems a bit unlikely, but then Oildale harbors a strange breed.

One suspect, a young woman was named. But police investigated her and she passed a lie detector test.

She was let go.

Murder City

This is just one of the many killings that have happened in Oildale and the surrounding community that remains unsolved.

Someone reading this may know something and if you do, please share it.

I never knew the woman myself, but heard about her story and saw the memorial that to this day, people still maintain.

The Bakersfield 3 is another case, among others, involving young people who were taken too soon.

I understand that Danielle was loved by many people and I think she was a bright light snuffed out too soon.

Some Photos from Her Facebook Page


May you rest in peace


A case that has also caught the nation’s attention is the Bakersfield 3.

It’s a story of three people who ran in the same circle of friends. James Kulstad was shot and killed, the body part of his friend, Micah Holsonbake, found in water and Baylee Despot hasn’t been seen in more than a year.

This mystery of what happened to them remains unsolved.

— E. Ramirez

The Bakersfield 3


Another Story

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Fin


Fin (author) from Barstow on January 05, 2021:

I actually deleted it and then managed to find it again and put it up. There were a lot of useful comments on the original one. thank you Hansen

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 05, 2021:

Interesting and tragic tale. Thank you for sharing this story, Fin.

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