14 Disturbing Details About the ‘Golden State Killer’ You Need to Know

Perhaps the only silver lining to the “Golden State Killer” mystery is the attacks had long come to a halt. Over 40 years have passed since the attacks began in the greater Sacramento area. So what led to suspect Joseph James DeAngelo’s capture? Follow along to find out the disturbing details of the Golden State Killer. 

1. The first attack took place in June 1976

Sacramento County residents were terrorized starting in June 1976. | SpVVK/iStock/Getty Images

The first attack occurred in June 1976. Sacramento County residents became more and more rattled as subsequent attacks took place in the following months. The lead investigator on the case, Carol Daly, told The New York Times, “The fear in the community was like something I had never seen before. People were afraid wherever they went.”

Next: The suspect wasn’t always labeled the “Golden State Killer.” 

2. The expanding territory of attacks gave the killer many nicknames

Joseph James DeAngelo, the suspected "Golden State Killer", appears in court for his arraignment on April 27, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Suspect Joseph James DeAngelo appears in court for his arraignment on April 27, 2018, in Sacramento, California. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As tensions began to rise, the killer began collecting quite the laundry list of nicknames. While the community of Sacramento first labeled the killer as the “East Area Rapist,” the broadening attack territory provided more names. These included the “Original Night Stalker,” the “Diamond Knot Killer,” and of course the “Golden State Killer.”

Next: The Sacramento County community quickly realized the killer was among them. 

3. The killer attended community gatherings about the rapes

Sacramento district attorney Anne Marie Schubert (C) announces the arrest of accused rapist and killer Joseph James DeAngelo during a news conference on April 25, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announces the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo during a news conference on April 25, 2018, in Sacramento, California. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Community gatherings occurred in hopes of sorting through and making sense of the attacks. One evening in a school cafeteria, hundreds of community members came together to learn ways to defend themselves from the unknown attacker. When one concerned attendee expressed his confusion about how a woman could be attacked while her husband was home, he and his wife soon became the Golden State Killer’s victims. At that point, Daly realized “the rapist was there at that meeting.”

Next: You will not believe what the killer would stop to do midway through an attack. 

4. The killer would eat and drink during the attacks

Golden State Killer arraignment
An attendee holds a photo of Cheri Domingo and her boyfriend Gregory Sanchez, who were killed in 1981, as she sits in the courtroom during the arraignment of Joseph James DeAngelo. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Not surprisingly, the killer would don a ski mask and use a gun throughout the attacks. The killer would also steal personal items, such as photos and jewelry, along with the victim’s identification. But the more unsettling piece of the attack puzzle was the way the killer would take a break in the midst of it all to indulge in a beverage and snack. As The New York Times reports, this act suggested the killer “was perfectly at home with mayhem.”

Next: Detectives believed the killer had experience in law enforcement.

5. The suspect was a police officer

Blue police light on top of a police car at night.
The suspect had been a police officer. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

The killer’s methodical approach to every single attack quickly suggested to investigators that the person had some kind of experience in the realm of law enforcement. The killer knew what sort of forensic evidence would be sought and managed to effectively and continuously sidestep the law. Sure enough, DeAngelo was a police officer in Auburn, California, just northeast of Sacremento.

Next: The attacks quickly escalated. 

6. Rape eventually led to homicide

A photo of accused rapist and killer Joseph James DeAngelo is displayed during a news conference on April 24, 2018 in Sacramento, California.
The first homicides connected to the killer occurred in 1978. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The East Area Rapist eventually morphed into a full-blown killer in the deaths of Brian and Katie Maggiore in February 1978. The young, married couple were shot to death while walking their dog in Rancho Cordova, California. This would prove to be the first homicides in connection with the East Area Rapist — but unfortunately not the last.

Next: Here’s how the suspect lost his job as a police officer. 

7. The suspect was caught shoplifting

Joseph James DeAngelo
Joseph James DeAngelo lost his job on the police force. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In July 1979, DeAngelo was arrested for shoplifting from a Pay N’Save in Sacremento County. He was attempting to steal a hammer and dog repellent by shoving them down his pants. This incident led to DeAngelo’s firing from the police force, a $100 fine, and six months probation.

