Over forty years after he first struck, the man known previously as the Original Night Stalker / Visalia Ransacker / East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer has been arrested. Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer, was taken into custody in Sacramento County, California, in April of 2018.
The case is believe to have first began in June of 1976 when a woman was assaulted in her home in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento. The rapist continued to terrorize the area for the remainder of the 70s, escalating from attacking homes with women and children present to homes with both men and women.
By the late 1970s, the man known as the East Area Rapist had moved 50 miles west to Contra Costa County. Five more assaults were reported there. Then, the attacks abruptly stopped.
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. The East Area Rapist had become a Southern California killer, leaving a trail of deaths in his wake. 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. But even with the combined evidence and DNA samples, they still could not identify the suspect.
Then in 2018, investigator Paul Holes got the idea to use the killer’s DNA to create a profile on a genealogy site to try to find his identity. In order to find a DNA sample for the testing, Holes turned to Dr. Peter Speth, a forensic pathologist who made it habit to make duplicate rape tests. His diligence resulted in a pristine DNA sample that was able to be used to create the killer’s profile. Holes created an undercover account on the genealogy site GEDMatch, and received back a list of distant relatives. From there investigators combed through the family tree to find the most likely suspect.
The investigators zeroed in on DeAngelo, who fit what they knew about the killer from witness statements. Discarded DNA samples from DeAngelo were then tested against the DNA provided by Dr. Speth, and they were a match.
See the original Unsolved Mysteries segment on this case streaming in S12:E8 with Robert Stack and S7:E22 with Dennis Farina. Also on Lifetime and Escape in SP154. https://unsolved.com/watch/