Sacramento Serial Rapist
DNA connects a serial rapist to several murders in Southern California.
DOB: 1958 to 1965
Height: 5’7” to 5’11”
Eyes: Blue or hazel
Defining Characteristics: Medium build, very thick legs
How many were killed in Southern California?
In October of 1976, a woman was tied up and raped in an affluent suburb just outside of Sacramento, California. This rape victim, who asked that her identity remain confidential, is one of more than 50 women believed to have been assaulted by a serial rapist who terrorized the Sacramento area during the 1970s:
"I remember waking up, with a flashlight shining in my face. And I was looking down the barrel of a gun. And, he said, don't move, don't make a sound or I will kill you. And within a moment's notice, my life was all of a sudden in the control of somebody else."
The mysterious attacker, known to police as the "East Area Rapist", was never identified. And in recent years, dramatic advances in law enforcement technology determined that the same man was responsible for a series of murders in the 1980s.
The East Area Rapist displayed some unusual habits, including lingering in victims' homes for hours. On the night of the attack, the unidentified victim sensed her attacker was smoking in her living room:
"The police felt that he had gotten into my refrigerator. I think he was in the house anywhere from two and a half to three hours. I lay there for what seemed like... a long period of time... and then, all of a sudden... I couldn't see, I couldn't move and I couldn't yell. And I remember wondering is this it? Is this the way I'm going to die?"
He patiently waited in the victim’s house
After sexually assaulting his victims, the rapist would quietly sneak away. Detective Carol Daly of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department interviewed many of the rapist's victims:
"The East Area rapist definitely did a psychological rape along with the physical rape. The manner in which he would threaten the victims, the length of time that he stayed in the home, made his crime different and unique."
The first fifteen attacks occurred in homes only inhabited by women and children. But then the rapist became even more brazen. According to Carol Daly, he began targeting homes in which a man was also present:
"When the rapist would come in he would, at gunpoint, order the female to tie up the male in the house. And then he would remove the female to the other part of the house where he would also tie her up. And then he would put dishes on the husband. While he was in the other room occupied with the sexual assault, he could hear whether or not the male was trying to get free... I think that he liked the excitement of the game. I think it was as much a game with the investigators as it was for what he was doing to the victims."
The Sacramento Serial Rapist could be anywhere
The sadistic "game" being played by the rapist often extended beyond the attack itself. The unidentified victim, along with several other victims, reported receiving disturbing phone calls from the rapist years later:
"I felt by what he said to me that he had been still watching me and stalking me. I felt absolutely terrified. I think the phone calls were just his way of saying, you're still my hostage. Even though I'm not in your house, psychologically, you're still my hostage."
By the late 1970s, the East Area Rapist had moved 50 miles west to Contra Costa County. Five more assaults were reported there. Then, according to Lieutenant Richard Selby of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, the attacks abruptly stopped:
"Everybody speculated about where this guy might have gone and why... he might have stopped. And, there was nowhere to go with it. We had no real physical description."
The trail eventually grew cold. But over the years, criminalist Paul Holes of the Contra Costra Sheriff's Department, continued to work the case. He ran DNA profiles on semen recovered from the five rapes in his county. He then attempted to track down the rapist. Holes began contacting agencies across the state. 400 miles south, in Orange County, forensic scientist Mary Hong had used DNA to link six rape-murders in her county to a single killer. In 2001, Mary got a call from Paul Holes:
"Independently, he was thinking that this guy has to be committing these crimes somewhere else. So, he actually was calling these agencies and finding out if they had any cases that fit his profile. I had him read me the profile that he had on his case, and I compared that to the profile that I had on our cases, and they matched all the way across."
The East Area Rapist had become a Southern California killer, leaving a trail of deaths in his wake. Larry Pool of the Orange County Sheriff's Department headed up the Southern California investigation:
"I don't know of anyone like him. He's a very unique offender. Fifty rapes that we're aware of, ten murders that we're aware of. We suspect that he's probably responsible for more rapes and murders and crimes, outside of what we've identified."
With the biological link to the Northern California rapes confirmed, investigators now had 50 additional cases to comb through in search of new clues to the serial killer's identity. According to Larry Pool, the East Area Rapist's m.o. of stacking plates on the victim's partner during the assault is believed to be particularly unique:
"It's a signature aspect of our offender. Is it possible that someone abused him and treated him the same way terrorizing him, perhaps, as a boy when he grew up? It's possible... I don't want to end my career without having solved this. And if it's not solved by the time I retire, I'll think about it until the day I die."
Police believe that the East Area Rapist is Caucasian. He has a medium build and stands 5'7" to 5'11". Victims repeatedly described his legs as being "very thick." He would now be over 50 years old.