The Golden State Killer was unidentified for 40 years before a suspect was caught.
He murdered and raped dozens of people all over California in the 1970s and 1980s.
Now, Joseph James DeAngelo is the primary suspect in the Golden State Killer case.
In 2018, law enforcement officials arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer believed to be the Golden State Killer. At the time, the arrest seemed like it was out of nowhere, given that the Golden State Killer committed crimes back in the 1970s.
DeAngelo was 72 when he was arrested, and he’s now been charged with eight murders committed in California in the 1970s, per NPR. Police also think he committed at least four other murders and about 50 rapes.
The search for the Golden State Killer inspired a best-selling book by late true crime author Michelle McNamara, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, as well as HBO's new six-part documentary series called I'll Be Gone in the Dark. (Michelle's husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, is an executive producer of the doc.)
The docuseries will shine a new light on the chilling case, as well as honor McNamara's devotion to uncovering the truth and seeking justice for victims' families. Here’s what you need to know about the Golden State Killer and where things stand with his trial now:
What did the Golden State Killer do?
The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist or Original Night Stalker, is believed to have committed at least 12 murders, 51 rapes, and a slew of other crimes in California in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Bee has a long list of crimes believed to have been committed by the Golden State Killer, including a 1976 rape where the victim said the rapist jumped on her bed with a ski mask and a knife, and the rape of a 19-year-old woman in her home between 2:30 and 4 a.m.
The last crime believed to have been committed by the Golden State Killer happened in 1986, with the murder and rape of Janelle Cruz, who was bludgeoned with a pipe wrench while her family was on vacation.
"If you lived in Sacramento during that time frame, you have a story of what happened and where you were and what was going on," FBI agent Marcus Knutson, who is assigned to the case, said in a 2016 YouTube video. "Everybody knows about East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer here in Sacramento. During that time frame, everybody was in fear. We had people sleeping with shotguns. We had people purchasing dogs. I think locksmiths' business went way out of control because of the fact that everyone was changing locks on their doors."
Who is Joseph James DeAngelo?
DeAngelo was born in New York, but graduated from high school in Sacramento, California. He joined the Navy and fought in Vietnam and later worked as a police officer in Exeter, California, from 1973 to 1976, per the Bee. DeAngelo eventually moved on to become a police officer in Auburn, California, and he stayed in that job until he was fired for shoplifting. He got married in the early '70s but later divorced, and was living with his daughter and granddaughter when he was arrested.
DeAngelo would have been a police officer when he committed some of the crimes, the Los Angeles Times points out.
How was the Golden State Killer caught?
The case went unsolved for years and kind of went away until 2011, when new DNA technology linked a series of rapes in Northern California with crimes in Southern California, the Los Angeles Times reports. "We now have concrete evidence that links their deaths to the horrific individual that terrorized both Northern and Southern California," Drew Sugars, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, told the publication.
And, in 2016, the FBI offered a $50,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest of the Golden State Killer. "If he is still alive, the killer would now be approximately 60 to 75 years old," the FBI said online. "He is described as a white male, close to six feet tall, with blond or light brown hair and an athletic build. He may have an interest or training in military or law enforcement techniques, and he was proficient with firearms."
Sgt. Paul Belli, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detective assigned to the case, said at the time in a press release that "regardless of the time that has passed, the sheriff’s department never gave up on the investigation. This person ruined a great number of lives, and he should be held accountable."
In 2018, there was a big break in the case: Genetic information used on a genealogy website narrowed things down and led authorities to DeAngelo, the Los Angeles Times says.
Where does Joseph James DeAngelo’s case stand now?
DeAngelo’s case is ongoing, and law enforcement officials recently announced that there will be a press conference held on Monday, June 29, immediately after the court hearing for the People vs. Joseph James DeAngelo.
Jennifer Carole, the daughter of Lyman Smith, who was killed by the Golden State Killer in 1980, told KCRA that she and other family members of victims were told a guilty plea may be coming.
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