SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTVU and AP) - A DNA match in the past six days tied a former police officer to some of the crimes committed by a California serial killer behind at least 12 homicides and 45 rapes throughout the state in the 1970s and `80s, police officials announced Wednesday.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who previously worked for the Auburn and Exeter police departments, was arrested after a DNA sample came back as a match to the Golden State Killer, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.
Officials said DeAngelo had been arrested on suspicion of committing four killings in Sacramento and Ventura counties and charged with two counts of murder in the Ventura case. He was booked into Sacramento County jail.
Charges were filed in the 1980 murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith.
The East Area Rapist - Golden State Killer is responsible for at least 12 homicides and at least 45 rapes.
"We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there," Schubert said. "We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento."
According to the FBI the crimes in this case began in the summer of 1976 when burglaries and rapes occurred in suburbs of Sacramento. The crimes expanded into the Bay Area where he's believed to be responsible for crimes in the cities of Danville, Concord, San Ramon, Walnut Creek and Concord.
The suspect would enter homes while the victims slept by prying open windows or doors. "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," according to the FBI. 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.
The suspect would ransack the homes he entered and rape the female victims. He often took small items from the homes including jewelry, cash and coins.
Oftentimes victims would report receiving phone calls from the rapist after the crimes.
Officials believe the East Area Rapist was also responsible for fatally shooting a couple while they walked their dog in Rancho Cordova.
After July of 1981 no additional incidents were related to the East Area Rapist - Golden State Killer until May of 1986 when an 18-year-old college student was raped and murdered in Irvine.
That was the last known incident related to the East Area Rapist - Golden State Killer.
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, California.
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."
There's been a renewed interest in the case of the East Area Rapist - Golden Gate Killer as a docuseries, book and podcast have recently released.
Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report from Citrus Heights, California.