SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP/CNN) – There have been new developments in the hunt for Sacramento’s “East Area Rapist” – also known as “the Golden State Killer” who’s been tied to 12 homicides, 45 rapes and dozens of burglaries across the state in the 1970s and 1980s.
On Wednesday, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office announced that a suspect had been arrested in the case. He has been identified as 72-year-old Citrus Heights resident Joseph James DeAngelo.
One of the mysteries surrounding DeAngelo was where he was for the past four decades. Investigators believed he remained in the area, and it turns out he had a long career outside of law enforcement.
A Save Mart spokeswoman told CBS13 that DeAngelo was a 27-year employee at the company’s Roseville distribution center and had retired last year.
His crime spree began in 1976 in Sacramento and spread throughout the state. The spree lasted a decade.
“He had one main feature that he would do on his crimes,” said Sgt. Paul Belli, with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
He would get into homes through an unlocked door or a cracked window and use shoelaces to tie up victims. He would enter homes through an unlocked door or cracked window, and seemed to target homes where a couple was present.
When the Sacramento-area rapes were first being reported, it was always by women who were alone or with their children. But by 1977, a year after his first known attack, the list of victims had expanded to couples.
Police believe the East Area Rapist killed Brian and Katie Maggiore after the couple — who were walking their dog at the time — spotted him before he broke into a home in Rancho Cordova, California, just outside Sacramento, in February 1978. Those were his first known homicides.
“We thought he would never stop, but then two months after the Maggiore homicides, the East Area Rapist left our jurisdiction. It was like he disappeared in thin air,” said Carol Daly, a retired detective from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
That’s when a serial attacker began terrorizing Santa Barbara County. Police didn’t realize it at the time, but the attacker’s crimes fit the same pattern as the East Area Rapist. He attacked women and couples across Southern California from December 1979 to May 1986, and became known there as the Original Night Stalker.
“These cases are some of the most horrific I’ve had to investigate,” said Erika Hutchcraft, an investigator for Orange County District Attorney’s Office. “They’re not a one-time, you know, crime of passion, but these are almost passionless crimes. Very cold, very violent.”
Even with such distance between Sacramento and Southern California, detectives in the north who heard about the Original Night Stalker believed he was the same perpetrator as the East Area Rapist.
“Over the years, we heard of homicides down in Southern California, and we thought it was the East Area Rapist,” said Larry Crompton, a retired detective for Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department. “But he would not leave fingerprints, so we could not prove, other than his M.O., that he was the same person. We did not know anything about DNA.”
Once DNA tests were available to investigators, they were able to confirm the same man committed three of the attacks that had previously been blamed on the so-called East Area Rapist, according to Paul Holes, who investigated the case for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
“That’s when I reached out to Orange County” in Southern California, he says, “just to see, you know, if the East Area Rapist DNA was a match with the Original Night Stalker.”
He often took souvenirs, notably coins and jewelry, from his victims, who ranged in age from 13 to 41.
A woman who was sexually assaulted in California in 1976 by a man believed to be the East Area Rapist and who now lives in South Carolina told The Island Packet newspaper Wednesday that she has been contacted by detectives about an arrest.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy. I’ve been crying, sobbing,” the woman said.
The Auburn Police Department confirmed that DeAngelo worked for the force from 1976 to 1979. Before that, authorities confirmed that DeAngelo also worked for the Exeter Police Department.
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