What to Know
- The FBI said the "Golden State Killer" is responsible for approximately 45 rapes, 12 homicides, and multiple residential burglaries
- In 2016, the FBI announced a $50,000 reward and a national campaign to identify the killer
A man who was dubbed "The Golden State Killer" after he allegedly killed and raped multiple people across the state of California has been arrested, officials announced Wednesday.
A 72-year-old ex-police officer named Joseph James DeAngelo, who appears to fit the description of the elusive California killer, was arrested overnight on two murder charges by police in Sacramento.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a news conferences Wednesday afternoon that the answer for the arrest came down to the DNA of the killer.
"It is fitting that today is National DNA Day. We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento," Schubert said.
DeAngelo was charged for the February 1978 murders of a Sacramento couple Brian and Katie Maggiore. He's being held without bail in the Sacramento County Main Jail, according to records.
He also faces capital murder charges for slayings in 1980 in Ventura County, the county's district attorney Gregory D. Totten said Wednesday.
Bruce Harrington, brother of Golden State Killer murder victims Keith and Patrice Harrington, who were beaten to death in their Dana Point home on Aug. 19, 1980 said: "I’d like to speak the multi-generational victims of this staggering crime spree. It is time for all victims to grieve and to take measure one last time. To bring closure to the anguish that we’re all suffered for the last 40-some odd years. It is time for the victims to begin to heal, so long overdue."
Harrington worked to pass Proposition 69, a 2004 voter initiative that requires the collection of DNA samples from convicted felons for California's DNA database.
Michelle Cruz, the sister of one of the killer's last victims, said "I'm so excited and overwhelmed. I'm feeling very blessed today and now I will be able to breathe again."
Janelle Cruz was 18-years-old when she was murdered in 1986 in Irvine.
NBC Affiliate KCRA said FBI agents and other law enforcement officials were outside a home in where property records showed DeAngelo lived for at least two decades.
"When he came out of the resident, we had a team in place to put in to custody. He looked very surprised by that," said Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones.
DeAngelo was an officer at the Auburn Police Department, according to Jones. He was fired from the department in 1979 after he was arrested for stealing a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a drug store, according to Auburn Journal articles from the time.
"We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there," Schubert said. "We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento."
Armed with a gun, the masked attacker terrorized communities by breaking into homes while single women or couples were sleeping. He sometimes tied up the man and piled dishes on his back, then raped the woman while threatening to kill them both if the dishes tumbled.
He often took souvenirs, notably coins and jewelry, from his victims, who ranged in age from 13 to 41.
The suspect, also known as the East Bay Rapist, was described as a white male and thought to be currently between the ages of 60 and 75 years old, and approximately 5'10" tall, according to the FBI. He left DNA traces at crime scenes but officials weren't able to match them until now.
The FBI said the killer is responsible for approximately 45 rapes, 12 homicides, and multiple residential burglaries between 1976 and 1986 in San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles area.
Authorities decided to publicize the case again in 2016 in advance of the 40th anniversary of his first known assault in Sacramento County.
Neighbor Kevin Tapia, 36, said when he was a teenager, DeAngelo falsely accused him of throwing things over their shared fence, prompting a heated exchange between DeAngelo and Tapia's father. He said DeAngelo could often be heard cursing in frustration in his backyard.
"No one thinks they live next door to a serial killer," Tapia said. "But at the same time I'm just like, he was a weird guy. He kept to himself. When you start to think about it you're like, I could see him doing something like that but I would never suspect it."
The suspected serial killer worked at a distribution center for Save Mart grocery stores for the last 27 years, according to the Sacremento Bee, a local newspaper.