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What We Know About the Man Believed to Be the Golden State Killer

In the day that’s passed since the Sacramento County DA announced the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer–A.K.A the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, Diamond Knot Killer, and maybe the Visalia Ransacker?–new information about Joseph James DeAngelo has emerged.

Here’s what we’ve learned about DeAngelo’s background and how it aligns with East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker’s crimes, the charges he’s facing, and how the internet aided in his identification.

Who is Joseph James DeAngelo?

Auburn Journal,

DeAngelo was born in Bath, New York in 1946. He graduated from Folsom High School in June 1964, and began a 22-month stint in in the Navy that September. Due to the unusual diamond knot used to bind victims, the Golden State Killer has long been suspected of having a military background.

After briefly attending Sierra College, in 1970 DeAngelo earned a B.A. in criminal justice from Sac State.

DeAngelo completed an internship with the Roseville PD, and, on May 19, 1973, jointed the Exeter Police in Tulare County. On November 10, 1973, DeAngelo married 20-year-old Sharon M. Huddle in Placer County, according to the California Marriage Index. 

It’s worth noting that, not only is Exeter just miles from the town of Visalia, but that DeAngelo’s tenure aligns with the spree of home invasions and the murder of Claude Snelling attributed to the so-called “Visalia Ransacker.”

There’s been a long-standing debate about whether the Ransacker, East Area Rapist, and Original Night Stalker are one in the same, and, while I’ve gone back and forth, I’m rather persuaded by how well DeAngelo’s time as an Exeter cop aligns to the crimes attributed to the serial prowler.

The frenzied spree of ransackings beginning on March 19, 1974 were deeply personal crimes, but did not escalate to violence until September 11, 1975, when 45-year-old Snelling was shot twice while trying to thwart a home-invader from abducting his 16-year-old daughter. On December 12, 1975, Visalia cop William McGowen interrupted an attempted break-in, and was nearly killed when the Ransacker shot out his flashlight. This was the last time the Ransacker struck Visalia.

The so-called “McGowan Composite” of the Visalia Ransacker, created with William McGowan’s assistance after the Ransacker shot at him in 1975.

In 1976, DeAngelo moved back north to join the force in Auburn, a tiny Gold Rush town 30-odd miles north-east of Sacramento. That same summer, a Rancho Cordova woman became the first known victim of the East Area Rapist.

While we still don’t know much about DeAngelo’s time in Auburn, we do know his time on the force ended shortly after his July 2, 1979 arrest for shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from a Citrus Heights Pay N’ Save.

The last attack before the East Area Rapist’s became the Original Night Stalker came just three days later in Danville. But this time, he was thwarted. A young couple given the pseudonyms Sylvia and Brandon Garnett in Larry Crompton’s Sudden Terror had a discussed what they’d do in the event of an East Area Rapist attack.

When Brandon awoke to see a strange man in gloves and a vinyl jacket slipping on a mask, he sprang into action. The EAR was seemingly thrown off his game when the man he intended to victimize charged him, demanding to know who the fuck he was and what the fuck he was doing there.

Per their evacuation plan, Brandon blocked the masked man from exiting as Sylvia scurried past the pair and down the stairs. Unsure if the man was armed, Brandon too fled down the stairs once once his wife was safely out of reach. By the time the first-responders arrived, the East Area Rapist was in the wind.

According to the Auburn Journal, DeAngelo was convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting in Sacramento County on October 27, 1979.

Three weeks earlier, on October 1, 1979, the Original Night Stalker first struck in Goleta. The young couple were bound per the offender’s M.O., but he seemed more intent on murder, particularly when his female victim managed to get the front door open and scream for help before he managed to drag her back into the house. Thankfully, the couple’s neighbor was not only awake, but just so happened to be a member of the FBI. Although the assailant was able to escape on a stolen bicycle, the agent got a look at the man’s unmasked face.