Next: Suddenly, the attacks stopped. 

8. In 1986, the attacks suddenly stopped

The attacks stopped terrorizing California residents after 12 years. | casch/iStock/Getty Images

After 12 years, 50 rapes, 120 burglaries, and 12 deaths, the spree suddenly came to a stop in 1986. And while in some capacity California residents were relieved, the predator was still at large. While Daly struggled to put her finger on why the killer stopped, she felt “something happened that he just wasn’t able to do those crimes anymore,” according to The New York Times.

Next: Not only did DeAngelo marry, but he had children. 

9. DeAngelo fathered 3 daughters

Wedding Rings
The suspect married and had three daughters. | Paulrichstudio/iStock/Getty Images

After DeAngelo received the boot from the police force, he worked in a Save Mart distribution center in Roseville, California. Furthermore, he married and fathered three daughters. Eventually, his marriage fell apart.

Next: Here’s what led to DeAngelo’s arrest. 

10. DNA advancements led to his arrest

Golden State Killer suspect's home
Investigators retrieved DNA from outside the suspect’s home. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Investigators uploaded the suspect’s DNA to a genealogy website using evidence retrieved from a Ventura County double homicide in 1980. The website revealed a connection between the suspect’s DNA and a distant relative. Investigators then were able to pinpoint DeAngelo himself. They retrieved a fresh round of DNA from discarded material outside of DeAngelo’s house, and they found their match.

Next: DeAngelo was in the middle of cooking when police arrived at his home. 

11. DeAngelo told police he had a roast in the oven

Joseph James DeAngelo during a court hearing.
He seemed oddly concerned about his food being in the oven. | Elijah Nouvelage/AFP/Getty Images

DeAngelo was not expecting police to arrive at his home on a sunny Tuesday. He even told the police he had a roast in the oven and couldn’t leave it. The police said they’d take care of it and arrested him. ABC News reported he was arrested without incident. According to CNN, DeAngelo had guns in his home, warranting extra caution from the police.

Next: Neighbors didn’t have great things to say about him. 

12. Neighbors said DeAngelo would yell at children walking by

A police woman stands in front of DeAngelo's home.
His neighbors said they never saw much of him. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Those who lived near DeAngelo said they never saw much of him, and he wasn’t too friendly. One woman told ABC News she walked past the home frequently but never saw him. Another neighbor said despite the breaking news, she has always felt safe living in the area.

CNN reported that he would yell at the neighborhood children if he believed they were looking in his yard as they walked by. But neighbors said besides being a recluse, they wouldn’t have suspected him as a killer.

Next: His former employer never saw any sign of criminal activity. 

13. He worked as a mechanic at a grocery store before retiring in 2017

His former employer is cooperating with authorities. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Besides raising three children, DeAngelo worked as a mechanic at the local grocery store, Save Mart. He retired in 2017 after 27 years on the job. Victoria Castro, a spokesperson for the grocery chain, said none of DeAngelo’s behaviors on the job would have led her to believe he was a killer. She said they were now cooperating with authorities, but they never suspected him of committing any crimes.

Next: Now, the man who served time for one of DeAngelo’s alleged crimes is speaking out. 

14. Now, 1 man who spent 38 years in prison wants justice

Officials holding DeAngelo's photo during a press conference.
New DNA evidence led to a man’s release. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Craig Coley — the former boyfriend of Ronda Wicht, one of the suspected Golden State Killer victims — was in prison for 38 years for a crime he did not commit: killing both Wicht and her 4-year-old son. Coley was released at 70 years old after new DNA evidence found he could not have committed the crime. California agreed to pay him $1.9 million, but he still wants justice for his former girlfriend and her child. “It’s not something you can describe other than it’s painful,” Coley told The Washington Post. DeAngelo is suspected of the homicide, but nothing has officially tied him to the crime scene.

Additional reporting by Julia Mullaney.

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