For more than 40 years, the unsolved crimes of the “Golden State Killer” haunted California, his trail of killings and rapes bedeviling police and terrifying communities. Authorities say they have solved the case. Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer who officials say is responsible for 12 homicides and 45 rapes since the 1970s, was arrested Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports. He was taken into custody at his home in Citrus Heights, Ca., a suburb of Sacramento, where his decade-long violent crime spree began in 1976.
“The answer was always going to be in the DNA,” said Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County district attorney. “We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento.” The case has vexed police officers and cycled through generations of detectives across California for decades. It wasn’t until 2001 that DNA testing led officials to realize the rapes in Northern California were committed by the same man who killed people in Southern California. The string of attacks started in the eastern part of Sacramento with a series of burglaries and rapes. The killer then moved on the San Francisco Bay area, where he committed rapes and homicides. He would attack couples, tie up them up, rape the woman and then murder both people, the FBI said. The last killing is believed to have come in 1986, when 18-year-old Janelle Cruz was raped and murdered at her home in Irvine. The elusiveness of the killer led some to believe that he was versed in police techniques. DeAngelo is suspected of carrying out some of the attacks while serving as a police officer between 1973 and 1979, said Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.