Almost three months later, on December 30, 1979, the Original Night Stalker struck Goleta a second time, this time killing his victims, Robert Offerman and Alexandra Manning. He’d slain seven more people in four Southern California attacks by 1981, and then seemingly disappeared–a common theme in this case.

The Original Night Stalker’s last known victim, 21-year-old Janelle Cruz, was viciously murdered in Irvine on May 4, 1986, four years and nine months after his last kill.

Janelle Cruz

Throughout the 1980’s, Joseph DeAngelo fathered three daughters (for whom I have more empathy than words can express). Not much is currently known about DeAngelo’s post-PD life, although he seems to have worked in construction in the 1980’s, and was living in the Citrus Heights home in which he was arrested by the early 90’s at the latest. 

DeAngelo worked for 27 years at the Save Mart warehouse in northern Roseville before retiring in 2017, according to the Sac Bee. Jason Calhoun, who worked with accused throughout his tenure at the distribution center, told the Sac Bee that DeAngelo seemed like “a regular Joe,” except for the fact that he never smiled.

How was Joseph James DeAngelo identified?

Joseph James DeAngelo’s mugshot [Image via Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office]
On Thursday, the Sacramento County DA confirmed the man believed to be the Golden State Killer was tracked down using genealogical websites containing a relative’s genetic information.

The investigation was given new life in the summer of 2016, after which investigators entered DNA collected from the East Area Rapist’s crimes into online genealogy databases like and 23 and Me. After chasing down–or climbing up?–digitized family trees scanning for potential suspects, investigators finally caught their break last Thursday, April 19, when they stumbled upon a man who fit the description and had lived in the areas targeted by the Golden State Killer.

This man was 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo.  

In Wednesday’s press conference, Sacramento Sheriff Scott Thompson stated that investigators then staked out DeAngelo’s home, where they collected “discarded DNA” that matched that left behind by the killer so many year ago.

What Charges is DeAngelo Currently Facing?

Given the 50+ rapes, 12 homicides, and 125 burglaries tied to the Golden State Killer throughout California, I think it’s safe to say that this is just the beginning of DeAngelo’s coming legal woes.

As of Thursday, April 26, 2018, DeAngelo has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder for the slayings of three couples in Sacramento, Orange, and Ventura counties.

On February 2, 1978, Brian and Katie Maggiore were gunned down in Rancho Cordova after encountering a prowler while out walking their dog. Brian–a 21-year-old sergeant at Mather Air Force Base–and 20-year-old Katie had been married for roughly two years before the East Area Rapist shot them both twice and threw Thumper, their tiny little poodle, into the pool.

Katie and Brian Maggiore

On March 19, 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were found bound and bludgeoned in their Ventura home. They’d been beaten to death with a fireplace log.

Sometime after 11 PM on Tuesday, August 19, 1980, 24-year-old Keith Harrington and his wife Patrice were murdered in their gated community home in Irvine.

According to the Sac Bee, Contra Costa County prosecutors are working with law enforcement to determine whether DeAngelo may be responsible for nine sexual assaults between 1978 and 1979, according to DA spokesman Scott Alonso.

And yesterday, Jeff Reisig, the Yolo County District Attorney, indicated in a written statement that his office is investigating whether the statute of limitations will allow charges to be brought against DeAngelo for three rapes in Davis. The statute of limitations may also stymie Contra Costa prosecutors from filing charges, as well.

The Davis crimes to which the East Area Rapist has been connected happened within a month of each other:

  • At 4:26 AM on June 7, 1978, a 21-year-old college student was raped in her home on Wake Forest Drive.
  • At 4:18 AM on June 24, 1978, a 32-year-old was raped in her home on Rivendell Lane.
  • At 4:30 AM on July 6, 1978, a 32-year-old woman was raped in her home on Amador Avenue.

This is obviously a breaking story. Make sure to check back for updates as more information about Joseph DeAngelo comes to light.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: What Happened that Night: How a family friend fought off the Golden State Killer – Pretty Death Seller

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