SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Joseph DeAngelo's six-year career as a cop came swiftly to an end after being busted for shoplifting a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a Pay N' Save store in a Sacramento suburb in 1979.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, left, talks to reporters about the arrest Joesph James DeAngelo, seen in photo, on suspicion of committing a string of violent crimes in the 1970's and 1980's after a news conference. Wednesday, April 25, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. A DNA match led to the arrest of DeAngelo, 72, Tuesday. DeAngelo is believed to have committed at least 12 slayings and 45 rapes in California.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Authorities are now wondering if the items he snatched were intended as tools for the sinister rash of crimes he's suspected of carrying out.
DeAngelo, 72, was accused Wednesday of being the Golden State Killer who terrorized suburban neighborhoods in a spate of brutal rapes and slayings in the 1970s and '80s before leaving a cold trail that baffled investigators for decades.
He was charged with eight counts of murder in three counties after being linked to the crimes through his DNA. Authorities said he was responsible for a dozen slayings and some 50 rapes and that other charges could be filed.
Most of the crimes, predominantly sex assaults but also two slayings, occurred in the three years he was an Auburn police officer in the Sierra foothills outside Sacramento.
The attacks on sleeping women — and sometimes their partners — in middle and upper-middle-class subdivisions east of the state Capitol shattered an innocence where people didn't lock their doors and children rode bicycles to school and played outside until dark.
Sales of locks surged. Lights burned all night. There was even talk of vigilantes with CB radios patrolling streets to nab the masked, armed man who became known as the East Area Rapist.
"It all changed," said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who was 12 at the time of the crimes. "The memories are very vivid. You can ask anyone who grew up here. Everyone has a story."
Schubert and law enforcement officers refocused their attention on the case two years ago on the 40th anniversary of the first known attack.
But until a week ago, DeAngelo , who lived in a neatly kept home in the Citrus Heights suburb where many of the attacks went down and where he was caught stealing, was not in their sights.
A break in the case and the arrest came together in "light speed" during the past six days, Schubert said, though authorities refused to reveal what pointed to DeAngelo.
Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones said detectives with "dogged determination" were able to get a sample of DNA from something DeAngelo discarded, though he wouldn't say what the item was. The genetic material was not a match, but there were enough similarities that investigators got a second sample, which proved conclusive.
"We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there," Schubert said.
In May 1977, as the frequent attacks gained national attention, the rapist told a victim he would kill two people if he saw stories about her attack, according to an Associated Press article at the time.
Some eight months later after another nine assaults, he made good on that promise, authorities said.
Brian and Katie Maggiore were fatally shot in Rancho Cordova on Feb. 2, 1978 while walking their dog.
In this undated combo photos released by the FBI shows murder victims, Katie Maggiore and her husband Brian Maggiore. On Feb. 2, 1978, Brian Maggiore and his wife, Katie, were on an evening walk with their dog in their Rancho Cordova neighborhood when they were chased down and murdered by the East Area Rapist in Rancho Cordova, Calif. (FBI via AP)
The number of attacks recorded by police dropped precipitously after he was fired from the police department. But they intensified in violence and moved to Southern California.
Nine killings occurred between October 1979 and August 1981. After a rape and killing in Orange County five years later, the culprit appeared to have quit.
Although it's unusual for serial killers to stop, Jones said there's no evidence DeAngelo committed any crimes after 1986.
"We have no indication of any crimes with a similar or at least a close enough link to his MO and other things that he's done in the past to link him to anything from '86 on," Jones said. "We just have nothing at this point."
DeAngelo had one other minor brush with the law Jones wouldn't reveal in addition to the shoplifting incident.
The graduate of nearby Folsom High School and U.S. Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War seemed to settle into his own suburban existence in the modest three-bedroom home on Canyon Oak Drive.
For 27 years, he worked in a cavernous Save Mart Supermarkets distribution warehouse in Roseville, a Sacramento suburb, before retiring last year, company spokeswoman Victoria Castro said.
"None of his actions in the workplace would have led us to suspect any connection to crimes being attributed to him," she said in a statement.
DeAngelo built remote-controlled model airplanes and took meticulous care of his house and manicured lawn, neighbors said.
Natalia Bedes-Correnti said DeAngelo appeared to be a "nice old grandpa" who lived with an adult daughter and granddaughter. But he also had penchant for cussing loudly when he was frustrated.
"He liked the F word a lot," Bedes-Correnti said.
