For more than a decade — beginning in the mid-70’s and ending in 1986 — the Golden State Killer committed more than 40 rapes and murdered 12 people in California.
Then he disappeared.
But on Wednesday morning, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department announced that a suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested in connection to the decades-old cold case.
The news comes after the publication of Michelle McNamara’s book, I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, reached No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and shined a national spotlight on the unsolved crimes. McNamara, founder of True Crime Diary, died unexpectedly before publication of the book. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, has gone on tour to promote its release and to encourage interest in the case that his wife spent nearly a decade painstakingly researching.
Throughout her research and writing, McNamara reiterated her belief that not only was the killer alive and likely in his seventies, but also still living in California.
The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Diamond Knot Killer, terrorized residents of the Sacramento area, burglarizing hundreds of houses before progressing to rape and murder. Authorities believed he then moved on to the Bay Area and Southern California where his crimes continued.
During the commission of his crimes, The Golden State Killer bound and gagged his victims, placing plates on the male partners and warning that he would kill everyone if he heard the dishware rattle. He was spotted fleeing crime scenes a number of times, but was agile and managed to sprint away from capture. He sometimes taunted his victims by calling their homes after attacking them and threatening to hurt them again.
The crimes were one of the motivating factors behind a 2004 ballot initiative requiring felons to provide DNA samples in order to create a database. As DNA technology improved in the decades following the Golden State Killer’s most active years, investigators were able to connect more than 175 of crimes and continue investigating the case.
If the arrest does indeed lead to a conviction it will be a bittersweet and well-earned conclusion to Mcnamara’s hard work. As she wrote in the book, addressing the Golden State Killer personally:
"One day soon, you’ll hear a car pull up to your curb, an engine cut out. You’ll hear footsteps coming up your front walk. Liked they did for Edward Wayne Edwards, twenty-nine years after he killed Timothy Hack and Kelly Drew, in Sullivan, Wisconsin. Like they did for Kenneth Lee Hicks, thirty years after he killed Lori Billingsley, in Aloha, Oregon.
The doorbell rings.
No side gates are left open. You’re long past leaping over a fence, Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell.
This is how it ends for you.
You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.
Open the door. Show us your face.
Walk into the light."
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