For ten years starting in 1976, a man known only as the East Bay Rapist and Golden State Killer committed 12 murders and 51 rapes from Northern California to Southern California.
The case went cold after 1986, but early this morning, a former cop was arrested who is believed to be the murdering rapist who terrorized families more than 30 years ago.
The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was a Northern California cop during the time of the murders and rapes.
Police used DNA evidence to link DeAngelo to the crimes.
A suspect believed to be the notorious East Area Rapist, or Golden State Killer, was reportedly taken into custody early Wednesday morning in the Sacramento area — more than 30 years since he allegedly committed 12 murders and 45 rapes from 1976 to 1986.
Former Auburn Police Officer Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and booked on two counts of murder into the Sacramento County Jail at 2:30 a.m., according to jail records. He is being held without bail.
Two months before the arrest in February, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article describing the gruesome style of the murdering rapist.
Like most serial killers, his career was marked by rapid escalation. Police suspect him in more than 150 residential break-ins in the state. He probably started small, peeping in windows and breaking into empty homes. As he grew bolder, so did his crimes.
He likely lived, at least initially, in the Sacramento area, which he terrorized from 1976-78. He’d sometimes go out night after night, targeting houses mere yards apart to maximize fear in the neighborhood.
During that time, he developed one of his most sadistic signatures. If he chose a home with a couple living inside, he would sometimes incapacitate the man first, binding him with strips of towels or shoelaces and putting him face-down on the ground. He would get a stack of dishes from the kitchen, carefully balancing them on the man’s back. The killer would warn the couple that if he heard a plate drop — or even rattle — he’d kill them both. Then, he'd start raping the woman.
Because the Golden State Killer left so many victims alive, there are a patchwork of clues, each more chilling than the next. One Santa Barbara victim in 1979 told police he left her in the living room and stomped around the house, looking through the kitchen and chanting, “I’ll kill ‘em, I’ll kill ‘em” to himself. One investigator said it was like “a guy pumping himself up for an athletic endeavor.”
Sometimes victims said he left the room to cry in another part of the house. Occasionally he talked about his mother, once sobbing “mummy” over and over again. Trips to the kitchen were not uncommon; he paused during one rape to get himself a slice of apple pie.
He fed off his victims’ terror in another horrifying way: Calling their house, sometimes years later. A number of victims reported receiving an unusual number of wrong-number or hang-up calls shortly before the attack. Others picked up the phone to hear heavy breathing on the other end. In one call, he whispered, “Gonna kill you” to a rape victim. Police think the Golden State Killer got their phone numbers from prior break-ins; rotary phones in the 1970s had the home phone number printed on them.
DeAngelo retired two weeks ago, according to neighbors, but it is not clear from what occupation.
In 1979, he was a police officer for the Auburn Police Department in Northern California.
Police said he was a cop for another police agency from 1973 to 1976, which was when he joined the Auburn Police Department, so he was a cop while he was committing many of the rapes and murders.
He was also known to have a quick temper who would swear loudly.
But other than that, neighbors described him as a good neighbor.