Joseph DeAngelo, the 72-year-old former police officer accused of being the long-sought “Golden State Killer,” was arraigned in a Sacramento court on Thursday on 13 new rape-related charges . DeAngelo was arrested in late April after evading investigators for more than 40 years, thanks to new familial DNA technology and the use of public genealogy databases that linked him to DNA from the crime scenes. DeAngelo had already been charged with 13 murders that occurred in several counties over a 10-year span, but prosecutors have agreed to consolidate all of the charges in Sacramento County, which is currently led by District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.
“When someone asks me how I feel that a case of this magnitude would come to Sacramento, my answer is that it is very fitting that the answer to this case that has been sought for over 40 years will be held in Sacramento,” Schubert told KCRA.
The 13 new charges stem from a series of rapes that occurred in Sacramento and nearby Contra Costa County between September 1976 and June 1979, when DeAngelo was employed by the Auburn Police Department. The statute of limitations had already run out for those sexual assault cases, so the charges have been filed as kidnappings to commit robberies using a gun and knife, which doesn’t have a statute of limitations. DeAngelo is accused of sexually assaulting the victims during home invasions, and those 13 cases are just a fraction of the 50 rapes investigators have long believed were committed by one assailant, who for many years was known as the East Area Rapist (EAR).
It wasn’t until 2001 that new DNA testing linked the East Area Rapist to a series of unsolved murders in Southern California between 1979 and 1986, which had been attributed to a serial killer known as the Original Night Stalker (ONS). Jointly referred to as EAR-ONS (until the late true-crime author Michelle McNamara coined the GSK moniker), investigators believe the killing spree started in Sacramento with the February 1978 double murder of Brian and Kate Maggiore, and continued down south, with four murders in Santa Barbara County, two murders in Ventura County and four murders in Orange County.
DeAngelo is charged with all 12 of those murders, plus a 13th filed earlier this month in Tulare County for the September 1975 murder of Claude Snelling in Visalia. Believed to be GSK’s first murder victim, authorities claim that ballistic evidence links Snelling’s murder with a gun that was stolen by the mysterious Visalia Ransacker, who committed a series of burglaries in the area in the mid-1970s. While these are believed to be GSK’s earliest known crimes, it’s unclear if prosecutors will bother to charge him for the burglaries, given the amount and severity of the charges DeAngelo is already facing.
The timeline for all these crimes significantly overlaps with DeAngelo’s own history. From 1973-1976, DeAngelo worked for the Exeter Police Department, a short drive from Visalia, and was assigned to their Burglary Task Force. The Visalia Ransacker burglaries ended when DeAngelo left to join the Auburn Police Department in Sacramento County, where his time on the force coincided with the East Area Rapist’s crimes. The EAR’s last known home invasion and sexual assault, according to case investigators, occurred in July 1979, the same month that DeAngelo was caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent. He was fired the following month and never returned to law enforcement.
DeAngelo’s whereabouts after August 1979 are less clear, but there have been reports that he and his then-wife relocated to Southern California; GSK’s “Original Night Stalker” serial killings began with a double murder in December 1979, followed by seven more murders up until July 1981. Then the murders stopped. It just so happens that DeAngelo’s eldest daughter was born in September 1981 in Sacramento. Five years later, in May 1986, according to case investigators, the serial killer then known as ONS struck one last time in Orange County. DeAngelo’s second daughter was born in November 1986 in nearby Los Angeles.
DNA has been essential to bringing closure to this 40-plus year cold case — DeAngelo was identified and captured based on DNA evidence, and DNA also confirmed that the EAR and ONS were the same person back in 2001. However, the undeniable overlap between DeAngelo’s history and the timeline of those crimes, as well as the Visalia Ransacker burglaries, has led some to question whether he would have been caught sooner if investigators had more seriously considered the possibility that GSK worked in law enforcement.
For now, DeAngelo is being held without bail in Sacramento, while the investigation continues and the possibility of even more charges looms. DA Schubert has not decided whether she will seek the death penalty, nor has DeAngelo entered a plea in the case. He is due back in court in December.