Police in Sacramento on Wednesday announced a major break and an arrest in the ‘Golden State Killer’ case, a series of rapes and murders in Northern and Southern California during the 1970s and 1980s that had eluded justice for decades. Detectives said a new clue that came in within the last six days blew the case open and resulted in the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, a former police officer.
Authorities said DeAngelo was tied to DNA evidence that implicated him in some of the 12 murders and 45 rapes blamed on the “Golden State Killer.” The assailant had an unusual M.O., according to The Associated Press, in which he would target single women by breaking in to their home wearing a mask and brandishing a gun, and then raping them. If his victims lived with a man, he would tie the man up, pile a stack of dishes on his back and then rape the woman, all while threatening to kill both of them if any dishes fell off the man’s back. His victims ranged in age from 13 to 41 years old and his heinous acts struck fear in several communities throughout the state for years. He also burglarized hundreds of homes in Northern and Southern California.
The mysterious assailant was known to police and in the media by several different nicknames throughout his crime spree, including the “East Area Rapist,” the “Original Night Stalker” and the “Diamond Knot Killer,” a reference to a brutal method he used to murder two of his victims.
Jane Carson-Sandler now lives in South Carolina, but in 1976 she was living in California and was sexually assaulted by a man believed to be the ‘East Area Rapist.” She told The Associated Press she was pleased to learn that the man police believe is her attacker has been arrested. “I have just been overjoyed, ecstatic. It’s an emotional roller-coaster right now. 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.”
In another twist, comedian Patton Oswalt’s late wife Michelle McNamara spent her last days writing about the confounding case. Her true crime book on the “Golden State Killer” — a nickname she coined — wasn’t released until after she died. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark has gone on to become a bestseller, but McNamara was never able to identify who the killer was. Oswalt took to Instagram on Wednesday and posted a video paying tribute to all the work she put into solving the case. “I think you got him, Michelle,” he said in the video.
As for the suspect, he was actually in police custody once upon a time, albeit for a different crime. In 1979 he was fired from the Auburn Police Department after he was arrested on a minor shoplifting charge. Though it looked like he may have gotten away, DNA eventually caught up with him.
“We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday, according to the AP. “We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento. The answer was always going to be in the DNA.”
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Read the full story at The Associated Press.