Joseph James DeAngelo: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know


Police have arrested a former police officer and Vietnam War veteran suspected of being the notorious California serial killer known as the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer, authorities say. The serial killer committed 12 homicides, at least 45 rapes and numerous home burglaries between 1976 and 1986.  

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 72, of Citrus Heights was arrested Wednesday morning, April 25, on warrants charging him with two counts of murder, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s website shows. He was taken into custody about 2:30 a.m. and is currently listed as being ineligible for bail. Police have not released any other details about his arrest. According to jail records, DeAngelo is 5’11” tall and weighs 205 pounds. The FBI described the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer as being about 5’10” tall and between the ages of 60 and 75. According to NBC Los Angeles, a tip from the public that came after increased attention on the case led to DeAngelo’s arrest. A $50,000 reward was offered in 2016, 40 years after his first crime, for information leading to the capture of the Golden State Killer.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said the break in the case came in the last six days and was the result of DNA evidence that was examined at the Sacramento County crime lab. Sheriff Scott Jones said deputies had been conducting surveillance on DeAngelo and obtained DNA that confirmed his identity. Jones said he was taken into custody by his deputies without incident. Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten said DeAngelo was charged with two counts of capital murder in the 1980 deaths of Charlene and Lyman Smith.

Billy Jensen, who helped write the recently published book about the case, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” told The Daily Beast that DeAngelo is the suspect arrested in the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer case. He also posted a photo of a news article about DeAngelo on Twitter and called him the suspect. Writer Michelle McNamara worked with investigators on the case while writing her book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” which was not completed before her sudden death in April 2016. Jensen, researcher Paul Haynes and McNamara’s husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, teamed up to complete the book, which was released in February of this year.

Along with the dozens of rapes and hundreds of burglaries he is believed to be responsible for, the Golden State Killer has 12 known murder victims: Brian Maggiore, Katie Maggiore, Alexandria Manning, Dr. Robert Offerman, Charlene Smith, Lyman Smith, Patrice Harrington, Keith Harrington, Manuela Witthuhn, Cheri Domingo, Gregory Sanchez and Janelle Cruz

Here’s what you need to know about Joseph James DeAngelo and the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer case:

1. The East Area Rapist & Golden State Killer Began His Attacks With a Series of Burglaries & Rapes in 1976 & His Final Victim Is Believed to Be an 18-Year-Old Woman Killed in 1986

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An FBI sketch of the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer.

The East Area Rapist, also known as the Golden State Killer, began his attacks in the summer of 1976, according to the FBI. “Burglaries and rapes occurred in Rancho Cordova and Carmichael, California, both suburbs of Sacramento. The EAR/GSK gained entry into the homes of his victims by prying open a window or door while they slept. He would then shine a flashlight into the face of his victims, tie up the female victim and, if a male victim was present, tied him up as well. The EAR/GSK then ransacked the residence and raped the female victim. He often took small items from the residences including coins, cash, identification, and jewelry. Some victims reported receiving telephone calls from the suspect after the crimes,” the FBI said.

His first killing occurred in 1978. “A couple was shot and killed while walking their dog in Rancho Cordova. Evidence left at the scene was indicative of the EAR/GSK. After this crime, the EAR/GSK committed rapes in Stockton, Modesto, Davis, and the East Bay Area of California. Between 1979 and 1981, he was involved in the rape and murder of several individuals, including couples, in Southern California. These victims were tied up in the same manner as the Sacramento area rapes and their homes were also ransacked. After July of 1981, no additional incidents related to the EAR/GSK were reported until the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl occurred in Irvine, California, in May of 1986. This was the last known incident related to the EAR/GSK in California.”

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FBIThe FBI released these sketches of the suspect in the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer case.

The East Area Rapist is believed to be responsible for more than 150 residential break-ins across California, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

His victims ranged in age from 12 to 41. The rapes, burglaries and murders terrorized several neighborhoods in California for years.

Brian and Katie Maggiore, were the first victims killed by the Golden State Killer, on February 2, 1978 in Rancho Cordova. The next killings, of Alexandria Manning and Dr. Robert Offerman, came on December 30, 1979, in Goleta. Charlene and Lyman Smith were then killed in Ventura County on March 13, 1980. Patrice and Keith Harrington were killed on August 19, 1980, in Dana Point; Manuela Witthuhn was killed in Irvine on February 5, 1981; and Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were killed July 27, 1981, in Goleta. The Golden State Killer’s final known victim, Janelle Liza Cruz, was murdered on May 4, 1986.

