SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After nearly four decades, an arrest has been made in the case of the so-called Golden State Killer, a serial killer and rapist who terrorized communities in California in the 1970s and 1980s, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested on a warrant from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and booked early Wednesday on two counts of murder, according to Sacramento County jail records.
Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento’s district attorney, said at an afternoon news conference that DNA evidence had led the authorities to DeAngelo.
“The answer has always been in Sacramento,” she said.
The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, is thought to have killed at least 12 people, raped at least 45 people and burglarized more than 120 homes in multiple communities between 1976 and 1986. His victims included women home alone, women at home with their children, and husbands and wives from Sacramento to Orange County, authorities said.
An exhaustive investigation into the identity of the serial killer was documented in a book called “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” written by Michelle McNamara, who died in April 2016. The book was completed after her death by a journalist and researcher recruited by her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, and published in February.
Oswalt spoke about the reported capture on Wednesday in a video posted on Instagram. “I think you got him, Michelle,” he said.
In one episode in 1978, Brian and Katie Maggiore, a couple living in Rancho Cordova, were walking their dog in their neighborhood at about 9 p.m. After a “violent encounter” with the suspect, they tried to flee, ending up in a private yard, where they were fatally shot, the sheriff’s department said in February, appealing to the public for leads.
The suspect struck repeatedly in Rancho Cordova, a Sacramento suburb of ranch houses, redwood trees, trim lawns and rose bushes.
Diane Peterson, a retired teacher, said Wednesday that theories about who was behind the rapes and home intrusions have remained a topic of conversation in the neighborhood in the four decades since the attacks began.
“It never totally died down,” Peterson said. “People would have their own suspicions as to who it might be.”
The killer changed the habits of what had once been a more carefree neighborhood, Peterson said. Families became diligent about locking their doors and windows. “It was a scary time,” she said.
Jean McNeill, a retired employee for the state Board of Equalization who lives one block from where one of the murders took place, said she was “elated” Wednesday morning when she heard that the killer may have been captured.
She remembered the terror that the killer instilled in the neighborhood.
“I can remember thinking, ‘It’s getting dark and no one is home with me — I’ve got to be really careful,” she said. “That’s what made it so frightening. We didn’t know when he was going to strike next.”
After the Maggiore murders, the attacker was not believed to have struck in the Sacramento area again. But in 2001, investigators using DNA evidence linked the crime to others committed in the San Francisco Bay Area, and to murders in Southern California, the sheriff’s department said.
In June 2016, the FBI announced in a news conference that it would offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the “prolific serial rapist and murderer.”
The FBI said then that if the suspect was still alive, he would be between 60 and 75 years old. Investigators described him as a white male, close to 6 feet tall, with blond or light brown hair and an athletic build. They said he might have an interest or training in military or law enforcement techniques and the use of firearms.
Thomas Fuller reported from Sacramento, California, and Christine Hauser from New York. Adam Goldman contributed reporting from Washington and Daniel Victor from New York.