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California suspect apprehended in Golden State Killer cold case

One of the most terrifying cold cases in United States history has finally moved forward. James Joseph DeAngelo, age 72, was arrested on Tuesday, April 24 as a suspect in the Golden State Killer case, also known as the East Area Rapist. Police came to DeAngelo’s home in Citrus Heights, Cali., after following him for weeks. DeAngelo was reported to be shocked, but the only thing he told police was that he was concerned to leave because he had a “roast in the oven.”

The Golden State Killer committed his first act in 1976 when he raped a young woman in the Sacramento area. Over the next year, he continued to break into homes and rape young women when he knew no one was home- the attacks getting more and more brutal. 

DeAngelo after his arrest. The New York Times.

Many of the victims reported similar behaviour from the Golden State Killer. He often wore a ski mask, tied up his victims and took breaks to go into their kitchen and make himself a snack or grab a beer. He often placed stacks of plates on the backs of his bound victims so that if they tried to escape while he wandered around their house, he would hear it.

In 1978, he committed his first murder. He shot Brian and Katie Maggiore outside their home as they walked their dog. DeAngelo was a police officer at the time, working in Auburn, Cali., where he had gone to high school.

For nearly a decade, the Golden State Killer continued to target young, married couples. By the time he committed his last known attack, he was linked to 50 rapes and 12 murders. Throughout his spree, he often tormented victims before and after attacks by peeping through their windows just long enough for them to notice, and calling them, threatening to kill them. He stalked one of his victims, Katie Maggiore, until she quit her job.

In 1986, he raped and then bludgeoned to death 18-year-old Janelle Cruz. Then, all attacks ceased.

A police sketch of the Golden State Killer. Wikipedia.

At first, it was unclear if all the attacks throughout California were committed by the same perpetrator, and it wasn’t until further DNA testing developments became more mainstream that investigators were able to link DNA left at Cruz’s murder scene to many others.

Up until a week ago, the case had been cold since the 80s. Investigators had no idea who could have possibly committed these countless attacks. Then, Paul Holes, a retired investigator who previously worked on the case, entered the Golden State Killer’s DNA on a genealogy website called GEDmatch.

A relative of DeAngelo had used the site, and Holes was able to connect him to the crimes via common DNA. Police followed DeAngelo, and obtained current samples from discarded objects which were later used to arrest him as a suspect.

Many neighbors of DeAngelo were shocked. He had married and had three daughters, but later divorced his wife. Many that lived in his neighborhood described his quiet, although he occasionally had angry outbursts. One man reported that DeAngelo threatened to kill his dog if it kept barking.

On Friday, April 27, James Joseph DeAngelo appeared in court for the first time, shackled to a wheelchair. He has entered no pleas, and was assigned a public defender. He was charged with 8 counts of murder, and more charges are expected to come later.

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