“Everyone was afraid,” FBI Special Agent Marcus Knutson said in 2016 at a press conference. “We had people sleeping with shotguns, we had people purchasing dogs. People were concerned, and they had a right to be. This guy was terrorizing the community. He did horrible things.”

Another investigator, Sacremento County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Paul Belli, said in 2016, “It was so impactful on so many people. Even now, all this time later, as we talk to other people, we always get the stories about what was going on in peoples lives. I’ve heard stories of fathers sleeping with guns by their bedsides, shotguns very close, things of that nature.”

He added that the killer was “an extremely prolific offender,” saying, “When you look at a number of the sexual assaults that occurred in Sacramento County, that takes a great toll on the families. A number of them were couples. Here you have somebody’s wife being rape in their home while the husband is home and unable to do anything about it. That’s very terrorizing. That can only be described to me as somebody who’s wanting to develop that terror and create that type of fear.”

The suspect’s first rape victim, Jane, told CNN that she was in bed with her 3-year-old son on June 18, 1976, after her husband left for work. She was abruptly awoken and saw a masked man in her bedroom doorway. He was holding a large butcher knife and shining a flashlight in her face. The man bound Jane with shoelaces and blindfolded and gagged her with torn sheets. He then moved her son off the bed and bound her ankles. “And then I knew what he was there for,” she told CNN.

During the initial Sacramento-area rapes and burglaries, the victims were exclusively women who were home alone or with their children. But in 1977, he began targeting homes where couples were home. He would tie up the male half of the couple and tell him that if he tried to help his wife or girlfriend, she would be killed, according to police.

He had several names over the years, along with the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer, his most recent name. He was also known as the Original Night Stalker and the Diamond Knot Killer. Police linked the various killings and rapes together through DNA and other evidence.

“We have his DNA,” Sergeant Paul Holes, of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, said last year. “If we find the right guy, we will know we got the Golden State Killer. This is a solvable case.”

2. DeAngelo Was a Police Officer in California Until He Was Accused of Shoplifting Dog Repellent & a Hammer at a Sacramento Drug Store in 1979

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A newspaper article from when Joseph DeAngelo became a police officer.

Joseph DeAngelo was a police officer in California, from 1973 until 1979, when he was fired after being accused of shoplifting a can of dog repellent and a hammer at a Sacramento drug store, according to an article from a newspaper archive posted by Billy Jensen. He was a police officer in Auburn at the time.

A 1973 newspaper article from The Exeter Sun reveals that DeAngelo, then 27, was hired as a police officer in Exeter in August of that year. The newspaper article says he is a Bath, New York, native and served in Vietnam after graduating from Folsom Senior High School in June 1964. He went on to study at Sierra College, completing an associate’s degree with honors in police science. He then attended California State University at Sacramento and graduated with a degree in criminal justice, specializing in criminal law. Before being hired in Exeter, he interned with the Roseville Police Department, working in the patrol, identification and investigation divisions.

It is not clear when DeAngelo moved from Exeter to Auburn. The 1979 newspaper report by the Auburn Journal shows that DeAngelo was fired a month after his arrest.

“Auburn City Manager Jack Sausser said DeAngelo failed to answer any of the city’s investigations and did not request an administrative hearing so was dismissed Monday,” the newspaper wrote. Sausser told the newspaper, “There was justifiable grounds to remove him from the public sector.” DeAngelo did not comment about his arrest and firing at the time. Auburn Police Chief Nick Willick told the newspaper, “It is very important that the community have the utmost trust and faith in its officers’ integrity; when this trust and faith has been compromised, officers can no longer effectively function in the community.”

DeAngelo was arrested July 21, 1979, at the Pay N’Save Store off Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights, according to the newspaper. He was caught trying to steal the items by store employees and was then cited by Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputies. Two months later, in September 1979, the East Area Rapist stabbed a dog while prowling in a neighborhood, according to The Daily Beast.

“Dog repellant. Hammer. And refuses a hearing after shoplifting charge. Just took his punishment and left the force so no one would look deeper,” Jensen wrote on Twitter.

