In the spring of 2018, police finally ended California’s 40-year manhunt for the Golden State Killer, also known as the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker. One of the reasons this serial murderer was able to elude police and investigators for so long was because he himself was a cop.
On April 24, 2018, the FBI and Sacramento area police took into custody Joseph James DeAngelo, age 72, on suspicion of committing at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes and over 100 burglaries throughout the state of California between 1974 and 1986. All but one murder was committed before 1981.
DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June 2020 to the 13 murders and other crimes and was spared the death penalty because of his plea. So far, he hasn’t said much, but his relatives have been providing some color. For example, they say that when he was 9 or 10 years old, he witnessed his 7-year-old sister Connie being raped by two pedophile airmen at an Air Force base warehouse in Germany.
Like many of his ilk, he cryptically referred to an inner personality named “Jerry” that had apparently forced him to commit the wave of crimes that ended abruptly in 1986.
“I didn’t have the strength to push him out,” DeAngelo said. “He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s a part of me. I didn’t want to do those things. I finally pushed Jerry out and had a happy life.”
The Golden State Killer’s (GSK) targets were usually women; but later, when his manhood was challenged as too cowardly to deal with men, his M.O. shifted to attacks on couples, who he would usually kill. He was also described as poorly endowed.
Investigators believed the GSK is responsible for three major unsolved crime sprees in California. His first spree, from April 1974 to December 1975, involved a series of home ransackings in the somewhat rural community of Visalia, near Stockton. These earlier breaking-and-entering crimes appeared to be more about thrills and aggressive voyeurism than robbery. But, much like the Canadian sadist Col. David Russell Williams, over time his crimes escalated.
Read “Profiles in Sadism: The Highly Decorated, Highly Despicable Canadian Colonel David Russell Williams”
Unlike Williams, who was sloppy, GSK was organized, stealthy and meticulous; and thus, he terrorized for years. He narrowly escaped capture during an attempted break in when encountered a police officer.
The following image is a map designed by DeAngelo that shows a neighborhood he targeted in some detail. He labeled it the “punishment map.” It was found near a Dec. 9, 1978, crime scene in Danville, a small community South of San Francisco. It was of enough interest that police officials put out a video on it. Officials believe this map may have been worked on by more than one person (stated at minute 03:24). Suburban neighborhoods were his hunting ground, where he felt in his element. Obviously, this map can be studied by a serious criminal for escape routes and concealment. Note the faint markings for trails through nearby woods.
After his close call with the police officer in Visalia, the “Ransacker” changed jobs, joining a police station in Auburn, Calif., where he shifted to terrorizing the eastern Sacramento area. His crimes then escalated from ransacking to rape and eventually murder. Investigators say DeAngelo’s violent spree ended in 1986 at the age of 40 after the birth of his daughter.
The GSK in 1981 came up against a heroic 6’3″ male, Gregory Sanchez, who fought him to the bitter end. The killer narrowly survived the confrontation and perhaps decided to call it quits, at least for five years. He committed one last murder, that of an 18-year-old female in 1986. But much like Dennis Rader, the Wichita BTK killer, the GSK kept taunting his surviving victims and the police.
DeAngelo was married throughout his entire nocturnal crime sprees. How did that work?
The series “Dark Minds” aired shortly before DeAngelo was arrested. This, and a book written on the cases, and a DNA database helped provide tips pointing to this suspect. Police grabbed DNA samples from curbside trash to make the bust.
“Dark Minds” describes GSK’s M.O. and profiled the killer. It also details the nature of his crimes. It turned out to be quite accurate, although the real shocker was that DeAngelo was not just ex-military but was a police officer from 1973-1979 in the midst of his first two sprees.
The second video is with one of the chief investigators on the bust and gives more details inside the investigations now that DeAngelo is in custody.
In 1971, DeAngelo attended Sacramento State University where he focused on criminal law and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. From 1973 to 1975, he worked as a police officer in Exeter, Calif., near Visalia. Eventually, he was promoted to sergeant and put in charge of the police department’s Joint Attack on Burglary program. GSK knew not to crap on his own turf, but Visalia is only five miles away. Yes, not a small detail, but not mentioned much in open-source researches.
While committing his 1976 to 1979 Sacramento crime spree as the East Area rapist, he was a police officer in nearby old gold-mining community Auburn. In July 1979, when he was caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent, he was sentenced to six months probation in October that year — and dismissed from the police force.
He had committed 52 of his serious rapes and murders while he was an active duty police officer.
