For at least 10 years, a serial rapist and killer terrorized both Northern and Southern California, committing an estimated 50 rapes in the Sacramento and Contra Costa areas during the mid-1970s and murdering at least 12 people in Orange County and Santa Barbara from 1979 through 1986. Dubbed, at various times, as the Original Night Stalker, East Area Rapist, the East Bay Rapist, the Diamond Knot Killer, and finally the Golden State Killer, the suspect had eluded identification and capture for decades.

That is, until last night, when 72-year-old ex-police officer Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.

Statewide Spree

Beginning with suspected burglaries in the early 1970s, the Golden State Killer’s first rape occurred in Rancho Cordova in June 1976. His last suspected crime was the murder of a young woman in Irvine in May 1986. In between were dozens of home invasions and rapes, many with the same modus operandi, according to the FBI:

“The [East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer] gained entry into the homes of his victims by prying open a window or door while they slept. He would then shine a flashlight into the face of his victims, tie up the female victim and, if a male victim was present, tied him up as well. The EAR/GSK then ransacked the residence and raped the female victim. He often took small items from the residences including coins, cash, identification, and jewelry. Some victims reported receiving telephone calls from the suspect after the crimes.”

Though the many crimes had been linked using DNA evidence, the case had gone relatively cold. Nationwide interest was renewed by Michelle McNamara’s posthumously published book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” which debuted at Number One on The New York Times’ best-seller list in March.

Citrus Heights Charges

When arrested, DeAngelo was living in Citrus Heights, California, a Sacramento suburb where several of his initial rapes took place, and had been a resident since 1983. He was an Auburn Police Officer until he was fired in 1979 after being charged with shoplifting. The Sacramento Bee reports DeAngelo is being held on suspicion of at least four homicides:

  • Two for the murder of Brian and Katie Maggiore in Rancho Cordova, the first two people believed to be killed by the East Area Rapist, who were shot while walking their dog; and
  • Two for the murder of Charlene and Lyman Smith in Ventura County in March 1980, bludgeoned by a piece of firewood.

Additional charges may be forthcoming.

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