But the resignation did not end the case against DeAngelo, Auburn Journal archives show. The newspaper wrote several articles chronicling the shoplifting saga between August and October 1979. DeAngelo took the case to trial in October 1979. A clerk at the store testified that he found a hammer in DeAngelo’s pants while they struggled in a back room of the store. He then tried to escape. Another clerk testified that he saw DeAngelo take a can of dog repellant out of the waistband of his trousers. According to the news report, deputies arrived to find that the clerks had tied DeAngelo to a chair and said he was “in an emotional state.” The jury found DeAngelo guilty on October 31, 1979, and a judge sentenced him to six months of probation and a $100 fine.

DeAngelo, who testified during his trial and denied trying to steal the items, appealed his firing, but later dropped his appeal after being found guilty in criminal court.

3. He Served in the U.S. Navy, Had One Engagement to a Woman That Was Broken Off, Was Later Married to Another Woman & Appears to Have Children

joseph james deangelo navy

US NavyJoseph James DeAngelo in a Navy photo.

An archived article from a California newspaper shows that Joseph J. DeAngelo served in the U.S. Navy. DeAngelo was a damage controlman 2nd class on the USS Canberra, which was “expected to dock at San Diego … following service on the gun line off North Vietnam,” according to the 1967 newspaper article. Another article shows that he completed basic training in December 1964. The Navy has not confirmed any information about DeAngelo’s service.

According to the FBI “Most Wanted” page about the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer, profilers believed the suspect in that case had military experience. “He may have had an interest in the military, or had some military training, leaving him familiar and proficient with firearms,” the FBI wrote.

At least two of the victims of the East Area Rapist were bound with an elaborate “diamond knot,” also known as a knife lanyard knot, according to CBS News.Investigators have also believed that the suspect had experience as a diver, and another archived newspaper article listed DeAngelo as being affiliated with the International Diving Association, N.A.U.I., according to Billy Jensen.

According to archived newspaper articles and public records, DeAngelo appears to have been engaged to be married in 1970, but he did not marry that woman. He then married a different woman, Sharon Marie Huddle, in 1973. Public records also indicate he has a daughter who is in her 30s and possibly two other children. The East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer was known to call and taunt his surviving victims after the attacks, according to police. In one call, the victim said a woman and children could be heard in the background, leading to speculation that the suspect was married with kids.

A neighbor told the Sacramento Bee that DeAngelo, who she knew as Joe, lived with his daughter and granddaughter and is divorced. Cory Harvey told the newspaper she spoke to DeAngelo recently and he said he retired two weeks ago, something he said he had been looking forward to for a long time. It is not clear what he did for work. He told Harvey that he planned to do a lot of fishing in his retirement.

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4. The FBI & Local Police Are Searching a Home in Citrus Heights Where DeAngelo Has Lived for More Than 2 Decades

Authorities have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday to release more information about a breakthrough in the case, which Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert called the “most prolific unsolved serial killing case probably in modern history,” according to Fox 40 News. Sources told the news station that the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department had been working a “significant break” in the case and then arrested Joseph James DeAngelo on Wednesday.

According to the Sacramento Bee, DeAngelo was arrested on warrants filed by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. Details of those warrants have not been released. The newspaper reports that the FBI and investigators from Sacramento County and Southern California were at a home in Citrus Heights, near the border with Roseville, where Joseph James DeAngelo, known as Joe DeAngelo to neighbors, has lived for at least two decades.

He lived in a quiet residential, middle-class neighborhood on Canyon Oak Drive, the Sacramento Bee reports.

“It’s terrifying to think this man could have hopped the fence, and come into my backyard. I have children,” Beth Walsh, who lives behind DeAngelo on an adjacent street, told the newspaper. “I’m glad to know they caught this guy.”

Another neighbor, Paul Sanchietti, called DeAngelo the “odd neighbor,” telling the newspaper, “He was aggravated or upset, his voice would carry, his swearing was alarming. But he seemed to calm down in the last few years.”

The neighbors said they believed they saw another person living at the house and said DeAngelo was working in his front yard as recently as Tuesday. A Toyota and a Volvo were sitting in his garage Wednesday morning, the newspaper said. Kevin Tapia, who grew up in a home behind DeAngelo’s, told the newspaper that DeAngelo had angry run-ins with his family.

“He had a lot of verbal altercations with my parents,” Tapia told the newspaper. He added that DeAngelo was extremely meticulous and had permanent markings on his driveway so he could be exact in parking his boat. Tapia said he talked to DeAngelo a week ago about a motorcycle mechanic.