As soon as he was fired from the police force, he headed to southern California where he committed most of his murders over the next two years and earned the moniker of the Original Night Stalker, though nobody at the time made the connection between the serial killings. Wikipedia says his source of income and employment was unknown in the 1980s.
Winter Watch Takeaway: We have seen or have suspected insider involvement of psychopathic police in a number of these high-profile cases, such as the Brabant Killers and the Franklin and Dutroux scandals. We believe it is part of a larger organized infestation operation or network that is totally underappreciated. Or, as in the case of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, these criminals are involved in some way with crisis lines, community policing advisories or are fraternizing with police. Additionally, once police officers are shown to be involved, this news is tends to be hushed up and mentioned only in passing. We most definitely believe something is very off about police in the Smiley Face Killings.
Read “Smiley Face Murders: More Victims, A Mother’s Torment and Strange Parallels to Belgium’s Dutroux Murders”
In the GSK cases, most victims (and local police) were forewarned. A prowler was seen (or heard) on the property before the attacks, and many had experienced prior break ins. It is believed that the offender had a pattern of conducting extensive reconnaissance on several homes in a targeted neighborhood before selecting one for attack.
He was known to look in the windows of future victims and prowl in the yards of homes for several nights before attacking. He is believed to have entered the homes of future victims to unlock windows, unload guns and plant ligatures for later use. He frequently telephoned them before the attack, sometimes for months in advance, to learn their daily routines. He would sometimes hang up the phone or pretend to have the wrong number.
Somehow, he was able to avoid police road blocks and dragnets. Was he utilizing his access to police patrol routes and practices? Listening to police radio?
So the question begs: How could this criminal have operated so openly and brazenly? What did he have direct access to, or who tipped him off? These are logical but still unanswered questions.
Did DeAngelo Have Accomplices?
Although a narrative is usually spun that serial killers are lone wolves, there are a number of high profile sadistic serial killing cases where the main culprit has a flying-monkey-type accomplice. After decades of hearing the lone-wolf narrative in the Son of Sam murders, it’s now widely acknowledged — and freely admitted by David Berkowitz himself — that an entire criminal network or cult was involved.
At least one of the composite drawings of the period capture DeAngelo’s likeness well. But who are the others shown? There are many others, and, of course, many are inconclusive. But the accomplice theory is far from debunked.
These secondary flying-monkey individuals are usually subservient assistants or spectators. They sometimes are not hands-on in killings or interacting directly with victims. In terms of profiling, one wonders if performing live for an audience of other dark, discordian individuals wouldn’t be more satisfying for these warped killers than always going solo? Could GSK come across or compromise such deviants in the course of his police work? Of course, at some point GSK could have disposed of a flying monkey.
We examined this flying-monkey accomplice M.O. in the spree of “Freeway Killer” William Bonin (1947-1996). Vernon Butts (1959-1981), one of Bonin’s henchmen, freely admitted to taking great delight in watching Bonin kidnap, torture, rape and murder young male victims.
The GSK would usually prowl and move about the victim’s house for about two hours. He would turn off heaters or air conditioners and create complete silence. He would come back for multiple rapes during the course of his intrusion. How did he manage to turn on lights and rummage about in the middle of the night for hours without attracting attention? Did he have a lookout? Is that why he always went back and forth from the victim’s bedroom? Did he have a police scanner?
In at least four cases attributed to DeAngelo — three in Sacramento and one in Concord — victims heard him speaking to someone else. And in at least one of those cases, the victim thought she could hear a second voice.
In the Concord case, the victim said the Golden State Killer entered the garage with a bag full of stolen items and said to someone, “Take this to the car.”
In a Sacramento attack, one victim heard the East Area Rapist speaking to someone outside. Another heard the rapist in their living room saying to someone: “I thought I told you to shut up.”
During attack #24, which is described on a cold case website here, the female victim thought she heard muffled voices, and one of those voices sounded like a woman.
In the Concord attack on Oct. 13, 1978, a man and woman claiming to be from a Mormon church visited before the assault. Before then, most Mormon visits were from two men. And just before a murder in Goleta, Calif., several eyewitnesses claimed they saw two prowlers at different times: one was a woman with dark hair in her mid-20s and the other was a white male between 5’8″ and 5’10”.
A young Sacramento couple, Brian and Katie Maggiore, were walking their dog in the Rancho Cordova area on the night of Feb. 2, 1978, near where five East Area Rapist attacks had occurred. The Maggiores came across what witnesses suggested were two burglars in their backyard and were chased down and shot dead after a confrontation.
Who were Joseph DeAngelo’s known associates and friends during this period?