By Tessa Osteen
Known by many nicknames such as the “The Original Night Stalker,” “The East Area Rapist,” and most infamously as “The Golden State Killer,” Joseph James DeAngelo spread terror from Sacramento to Los Angeles in the late 70’s through the mid 80’s. After more than four decades, DeAngelo was finally arrested in his home just outside of Sacramento on Tuesday April 24th and has now been formally charged with up to six counts of murder. Only living a town away from where a bulk of his crimes took place, the 72-year-old was living out the rest of his life comfortably in his Citrus Heights home for the past couple of years. Investigators were able to get his DNA off of one of his victims,and match it with the help from a Genealogy website to crack down on this decades long case.
Living a seemingly normal suburban life, the newly retired ex-cop had a secret past that no one knew of- until now. With an estranged wife since 1973 and two older children living with no knowledge of his past, they were often victims of violent outbreaks heard by nearby neighbors. DeAngelo was also known by many as “angry” or “paranoid” according to the Citrus Heights community. Since he was on the police force, no one seemed to point the finger at him during his time as an officer in the Central Valley.
The Sacramento District Attorney, Anne Marie Schubert, says how, “we found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento.” Many of his victims were women home alone, women at home with their children, and then married couples in their homes. DeAngelo also went on to burglarize up to 120 homes during the decade long span of crimes. At one point, his meticulous crimes averaged about 2 times a month which left the Sacramento community terrified that they could be next.
The Golden State Killer case was brought up again when the true crime book “I’ll be gone in the dark” was published in February 2018 introducing or re-introducing people to this horrendous case. The author Michelle Mcnamara died before she got to see the killer get what he deserved but her husband, actor Patton Oswalt, decided to finish her book since he didn’t want her work to go to waste. Living in a time of not worrying about locking your doors and letting your kids ride their bikes freely, was quickly changed because of the looming fear of a serial killer/ rapist looming the community.According to the FBI, DeAngelo, “gained entry into the homes of his victims by prying open a window or door while they slept.” Along with the fear felt during the these times, many people started buying locks and guns to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
The Golden State Killer is now found and those of his victims still alive can finally breathe. One of his youngest victims, Margaret Wardlaw, at the time in 1977 was 13 is,”…so thrilled with it, tickled they caught him, couldn’t be any better news.” She and many others are relieved for families who finally can get the closure they rightfully deserved.