After more than 40 years, one of the most gruesome cold-cases in United States history has been closed.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., aka the Golden State Killer and the East Area Rapist, has been arrested and charged with a double homicide from 1978. DNA evidence suggests he is also responsible for a total of 12 murders and 45 rapes from the 1970s and 80s. DeAngelo, now 72, was living as a “normal grandfather” in a Sacramento suburb when a SWAT team arrived at his door earlier this week.
“We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento,” said Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert in a press conference. According to the New York Times, Shubert has spent the last two years organizing investigators and the FBI following DNA evidence dating back to the mid 1970s.
According to the Washington Post, DeAngelo joined the Exeter police force in 1973 then transfered to the Auburn Police Department outside Sacramento in 1976. It was around this time he began his career as a home-invading serial rapist.
By 1979 the people of Sacramento County began calling DeAngelo the East Area Rapist, whose victims included a 13-year-old girl. DeAngelo would rape mothers and daughters while their husbands and fathers were tied up in another room of the same home. The rape spree finally ended when DeAngelo was fired from the police force for shoplifting. He then moved to Southern California where he would soon be known as the Oringinal Night Stalker and eventually the Golden State Killer as he started murdering his victims.
The majority of DeAngelo’s murders occurred between 1979 and 1981. After raping his victims, DeAngelo began shooting or beating the women to death and often murdered their husbands and boyfriends at the same time.
In 1986 DeAngelo raped and beat an 18-year-old woman before disappearing completely.
For the next 32 years, DeAngelo was simply known as an eccentric neighbor with a “bad temper.” He married, had multiple children, and eventually became a grandfather. His arrest came as a surprise to some neighbors.
“You can tell he’s a very meticulous person,” neighbor Kevin Tapia said to the Washington Post. “His house is always perfectly painted. His grass is always cut. He gets down around all the rocks on his lawn and is cutting to make sure it’s just perfect.”
Other neighbors knew DeAngelo as a man prone to anger and fits of rage. “This guy just had this anger that was just pouring out of him,” said Grant Gorman, who grew up in the house behind DeAngelo’s in Citrus Heights. “He’d just be yelling at nothing in the backyard, pacing in circles.” Gorman continued to explain that DeAngelo once left a death threat on his family’s voicemail in response to their dog’s barking.
“We used to just call him ‘Freak,’” said Natalia Bedes-Correnti in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. “He used to have these temper tantrums … usually because he couldn’t find his keys.”
DeAngelo was arrested by a SWAT team earlier this week at his Citrus Heights home just a few miles from his final brutal rape sites of the late 1970s.