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Captured: ‘Golden State Killer’ Wanted for 12 Murders and 50 Rapes Turns Out To Be Former Sacramento-Area Cop

by Derek Gilna

DNA testing and some apparent good breaks in a decades-long investigation paid off when police officers executed an arrest warrant on former Auburn, California, police officer Joseph James DeAngelo on April 24, 2018.

DeAngelo, now 72, is accused of being the notorious “Golden State Killer,” who is believed to be responsible for at least 12 murders, 50 rapes, and 100 burglaries between 1974 and 1986, some of which might have been committed while he was an officer sworn to protect the public.

The accused former cop was fired from the police department of the small Sacramento suburb for stealing dog repellent and a hammer from a drugstore, but appeared to be on investigator’s radar for apparent erratic behavior. The armed attacks, which terrorized parts of central and southern California, were marked by extreme and often sadistic violence and sexual assaults that preceded armed robberies. The attacks produced thousands of leads but no results for decades.

Investigators apparently reactivated the case in 2016. According to District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, “We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there. We found the needle in the haystack, and it was right here in Sacramento. The answer was always going to be in the DNA,” she said.

The former officer apparently surfaced as a suspect based upon his current, erratic behavior, which erupted into expletive-laced outbursts when he became frustrated. “He liked the F word a lot,” neighbor Natalia Bedes-Correnti said. “He’d be out on his driveway yelling and screaming, looking for his keys. I could hear him from inside my house yelling and screaming. He was very loud.”

Another neighbor, Kevin Tapia, said DeAngelo got into an argument with his father. “No one thinks they live next door to a serial killer,” he said. “But at the same time I’m just like, he was a weird guy. He kept to himself. When you start to think about it you’re like, I could see him doing something like that, but I would never suspect it.”

Authorities uploaded some of the suspect’s “discarded DNA” from a crime scene to the genealogy database, creating a fake profile and eventually a match with great-great-great grandparents, from which investigators created family trees that eventually led to their suspect. The website’s data is stored in public view.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said: “This was truly a convergence of emerging technology and dogged determination by detectives.”

According to the sheriff, DeAngelo was arrested on suspicion of involvement in four slayings in the Sacramento and Ventura county areas. “Very possibly he was committing the crimes when he was employed as a peace officer,” Jones said.

Agents from the FBI had also been called in to gather evidence at a Sacramento-area home linked to DeAngelo. “There is a lot of material in his house, a lot of stuff to go through,” Jones said.

One victim, Jane Carson-Sander, who was sexually assaulted in 1976 in her home in Citrus Heights, received an email from a retired detective who advised her of the arrest. “I have just been overjoyed, ecstatic. It’s an emotional roller-coaster right now,” Carson-Sandler, said. “I feel like I’m in the middle of a dream and I’m going to wake up and it’s not going to be true. It’s just so nice to have closure and to know he’s in jail.”

According to Exeter Police Chief John Hall said, “It is absolutely shocking that someone can commit such heinous crimes, and finding out someone in a position of trust could betray that is absolutely unbelievable.”

The Auburn Police Department added that it will “do everything within its power to support this investigation and any prosecution that follows.”  

Angelo is being held without bail in the Sacramento County jail. 


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