News | Crime | Trending

Police Arrest Suspected "Golden State Killer" After More Than Four Decades

Sacramento Bee / Sacramento County Sheriff's Department

For more than 40 years, police in California have searched for a suspect known only by his grizzly nicknames.

Called "the East Area Rapist," "the Original Night Stalker," and "the Diamond Knot Killer," the serial murderer plagued California throughout the 1970s and '80s.

Finally, police are expected to announce today that they have captured the man they now call "the Golden State Killer."

The Murders

East Bay Rapist police sketch
One of the earliest police sketches of the suspected killer.Law Enforcement of Rancho Cordova

Since his first burglary and sexual assault in 1976, the suspect known as the Golden State Killer has been connected to 12 murders, over 100 burglaries, and at least 45 rapes.

The FBI says the killer had a signature method and quirk: he would break into a home by prying open windows while his victims were sleeping.

Golden State Killer crime scene
One of the killer's crime scenes.Altered Dimensions

After blinding them with a flashlight, the suspect would assault or kill his victims, and usually left with a stolen memento - normally a wedding ring.

The suspect - known then as the East Bay Rapist - would target both single women and couples living together.

Some of his victims say that he would even call them after his crimes, to taunt and harass them.

Golden State Killer victims.
Brian and Katie Maggiore were the killer's first murder victims.FBI

"Even now, all this time later, as we talk to other people, we always get the stories about what was going on in peoples lives," said Sergeant Paul Belli of the Sacramento County Sheirff's Department.

"I’ve heard stories of fathers sleeping with guns by their bedsides, shotguns very close, things of that nature."

After terrorizing Sacramento, California for a decade, the killer's trail went cold, and his case became one of America's most famous unsolved crimes.

The Cold Case

Golden State Killer cold case.
The Golden State Killer case was reopened in 2016.Rich Pedroncelli - AP

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department says the killer was an "extremely prolific offender."

But the county's district attorney, Anne Marie Schubert, is even more blunt.

"It is probably the most prolific unsolved serial killing case, probably in in modern history," she said.

Golden State Killer
Sacramento Sheriff's Department files on the Golden State Killer.NBC

After the original spree of break-ins and rapes ended, police connected the East Area Rapist to another string of unsolved crimes, blamed on a killer nicknamed "the Original Night Stalker."

DNA testing later revealed that the Night Stalker and East Area Rapist were indeed the same person.

But almost no progress was made on the case since the late '80s.

The FBI completed a profile of the serial killer, including his height, 5'11", and his relative age, between 60 and 75.

But despite offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the killer, it remained a cold case until this year.

The Suspect

Golden State Killer.
FBI agents outside the suspect's home on Wednesday.Sacramento Bee

Sacramento sheriffs say they have finally arrested the suspected Golden State Killer, and will release more information in a press conference today.

While police have not publicly identified the suspect, 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and charged with two counts of Murder on Tuesday night.

Police and FBI agents were also seen outside DeAngelo's home on Wednesday morning.

Golden State Killer
A vintage newspaper photo of DeAngeloU.S. Navy
Golden State Killer.
DeAngelo was a police officer when the original crime spree began.Billy Jensen / Twitter

DeAngelo is a longtime Sacramento resident who was once a police officer in the nearby city of Auburn.

A newspaper clipping shows that DeAngelo was fired from the force for shoplifting a can of dog repellent and a hammer.

The clipping says DeAngelo "failed to answer any of the city's investigations and did not request an administrative hearing."

The connection is telling, because a dog was killed just two months later in a case connected to the East Area Rapist.

DeAngelo's neighbors told Fox 40 that he was "a nice guy," but known in his neighborhood for profane outbursts.

Case closed

The killer's community and many of his surviving victims are celebrating the news that he has finally been captured.

Jane Carson-Sandler, one of the first victims of the East Area Rapist, said she was "overwhelmed with joy" by the news.

Jane Carson-Sandler
Carson-Sandler was one of the suspect's first victims.CBS / Island Packet

"I've been crying, sobbing," she said. "I just can't tell you how I feel. After 42 years - wow!"

The hunt for the Golden State Killer inspired a number of television documentaries and books, including I'll Be Gone in the Dark.

Michelle McNamara
Michelle McNamara wrote a book about the killer before her death in 2016.AP

Billy Jensen finished the in-depth study of the killer after true crime writer Michelle McNamara - the late wife of comedian Patton Oswalt - passed away.

In an Instagram video about the news, Oswalt called the annoucement "surreal."

"Think you got him, Michelle," he said.

We'll share more news on this historic case as it develops.

[H/T: Mercury News, Fox 40, the Daily Beast, CNN, Sacramento Bee]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com