Years of questions and nightmares came to an end for the residents of California when investigators finally caught the Golden State Killer. The Golden State Killer terrorized the residents of California between the years of 1974 and 1986, committing at least 12 murders, 50 rapes and more than 100 burglaries. After 40 years of eluding capture, a suspect was arrested by police from Contra Costa County to Orange County on the morning of April 25. Police arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo with no incident at his suburban home in Sacramento.
“When he came out of his residence, we had a team in place that was able to take him into custody. He was very surprised by that,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in statement to CNN.
Police captured DeAngelo using a commercial genealogy site, similar to 23andme or Ancestry.com, and tracing DeAngelo’s family tree. Police discovered that DeAngelo was the Golden State killer by tracking down his relatives until they found an MO that matched with the notorious killer and that ultimately ended up being DeAngelo. Police already had some DNA from the then-unidentified killer stored from previous crime scenes but it had not been of much use because there was no technology available to help them link the DNA sample to the killer. The police confirmed that the Golden State Killer was DeAngelo by using a current discarded sample of DNA that DeAngelo had left in a public area; after comparing the samples, they found a match. The Golden State Killer was finally caught.
“I was just so happy. I haven’t been able to wipe the smile off my face.” Margaret Wardlow, DeAngelo’s youngest victim, said in an interview with CBS.
Interest for the almost 40-year-old unsolved case was renewed recently because of the release of Michelle McNamara’s book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. After McNamara suddenly passed away in 2016, her husband, actor Patton Oswalt, and researchers Billy Jensen and Paul Haynes finished the book. The book detailed McNamara’s investigation and obsession with catching the killer. The book originated from a Los Angeles Magazine article that McNamara wrote in 2013. McNamara was is the one credited with giving DeAngelo the nickname Golden State Killer when he was previously called the East Area Rapist.
Via Twitter, Oswalt tweeted, “I hope you got him, Michelle.” And then, “I hope THEY got him,” when they arrested DeAngelo on April 25.
In response to whether he was happy about DeAngelo’s arrest, Oswalt tweeted that he was “not as happy as Michelle McNamara.”
DeAngelo was an ex-cop who was fired after being caught stealing a can of dog repellent and a hammer, but he had been committing the crimes even when he was employed in the force, according to timelines. Many believe this to be the reason he was able to elude capture for so long. In a press conference the afternoon that DeAngelo was arrested, the brother of one of the murder victims addressed all of DeAngelo’s surviving victims.
“Sleep better tonight; he isn’t coming through the window. He’s in jail.”