A former California cop was arrested and outed Wednesday as the infamous Golden State Killer — the fiend who murdered at least 12 people and raped dozens of women in the 1970s and ’80s and whose crimes were chronicled in the recent best-selling true-crime book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” authorities said.
Officials said they nailed ex-Auburn and former Exeter police officer Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., now 72, by putting him under surveillance a few days ago and getting “discarded DNA” from him — which they then linked to the horrific crime spree.
“James DeAngelo has been called a lot of things by law enforcement. He’s been called the East Side Rapist; the Visalia Ransacker. The Original Night Stalker. The Golden State Killer. Today, it’s our pleasure to call him defendant,” crowed Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
DeAngelo was busted on at least six counts of murder, although officials believe he’s the monster responsible for at least 12 homicides, 45 rapes and 120 home burglaries across California, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and other sources.
Law enforcement matched the DNA material discarded by the ex-cop to material collected decades ago, authorities said. The former worked as a cop in the Exeter Police Department from 1973 to 1976 and then in Auburn’s from 1976 until 1979, when he was fired for shoplifting a hammer and a can of dog repellent, authorities said.
“Very possibly he was committing the crimes while he was a police officer. We’re looking into whether he was doing it while on the job,” a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department spokesman said at a press conference Wednesday.
DeAngelo, a longtime resident of Sacramento, was arrested after a renewed push into the horrifying unsolved case — amid the release two months ago of the riveting book, which was penned by Michelle McNamara, comedian Patton Oswalt’s late wife. He has also been known as the Diamond Knot Killer.
“We found the needle in the haystack — and it was right here in Sacramento,” said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, adding officials nailed him through “innovative techniques” involving DNA technology.
Jane Carson-Sandler, who was raped by the deranged creep in her Citrus Heights, Calif., home in October 1976, cheered the arrest.
“I just found out this morning,” she told The Island Packet newspaper. “I’m overwhelmed with joy. I’ve been crying, sobbing.”
She added, “After 42 years — wow!”
Bruce Hamilton, the brother of slain victim Keith Harrington, said, “It is time for victims to begin to heal — it’s long overdue.”
He added, “And for the 51 ladies brutally raped, sleep better, tonight. He isn’t coming in the window; he’s in jail.”
The serial killer’s twisted spree — which has for decades baffled cops, victims and true crime buffs — began with rapes in east Sacramento County in the summer of 1976.
He often used the same twisted approach, striking women while they felt safe in their homes and shining a flashlight in their eyes to blind them before tying them up with shoelaces and raping them.
During the brutal attacks, he usually spoke through gritted teeth to disguise his voice.
“Shut up or I’ll kill you!” he hissed while holding a knife to the chest of Carson-Sandler in October 1976, according to The Island Packet newspaper.
The twisted killer also collected “trophies,” including victims’ wedding rings, and would sometimes call the women afterward to taunt them.
As years passed, he grew more bold. He began attacking women while they were with men — and would sometimes stay for hours after the rape, rifling through their belongings and even cooking meals.
Authorities say his first murder was in February 1978, when he chased and gunned down Brian and Katie Maggiore, newlyweds who were walking their dog in the quiet city of Rancho Cordova. Other victims were beaten to death in attacks as far south as Orange County, roughly 400 miles from Sacramento.
In the 1970s, the killer was reported to be a white man, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall with light hair and an athletic body. Investigators nabbed the killer’s DNA and searched for years for a match.
But decades after the case ran cold, McNamara began an exhaustive investigation into the identity of the killer for her book. But, in April 2016, she tragically died before she could finish it. She took a fatal mix of prescription drugs, including Adderall, synthetic heroin fentanyl and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.
According to friends and relatives, she had been so obsessed with finishing the book — and fixated on its horrifying antagonist — that she suffered from insomnia, anxiety and weight gain. She began self-medicating, with the prescription drugs along with a heart blockage causing her death, according to past reports.
“I’m obsessed. It’s not healthy,’’ she wrote on her true crime blog in 2011.
Oswalt, who shared her passion for the case, said after her death, “It’s so clear that the stress led her to make some bad choices in terms of the pharmaceuticals she was using,’’ according to the New York Times.
On Facebook, he added, “I can’t help feeling that somewhere, in her final pages, she left enough clues for someone to finish the job she couldn’t — to put California’s worst serial killer behind bars.”
On Wednesday, DeAngelo was charged with the Feb. 2, 1978, murders of the Maggiores along with the 1980 homicides of Lyman and Charlene Smith, of Ventura. He was also busted for the murders of Keith Harrington, who was beaten to death with his wife, Patrice Harrington, 27, in August 1980, law enforcement sources said.
A spokesman from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said, “There was no information extracted from the book that led to [his] apprehension” — but it may have helped draw attention to the case.
Oswalt took to Twitter to comment on the serial killer bust.
“If they’ve really caught the #GoldenStateKiller I hope I get to visit him,” he wrote. “Not to gloat or gawk — to ask him the questions that [my wife] wanted answered.”
He added, “‘I think you got him, Michelle.”
His wife coined the nickname the Golden State Killer.
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