Deputies kept watch on the house and his comings and goings for several days and took him by surprise Tuesday afternoon as he walked outside.
As he was being arrested, he told officers he had a roast in the oven. They said they would take care of it.
Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Citrus Heights, Sophia Bollag and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles, Olga Rodriguez, Paul Elias and Juliet Williams in San Francisco and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft in New York contributed to this report.
Patton Oswalt credits late wife in Golden State Killer case
By AMANDA LEE MYERS , Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — "You did it, Michelle."
Comedian Patton Oswalt proudly and tenderly spoke those words to his late wife in an Instagram video on Wednesday.
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2012 file photo, comedian Patton Oswalt, left, and his wife Michelle McNamara arrive at the 17th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards in Los Angeles. Patton Oswalt is crediting his late wife for her work in pursuit of the so-called Golden State Killer. Michelle McNamara had made it her mission to find the person responsible for at least 12 murders and 50 rapes throughout California in the 1970s and 80s. She died in April 2016. On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, authorities said a DNA match led them to arrest Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, as a suspect. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
Finally, an arrest had been made in the case of the Golden State Killer, a moniker Michelle McNamara coined on her personal mission to catch a man responsible for at least 12 killings and 50 rapes throughout California in the 1970s and 80s.
McNamara died in her sleep at 46 in April 2016. She had been in the middle of her hunt for the killer and her book, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer."
Oswalt helped finish the book after McNamara's death. It became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller.
This Wednesday, April 25, 2018 photo shows copies of the books "I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer" by Michelle McNamara at a Books Inc. bookstore in San Francisco. California authorities say a man they suspect of being a serial killer tied to dozens of slayings and sexual assaults in the 1970s and '80s has been charged with murder. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
On Wednesday, authorities announced that a DNA match led them to arrest the Golden State Killer, who they identified as Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer.
Oswalt appeared on "Late Night with Seth Myers" early Thursday and said news of the arrest felt like "a beginning of this whole other chapter."
"Now it feels like this thing that she wanted so badly is done," he said.
He and McNamara's fans were crediting the late sleuth's years of dogged work with helping solve the crime and were disappointed when police didn't give her credit at a news conference announcing the arrest.
Asked specifically about whether McNamara's book helped solve the case, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said his office had gotten that question "from literally all over the world in the last 24 hours."
"And the answer is no," he said. "It kept interest in tips coming in. Other than that there was no information extracted from that book that directly led to the apprehension."
On Instagram, Oswalt said: "Even though the cops are never going to say it, your book helped get this thing closed."
McNamara "didn't care about getting any shine on herself," Oswalt wrote on Twitter, comparing her to Frances McDormand's unassuming Detective Marge Gunderson in the 1996 film "Fargo."
"She kept coming at him," Oswalt said.
DeAngelo's name hadn't been on McNamara's radar screen, said Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist who helped write the book.
But McNamara's idea for the "Golden State Killer" name, her coverage of the case in "Los Angeles Magazine" and a blog , the shocking news of her death, and the book all shined a spotlight on the decades-old crimes, he said.
"Just the fact that they said the book didn't help but then said 'We've got the Golden State Killer,' it's a bit contradictory," Jensen said.
Two hours before news broke of the arrest, Oswalt and all of McNamara's collaborators were together for the first time promoting the book with her family at an event outside her hometown of Chicago. It was also the first day of filming of an HBO documentary series based on the book.
"I'm a rational man, but I can't help but feel this transcends coincidence," collaborator Paul Haynes wrote on Twitter.
Oswalt said he ended the event with a thought about the killer: "He's running out of time."
McNamara wrote in her book that she became interested in cold cases as a 14-year-old girl when a neighbor's murder went unsolved. She also wrote about why and how the Golden State Killer case became her obsession later in life.
"The hook for me was that the case seemed solvable," she wrote. "Curiosity turned to clawing hunger. I was on the hunt."
When DeAngelo was arrested, Sheriff Jones said officers simply waited for him to walk outside his house.
"He was very surprised by that," Jones said. "It looked as though he might have been searching his mind to execute a particular plan he may have had in mind ... but he was not given the opportunity. It happened almost instantly and he was taken into custody without incident at all."
Oswalt and McNamara's fans couldn't help but notice the parallels with DeAngelo's arrest and how her book ends, with a message directly to the Golden State Killer.
"The doorbell rings," she wrote. "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."
AP writer Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report.