He goes by many epithets — the Golden State Killer, the Original Night Stalker, the Diamond Knot Killer, the East Area Rapist — but the world might finally know the real name of the man behind at least 12 murders and 45 rapes in California between 1976 and 1986. On April 24, authorities arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo in a suburb of Sacramento, CA, after his DNA matched evidence in the 40-year investigation. So who is this suspected Golden State Killer?
For six years in the 1970s, DeAngelo actually worked as a police officer in the Californian cities of Auburn and Exeter. He was eventually fired for shoplifting a can of dog repellent and a hammer from a drugstore, according to CNN. “Very possibly he was committing these crimes during the time he was employed as a peace officer, and obviously we’ll be looking into whether it was actually on the job,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said.
Neighbors tell CNN DeAngelo mostly kept to himself but occasionally berated them for getting too close to his fence or for mowing their lawns too early. “He’s not like an overly creepy person, but he [was] a little different,” says Kevin Tapia, who lived near DeAngelo for 20 years. “My sister reminded me that when we were kids and we walked by the fence, he would yell at us because he thought we were looking in his yard. But for the most part, the last decade, he’s kept to himself.”
Kevin Tapia also reveals DeAngelo had at least three daughters, saying, “Far as I had known, his daughters had grown up and moved out. The other day, we were playing in the backyard. I heard him talking to a young lady, and someone told me today his daughter and I think granddaughter moved in with him recently.”
Authorities declined to say what led them to seek DeAngelo’s DNA, but they took a discarded DNA sample from his home and matched it to evidence in the investigation. Now DeAngelo is facing capital murder charges in the killings of Katie and Brian Maggiore in 1978.
The Golden State Killer likely started small, SFGate. reports, probably breaking into empty houses. Then, however, he started breaking into houses with the residents still inside. He’d target and stalk single women who lived in single-floor houses — often prepping for the crime by learning the layout of the houses, disabling lights, and taking bullets out of guns. If the woman had a man in the house, he would tie up the man, put him face-down on the floor, and stack dishes on his back. He would tell the man that he’d kill both him and the woman if he heard a plate rattle or drop. Then he’d rape the woman, sometimes pausing to get food from the refrigerator. One victim told police she heard him sobbing “mummy” over and over again. Another heard him chanting “I’ll kill ’em, I’ll kill ’em.” (It wasn’t always an empty threat: He apparently murdered Robert Offerman and Debra Alexandria Manning in 1979 because Robert had broken free of his restraints and had made a move.) He would also terrorize former victims by calling them afterward, sometimes years after the attack. He started in the Sacramento area before venturing elsewhere in California over his 10-year spree. Then, in 1986, he vanished.
The decades-old mystery became the subject of a flurry of media attention this year. In February, HarperCollins released I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, a book by true crime writer Michelle McNamara, the late wife of actor Patton Oswalt. And in March, HLN debuted Unmasking a Killer, a five-part series investigating the serial killer’s reign of terror.
Plus, the FBI and Sacramento law enforcement held a press conference last year to mark the 40th anniversary of the killer’s first attack. “Obviously, with the 40th anniversary, this is a time we want to take to acknowledge this serial offender who was probably one of the most prolific, certainly in California, possibly in the United States, but also to let the victims know that we’ll never give up,” said Sergeant Paul Belli, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detective assigned to the case, according to SFGate. Now, with DeAngelo being held without bail and facing murder charges, those investigators’ quest might be nearing its end.