SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A suspected California serial killer who committed at least 12 homicides and 45 rapes throughout the state in the 1970s and ’80s was identified Wednesday as a former police officer, an official said.
A law enforcement official identified Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who was fired from the Auburn Police Department, as the Golden State Killer.
The official confirmed the identity on condition of anonymity before an official news conference Wednesday.
Armed with a gun, the masked attacker terrorized communities by breaking into homes while single women or couples were sleeping. He sometimes tied up the man and piled dishes on his back, then raped the woman while threatening to kill them both if the dishes tumbled.
He often took souvenirs, notably coins and jewelry, from his victims, who ranged in age from 13 to 41
DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn Police Department in 1979 after he was arrested for stealing a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a drug store, according to Auburn Journal articles from the time.
The FBI says it has a team gathering evidence at a Sacramento- area home linked to DeAngelo.
Sacramento County jail records show DeAngelo was arrested overnight on suspicion of two counts of murder cited in a Ventura County warrant.
Jane Carson-Sandler, who was sexually assaulted in California in 1976 by a man believed to be the so-called “East Area Rapist,” said she received an email Wednesday from a retired detective who worked on the case telling her they have identified the rapist and he’s in custody.
“I have just been overjoyed, ecstatic. It’s an emotional roller-coaster right now,” Carson-Sandler, who now lives near Hilton Head, South Carolina, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “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.”
Carson-Sandler was attacked in her home in Citrus Heights. A home in that community belonging to a former police officer was being searched Wednesday by FBI investigators and police from several agencies.
Two neighbors who declined to give their names said authorities arrived at the scene before midnight. Sacramento County Jail records show the man who lives at the home was booked into the facility at 2:30 a.m. on suspicion of murder.
Sacramento County district attorney’s spokeswoman Shelly Orio declined to comment before the news conference.
FBI and California officials in 2016 renewed their search for the attacker dubbed the East Area Rapist and announced a $50,000 reward for his arrest and conviction. He’s linked to more than 175 crimes in all between 1976 and 1986.
As he committed crimes across the state, authorities called him by different names. He was dubbed the East Area Rapist after his start in Northern California, the Original Night Stalker after a series of Southern California slayings, and the Diamond Knot Killer for using an elaborate binding method on two of his victims.
Most recently called the Golden State Killer, he has been linked through DNA and other evidence to scores of crimes.
Authorities decided to publicize the case again in 2016 in advance of the 40th anniversary of his first known assault in Sacramento County.
Neighbor Kevin Tapia, 36, said when he was a teenager, DeAngelo falsely accused him of throwing things over their shared fence, prompting a heated exchange between DeAngelo and Tapia’s father. He said DeAngelo could often be heard cursing in frustration in his backyard.
“No one thinks they live next door to a serial killer,” Tapia said. “But at the same time I’m just like, he was a weird guy. He kept to himself. When you start to think about it you’re like, I could see him doing something like that but I would never suspect it.”
— AP writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report from Citrus Heights, California.