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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.