SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A DNA match in the past six days tied a former police officer to some of the crimes committed by a California serial killer behind at least 12 homicides and 45 rapes throughout the state in the 1970s and ’80s, police officials announced Wednesday.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who was fired from the Auburn Police Department, was arrested after a DNA sample came back as a match to the Golden State Killer, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.
Officials said DeAngelo had been arrested on suspicion of committing four killings in Sacramento and Ventura counties and charged with two counts of murder in the Ventura case.
“We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there,” Schubert said. “We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento.”
“The answer was always going to be in the DNA,” she said.
Armed with a gun, the masked attacker terrorized communities by breaking into homes while single women or couples were sleeping. He sometimes tied up the man and piled dishes on his back, then raped the woman while threatening to kill them both if the dishes tumbled.
He often took souvenirs, notably coins and jewelry, from his victims, who ranged in age from 13 to 41
DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn Police Department in 1979 after he was arrested for stealing a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a drug store, according to Auburn Journal articles from the time.
The FBI says it had a team gathering evidence at a Sacramento-area home linked to DeAngelo.
Jane Carson-Sandler, who was sexually assaulted in California in 1976 by a man believed to be the so-called “East Area Rapist,” said she received an email Wednesday from a retired detective who worked on the case telling her they have identified the rapist and he’s in custody.
“I have just been overjoyed, ecstatic. It’s an emotional roller-coaster right now,” Carson-Sandler, who now lives near Hilton Head, South Carolina, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I feel like I’m in the middle of a dream and I’m going to wake up and it’s not going to be true. It’s just so nice to have closure and to know he’s in jail.”
Carson-Sandler was attacked in her home in Citrus Heights, California.
FBI and California officials in 2016 renewed their search for the East Area Rapist and announced a $50,000 reward for his arrest and conviction. He has been linked to a total of more than 175 crimes between 1976 and 1986.
As he committed crimes across the state, authorities called him by different names. He was dubbed the East Area Rapist after his start in Northern California, the Original Night Stalker after a series of Southern California slayings, and the Diamond Knot Killer for using an elaborate binding method on two of his victims.
He was most recently called the Golden State Killer.
Authorities decided to publicize the case again in 2016 in advance of the 40th anniversary of his first known assault in Sacramento County.
Neighbor Kevin Tapia, 36, said when he was a teenager, DeAngelo falsely accused him of throwing things over their shared fence, prompting a heated exchange between DeAngelo and Tapia’s father. He said DeAngelo could often be heard cursing in frustration in his backyard.
“No one thinks they live next door to a serial killer,” Tapia said. “But at the same time I’m just like, he was a weird guy. He kept to himself. When you start to think about it you’re like, I could see him doing something like that but I would never suspect it.”
It's been more than 40 years since his first recorded attacks, which began in and around Sacramento in Northern California. No one was ever caught or even identified in the case. Police only had minor details about his looks, along with a sketch from an almost-victim.