After evading capture for more than forty years, police have identified Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former cop from Sacramento, as the so-called Golden State Killer.
California’s most notorious serial rapist and killer, who escaped authorities for decades and terrorized dozens of local communities, has been charged with two counts of murder so far. He is believed to be guilty of at least 12 murders, nearly 50 rapes, and 120 burglaries committed between 1976 and 1986. Police arrested him around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday after obtaining his DNA during a stakeout. He was denied bail, and is currently being detained in a psychiatric wing of the Sacramento County jail, according to a local CBS affiliate.
“We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento County,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told reporters Wednesday, explaining that the arrest was made possible by advances in DNA testing.
Authorities declined to go into much more detail about DeAngelo and how they found him, citing the open nature of the case. But new information is already trickling out about the man accused of committing one of the worst crime sprees in U.S. history, including a report that he was fired from his job as a police officer after he got caught shoplifting and a history of angry outbursts remembered by his neighbors in the tidy suburb where he lived for more than 30 years.
Here’s what we know so far:
Police say they “surprised” him with their 2:30 a.m. arrest
Details of the arrest are scant, but authorities have said they staked out DeAngelo’s home after he became a suspect six days before the arrest and obtained his DNA. Based on those results, they developed a plan for him to come out of his residence, where there was a team in place to arrest him.
Sheriff Scott Jones said he was “very surprised” to see them.
He was deeply connected to Sacramento
DeAngelo lived on a quiet street in Citrus Heights, California for more than three decades before his arrest, according to public records.
The 72-year-old was divorced from his wife of 18 years in 1991, according to a local Fox affiliate, and lived with a daughter and granddaughter at the home where he was arrested, according to public records.
A native of Sacramento, DeAngelo was also Vietnam veteran, enlisting in the U.S. Navy after graduating Folsom High School in 1964, according to the Sacramento Bee.
DeAngelo has adult children, the police confirmed, but wouldn’t elaborate further.
Neighbors say he was nice when he wasn’t angry
Neighbors who spoke to local outlets said the suspect was generally a pleasant man, but occasionally was prone to flashes of anger and odd behavior.
A neighbor who spoke with the Sacramento Bee and lived next to DeAngelo for eight years said he liked to fish and mountain bike, but at times came off angry when he was walking around in the neighborhood.
Natalia Bedes-Correnti, another neighbor who lives a few houses away from DeAngelo and also spoke to the Sacramento Bee was more explicit about the suspect’s occasional bizarre behavior.
“We used to just call him ‘Freak,’” Bedes-Correnti said. “He used to have these temper tantrums, not at anybody, just (expressing) his self frustration…usually because he couldn’t find his keys.”
Another neighbor, Kevin Tapia, told a local CBS affiliate, that DeAngelo was a “weird guy,” but he would never have known he could end up being charged with murder.
“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.”
He was a medium-height white cop, just like the FBI predicted
DeAngelo worked as a police officer in two different departments, first in Exeter, California from 1973 to 1976, and then in Auburn, California from 1976 to 1979, the LA Times reports. He was fired from the Auburn Police Department after being accused of stealing a hammer and dog repellent from a drug store, according to the Times.
DeAngelo was pictured in the Auburn Journal as a member of the Auburn Police Department with young baseball players. The article is dated June 8, 1979, which according to a San Jose Mercury News timeline of alleged attacks by DeAngelo, is between 48th and 49th attacks.
When the FBI put out a $50,000 reward for the so-called Golden State Killer, they described the man as a possible 5’10 white male between the ages of 60 and 75. They said he may have had some military training or some proficiency with firearms.
DeAngelo’s booking information at the Sacramento County Main Jail describes him as a 5’11 man, weighing 205 lbs. His mugshot shows an elderly white man with a roundish face.
The alleged crimes were all over the map, no matter where he was calling home at the time
The attacks perpetrated by the Golden State Killer are tracked on the website Cold Case EARONS, a website dedicated to documenting the activities of the “East Area Rapist”/”Original Night Stalker”/Golden State Killer. The data shows a heavy concentration of crimes near DeAngelo’s origins in Sacramento in his early years. Later on, in 1978, the attacks scattered to the East Bay, in places like Fremont, Walnut Creek, and San Jose. After 1979, the attacks continued less frequently in Southern California, in places like Irvine and Ventura.