A suspect in the notorious East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer case — a series of murders, sexual assaults and home burglaries that gripped California in the 1970s and ‘80s — has been arrested, officials said.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested at his home in Citrus Heights late Tuesday.
"The answer has always been in Sacramento," Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said. "We all knew that we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also all knew that the needle was there."
DeAngelo was charged with two counts of murder in the killings of a young couple gunned down while walking their dog on Feb. 2, 1978. USAF Sgt. Brian Maggiore, 21, and Katie Maggiore, 20, were shot as they tried to get away.
They were just two blocks from their Rancho Cordova home.
DeAngelo was booked into the Sacramento County jail and is ineligible for bail, online records show.
DeAngelo has also been charged with two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstance for the killings of Lyman and Charlene Smith in 1980 in Ventura County, officials said. The couple was living in a gated community when Charlene Smith was raped and she and her husband were brutally murdered.
"This 1980 murder has long been a source of fear and angst in the neighborhood in which it occurred, in the community and indeed throughout all of Ventura County," Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said.
Totten was among several district attorneys, law enforcement officials, families of the victims and advocates who gathered at the Sacramento County crime lab Wednesday to announce DeAngelo's arrest.
"Joseph James DeAngelo has been called a lot of things by law enforcement; he's been called the East Area Rapist, he's been called the Visalia Ransacker, the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer," Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said. "Today, it's our pleasure to call him 'defendant.'''
Commonly referred to as the EAR/GSK, the rapist and murderer is believed to have killed at least 12 people, raped between 45 and 51 women and burglarized 120 homes throughout California.
His reign of terror lasted at least 12 years and began with a series of burglaries and rapes in Rancho Cordova and Carmichael, both suburbs of Sacramento, in the summer of 1976, the FBI said.
“The EAR/GSK gained entry into the homes of his victims by prying open a window or door while they slept," the FBI said. "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 would ransack the home and rape the woman before eventually leaving with small items taken from the victims, including coins, cash, identification and jewelry, authorities said.
In some instances, he would place dishware on the backs of the tied up men, warning them that if he heard plates break as a result of the man moving, he would kill the woman.
Some victims also reported receiving phone calls from the EAR/GSK after the crimes.
The EAR/GSK raped at least 37 people in the Sacramento area and Central Valley before he is believed to have moved on to the Bay Area and Southern California.
The man continued to rape and kill individuals and couples in Southern California from 1979 to 1981.
No additional incidents related to the EAR/GSK were reported until the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl living in Irvine in May 1986.
"This was the last known incident related to the EAR/GSK in California," the FBI said.
All crimes linked to the EAR/GSK have been linked through DNA left at the scenes or by the patterns used in the crimes, officials said.
DeAngelo's DNA was a match to that collected throughout the years investigating the EAR/GSK, authorities said.
"It is fitting that today is national DNA day," Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at Wednesday's press conference.
Police first zeroed in on DeAngelo six days earlier. They watched his movements at his home for several days and collected a DNA sample from something DeAngelo discarded in that time.
"We were able to confirm what we thought we already knew — that we had our man," Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said.
DeAngelo was arrested outside of his home Wednesday.
"We had a team in place that was able to take him into custody," Jones said. "He was very surprised by that. It looked as though he might have been searching his mind [on what to do]."
DeAngelo worked as a police officer with the Exeter Police Department near Visalia from 1973 to 1976, when a serial prowler and voyeur dubbed the Visalia Ransacker was active, Jones said.
The Visalia Ransacker typically broke into single-family homes and tore apart the house's contents while stealing small items. The Visalia Ransacker's crime spree is thought to have begun in 1974 and ended in late 1975, when he was spotted trying to kidnap the 16-year-old daughter of Claude Snelling. Snelling confronted the masked man, who shot the father and journalism professor twice.
Snelling staggered back into his home and later died.
DeAngelo also worked as a police officer with the Auburn Police Department from 1976 to 1979, during the time in which the rapes committed by who was then known as the East Area Rapist. It was during this time that the Maggiores were also killed.
"He was committing the crimes during the times he was employed," Jones said.
DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn Police Department in August 1979 following his arrest for shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from a Sacramento drug store, news reports at the time said. DeAngelo was accused of failing "to answer any of the city's investigations and did not request an administrative hearing so he was dismissed."
"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," then-Auburn Police Chief Nick Willick said at the time.
It was after DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn Police Department that attacks connected to the EAR/GSK moved to Southern California.
There, Keith and Patrice Harrington were among the couples murdered in a serious of heinous crimes originally attributed to the Original Night Stalker. Patrice was also raped.
Keith Harrington's brother, Bruce Harrington, was among those present at the announcement of DeAngelo's arrest.
"Fifty-one rapes and 12 murders; today, I'd like to speak to the multi-generational... victims of this staggering crime spree," Harrington said. "It is time for all victims to grieve and to take measure one last time. To bring closure to the anguish that we've all suffered for the last 40-some-odd years.
"For law enforcement: Bravo, bravo, bravo. (For) their tenacity, their patience, their unrelenting focus... today is also a reaffirmation in the power and the public safety that is associated with forensic DNA technology," he added.
Harrington long advocated for the use of DNA in solving and investigating crimes, spending nearly $2 million to support the passing of California Proposition 69, which allows for the collection of DNA samples from all felons and from people who have been arrested for certain crimes.
"This isn't a current crime, it's an old crime, but it's finally solved by DNA," he said. "To the entire reservoir of victims out there, my sadness is with you. To the 51 ladies [raped by the EAR/GSK] ... sleep better tonight. He isn’t coming through the window. He’s now in jail and he’s history."
Jane Carson Sadler was among the women attacked by the EAR/GSK, surviving a brutal encounter with the rapist in 1976. She was attacked in bed while her 3-year-old son lay beside her.
"He gagged us, tied us and blindfolded us," she told Inside Edition. "He was holding a large butcher knife and said, 'I'll kill you.' I was frozen with fear."
She was overjoyed after learning of DeAngelo's arrest.
"So over, overwhelmed by this news," she said. "It's the best news... such a joyous occasion."
Officials thanked the public for its commitment to seeing the case solved, saying they had sorted through thousands of tips in recent years. They also thanked the media for remaining interested in the case's progress.
The case also saw considerable renewed interest by the public after true crime writer Michelle McNamara's book "I’ll Be Gone in the Dark" was released in February.
McNamara worked with investigators as she searched for the person behind the decades-old crimes, but she died in 2016, before the book could be published.
"I wish Michelle were still alive because she worked so diligently on this case," Carson Sadler said.
It was completed by McNamara’s friends Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist who focuses on unsolved murders and missing persons, and researcher Paul Haynes. It was framed by an introduction by author Gillian Flynn and an afterword by McNamara’s husband, comedian Patton Oswalt.
The book reached the No. 1 spot on The New York Times’ bestseller list last month and was acquired by HBO with plans to adapt it as a docuseries.
"HBO taking on this story will advance the passionate pursuit that Michelle shared with dozens of men and women in law enforcement — to solve the mystery of one of California’s most notorious serial killers,” Oswalt said at the time.
Four days after the second anniversary of McNamara's death, it appeared officials may finally have the answers for which she had long searched.
"I hope you got him, Michelle. I hope THEY got him," Oswalt tweeted after news of a possible arrest in the case.
He also took to Instagram, saying "Looks like they caught the East Area Rapist, which means they have caught the Golden State Killer. Looks like you've got him, Michelle."
He also said he is checking McNamara’s notes to see if the man arrested was among those she included on her list of possible suspects.
"She would be beyond excited about this," Oswalt said. "I think this is the definition of 'bittersweet.'"