A day after authorities announced the arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer, a few details have come into focus.
A can of dog repellant and a hammer from a suburban Sacramento Pay N’ Save: the things that Joseph James DeAngelo shoplifted in 1979, costing him his job as a police officer in Auburn, Calif.
The coins and small items that the man then called the East Area Rapist would take during his attacks.
The as-yet-unidentified item discarded by DeAngelo that had a sample of his DNA on it — enough to provide the evidence leading to his arrest.
The FBI posters seeking information about a white man with blond or light brown hair and an athletic build, sketched many decades ago — now with “Captured” emblazoned in red.
The 72-year-old from Citrus Heights, Calif., has now been charged with eight murders in three California counties. Police suspect he committed at least four other murders and about 50 rapes.
The crimes terrorized Sacramento in the late 1970s, FBI case agent Marcus Knutson said in a 2016 video.
“If you lived in Sacramento during that time frame, you have a story of what happened and where you were and what was going on,” Knutson said. “Everybody knows about East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer here in Sacramento. During that time frame, everybody was in fear. We had people sleeping with shotguns. We had people purchasing dogs. I think locksmiths’ business went way out of control because of the fact that everyone was changing locks on their doors.”
So, who is Joseph DeAngelo? According to The Sacramento Bee:
- DeAngelo was born in New York state and graduated from high school east of Sacramento. He enlisted in the Navy and fought in Vietnam, then returned and got a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
- From 1973 to 1976, he worked as a police officer in Exeter, Calif., close to the city of Visalia, which in 1974 and 1975 was terrorized by 85 burglaries and a murder, a series of crimes attributed to a perpetrator known as the Visalia Ransacker.
- In 1976, DeAngelo became a police officer in Auburn, Calif., until his termination for shoplifting. He married in 1973, later divorced, and was living with a daughter and granddaughter until he was arrested this week.
“The time frame of the crimes supports that the suspect was a police officer when he committed some of these crimes,” said Sean Ragan, special agent in charge of the FBI Sacramento office, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Bee compiled a long list of the crimes associated with the Golden State Killer — or as he was previously known, the East Area Rapist or the Original Night Stalker. The majority of the rapes occurred in the years while DeAngelo was a police officer, but from the December 1979 to May 1986, 10 people in California were killed in murders later tied to the East Area Rapist.
In 2011, the Times reported that new DNA technology had allowed authorities to connect the spree of rapes Northern California with the killings in Southern California.
The search for Golden State Killer picked up renewed intensity in 2016, when Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert helped create a task force to find him. The FBI offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.
“If he is still alive, the killer would now be approximately 60 to 75 years old,” the FBI said at the time. “He is described as a white male, close to six feet tall, with blond or light brown hair and an athletic build. He may have an interest or training in military or law enforcement techniques, and he was proficient with firearms.”
Writer Michelle McNamara became obsessed with the case, and she started the True Crime Diary website. Earlier this year, McNamara’s posthumously published book on her search for the killer, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, became a bestseller. It’s slated to be turned into an HBO docuseries.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said they used DNA evidence from a discarded item to link DeAngelo with samples the killer had left behind years ago.
Schubert said there was a break in the case six days ago, but authorities haven’t yet revealed how they came to suspect the former police officer, who retired last year after 27 years working in a supermarket distribution warehouse. A man who worked with him for years told the Bee that the DeAngelo was “a regular joe” — except that he never smiled.
Neighbors told the Bee differing accounts of whether DeAngelo seemed normal, but many mentioned he had a very short temper. His recent criminal record shows nothing major, according to the Times.
Police waited outside DeAngelo’s house for days, monitoring the retiree’s movements, The Associated Press reports. Authorities finally moved in and arrested him without incident at his home in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights.
DeAngelo told the officers that he had a roast in the oven, and they told him they’d take care of it.