There has been an increase in interest in the case with McNamara’s book being published and as the 40th anniversary of the first attack passed.

“Obviously, with the 40th anniversary, this is a time we want to take to acknowledge this serial offender who was probably one of the most prolific, certainly in California, possibly in the United States, but also to let the victims know that we’ll never give up,” Sergeant Paul Belli, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detective assigned to the case, said at a press conference last year.

It is not clear why the killer stopped.

“We thought he would never stop, but then two months after the Maggiore homicides, the East Area Rapist left our jurisdiction. It was like he disappeared in thin air,” Carol Daly, a retired detective from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, told CNN.

Erika Hutchcraft, an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, told CNN, “These cases are some of the most horrific I’ve had to investigate. They’re not a one-time, you know, crime of passion, but these are almost passionless crimes. Very cold, very violent.”

5. Patton Oswalt Posted on Instagram ‘Think You Got Him, Michelle,’ While One of the East Area Rapist’s Survivors Told a Local Newspaper She Has Been ‘Crying, Sobbing’ Since Hearing the News & Is ‘Overwhelmed With Joy’

Patton Oswalt, who helped finish his wife’s book about the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer posted on Instagram Tuesday night, saying, “This is insane. It looks like they’ve caught the East Area Rapist, if that’s true they’ve caught the Golden State Killer. I think you got him, Michelle.” He called it, “One of the more surreal days of my life.”

According to the Amazon description of McNamara’s book:

‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,’ Michelle McNamara’s compelling investigation of the ‘Golden State Killer,’ who terrorized northern California from the mid-70s to the mid-80s, is one of the best true crime books to come along in a decade. It’s the story of two obsessions: McNamara’s obsession with the criminal, and whatever abhorrent obsession drove him to commit a series of horrific rapes and murders over ten years. The author, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, describes the crimes and examines clues in an effort to uncover his identity. Occasionally, she challenges convention by inserting herself into the narrative (at one point, she even writes directly to the Golden State Killer), and the book acquires even more personal weight when one takes into account the fact that McNamara, at the age of 46, died while writing it. Knowing all of this, and with each chilling description, McNamara’s obsession begins to become our own. She believed that the Golden State Killer would still be alive today. You will discover yourself hoping she’s right, so that you can see him captured and brought to justice.”

McNamara dubbed the killer and rapist as the Golden State Killer after years of research in a 2013 Los Angeles Magazine article. She wrote on her True Crime Diary blog that the new name was not well received by all, saying, “The displeased felt that sounded too glamorous, like he was a Hollywood star. But as my research takes me across California the more I feel the moniker, with its jarring juxtaposition, is apt.”

Billy Jensen tweeted, “There are still more than 200,000 unsolved murders in America since 1980. We have a long way to go. But we can help solve them together.”

Jane Carson-Sandler, who was the East Area Rapist’s fifth victim on October 5, 1976, told The Island Packet newspaper, two detectives she has kept in touch with over the years told her an arrest was made. “I just found out this morning,” she told the newspaper. “I’m overwhelmed with joy. I’ve been crying, sobbing. I just can’t tell you how I feel. After 42 years — wow!”

Carson-Sandler wrote a book about the case and spoke on news shows and podcasts about it in hopes of helping to catch her attacker. She wrote in the 2014 book, “Citizens were scared, frustrated, and angry that he could not be caught.”

Michelle Cruz, whose sister, Jenelle Cruz, was 18 when she was killed in 1986 by the Golden State Killer, told NBC Los Angeles, “I’m so excited and overwhelmed. I’m feeling very blessed today and now I will be able to breathe again.”

5 thoughts on “Joseph James DeAngelo: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

    1. I take that back, EotS… I AM surprised.

      “Police have arrested a former police officer and Vietnam War veteran suspected of being the notorious California serial killer…”

      I was almost CERTAIN it would be a pig CURRENTLY on the ‘force’.

  1. “….We had people sleeping with shotguns, we had people purchasing dogs….”

    I sleep with a shotgun, and I’m not worried about rapists or serial killers.

  2. He’s not that bad once you get to know him. On TV one of his neighbors even said that “it all stopped years ago and that’s good.” He’s just a product of society. Just misunderstood, that’s all.

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