Who was the Golden State Killer?

He was a serial killer, serial rapist and serial burglar. He was also known as the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, and the Diamond Knot Killer and is believed to have carried out rapes and murders between 1976 and 1986, killing girls and women aged between 12 and 41.

During his reign of terror, he committed 120 burglaries, 45 sexual assaults and 12 known homicides. His last known suspected murders was the killing of an 18-year-old girl in Irvine, California in 1986. Then, he stopped. He preferred bounding and gagging his victims, often threatening he would kill everyone. Although he was spotted multiple times fleeing his crime scenes, authorities were never able to catch him. As if his atrocities were not enough, he enjoyed calling his victims at their home, threatening he will come back and hurt them again.

For decades, no one knew who he was. His victims waited hopelessly for justice, trying to recover and continue their lives. But no one gave up on the idea of bringing him to justice one day. Hope, unwillingness to give up and countless of investigations finally paid off on April 25, 2018, when Sacramento police announced they arrested suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, 72.

When did the crimes start?

Known initially as The East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker aka Golden State Killer is believed to have started as burglar, and later moving to the Sacramento area and progressing to rape and murder.

He was usually stalking middle class neighborhoods during night, preying on women who lived alone in homes close to easy quick escapes, such as schools, creeks, or any other open spaces. He was suspected of using extensive surveillance on the homes he was targeting, before deciding to break in. Police believe he was peeping in the windows of his future victims and even entering the homes before the crimes, to unlock windows, unload guns and plant tools he might use in the future attack. This was no criminal acting unpremeditated. He was stalking his victims, often known as calling his future victims, learning their habits, routines and schedules.  He was patient, gathering as much surveillance as he needed, taking his time even for months before committing the attacks.

Modus Operandi

Originally he was targeting female victims, living alone or with children, but later his confidence built up and started attacking couples. His modus operandi was to break into the house through a window or sliding glass door and then waking up his victims with a flashlight, threatening their lives with a handgun. He then continued with bounding his victims with ligatures and gagging them with towels. To avoid having the male victims fight back, he was forcing the women to tie up the men and only then proceeding to tie up the women. Further more, to make sure the men will not try to escape, he was placing dishes on their back, saying that if he hears the dishes rattle, he will kill everyone in the house. After making sure nothing will interrupt him, he was taking the women somewhere separately and rape them repeatedly, sometimes for several hours.

When taking “breaks”, he was going through the victims’ belongings, eating food, drinking beer, raping again and often repeat threats. Some victims reported that the attacks lasted a lot of time, often not being sure if the attacker is still in the house. If they moved, he made his presence heard by jumping out from whatever dark corner he was sitting in. Before fleeing the house, he used to take whatever he found useful like guns, cash or different items that sometimes didn’t really have a high financial value.

The horrible thing is, that victims were most of the time unsure if he left the house or he is hiding somewhere inside.

No one knew exactly how he was escaping. It is believed he was doing his escapes on foot, avoiding streets to minimize the chance of being seen.

East Area Rapist crimes, June 1976 through July 1979

Day of weekDateYear
Friday June 181976
Saturday July 171976
Sunday August 291976
Saturday September 41976
Tuesday October 51976
Saturday October 91976
Monday October 181976
Monday October 181976
Wednesday November 101976
Saturday December 181976
Tuesday January 181977
Monday January 241977
Monday February 71977
Wednesday February 161977
Tuesday March 81977
Friday March 181977
Saturday April 21977
Friday April 151977
Tuesday May 31977
Thursday May 51977
Sunday May 141977
Tuesday May 171977
Saturday May 281977
Tuesday September 61977
Saturday October 11977
Friday October 211977
Saturday October 291977
Thursday November 101977
Friday December 21977
Saturday January 281978
Thursday February 21978
Friday March 181978
Friday April 141978
Monday June 51978
Wednesday June 71978
Friday June 231978
Saturday June 241978
Thursday July 61978
Saturday October 71978
Friday October 131978
Saturday October 281978
Saturday November 41978
Saturday December 21978
Saturday December 91978
Thursday April 51979
Wednesday June 21979
Monday June 111979
Monday June 251979
Thursday July 51979


The Murders

In 1979, the rapist became a murderer. A serial murderer.

On the night of February 2, 1978 Brian Maggiore and Katie Maggiore were walking their dog in the Rancho Cordova area, in Sacramento, when suddenly they were attacked. The couple managed to flee, but they were chased down and shot dead. At the crime scene, some shoe laces were found and giving the crime scene location, close to the East Area Rapist crimes, made the investigators believe that it was the East Area Rapist who in fact committed the murders. However, it took decades until the FBI confirmed that they are confident it was the rapist who killed the Maggiore couple.

Investigators process the Rancho Cordova backyard where two victims, Brian and Katie Maggiore, were found shot dead in 1978. Photograph: Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office / Orange County Sheriff’s Department

It is not quite sure yet why the East Area Rapist became a serial killer and what exactly drove him to kill his victims. One might speculate that raping wasn’t enough anymore to feed his sadistic needs, or maybe he wasn’t willing to leave behind any potential victims that could identify him, or victims fought back and he delivered on his threats to kill everyone if they do so.


The Killing Spree

On October 1. 1979, he broke into a house in Goleta, and the couple was waken up by the attacker chanting to himself “I’ll kill’em”. The victims made an attempt to escape when the attacker left the room. The woman screamed and the attacker realized that he will be discovered so he fled the house on a bicycle, but was chased down by a neighbor who happened to be an FBI agent. He left the bicycle behind, along with a knife and fled on foot through different backyards, until he escaped.

Three months later, on December 30, 1979, a couple was found shot dead on Avenida Pequena in Goleta. They were Robert Offermann, 44 years old and Debra Alexandra Manning, 35 years old. The male victim had his bindings untied, which led investigators to believe that he made an attempt at escape, before being shot to death. After murdering the couple, the killer stole a bicycle from a nearby residence and fled the scene. Judging by the ligaments used to bind the victims and shoe prints, the murders were linked to the ones on Oct 1. 1979.

On March 13, 1980, Lyman Smith, 43 years old and Charlene Smith, 33 years old were murdered in their home. Both victims were bludgeoned to death with a log from the fireplace. The female victim had signs of rape. They were found both bound with a drapery cord, using an unusual know called the diamond knot. The same type of know was seen at previous home invasions and East Area Rapist attacks in Sacramento.

The killings continue

A couple of months later, on August 19, 1980, another couple was murdered. Keith Eli Harrington, 24 years old and Patrice Briscoe Harrington, 27 years old, were found bludgeoned to death in their home on Cockleshell Drive in the Niguel Shores gated community in Dana Point. No ligaments or weapons were found at the crime scene, but there were signs that the victims were bound at the writs and ankles. Keith’s brother, later supported the California Proposition in 2004, which allowed authorities to take and collect DNA samples from certain criminals in California.

On February 6, 1981 the killer took the life of yet another victim. She was Manuela Witthuhn, 28 years old. She was murdered inside her home in Irvine. No ligaments were found at the crime scene, but the victim’s body showed signs of being tied before bludgeoned to death. She was married, but at the time of the attack she was alone at home. There were signs that the killer tried to stage the crime as a robbery gone wrong.

10 and 11th Victims

The same year, on July 27, another couple in Goleta fell victims of the serial killer. Cheri Domingo, 35 years old and Gregory Sanchez, 27 years old, were attacked in Cherry Domingo’s house. It looks like the killer was operating in the same proximity as Domingo’s house was just several blocks away from the Offermann-Manning murders, from 1978. This time, the male victim was shot immediately. It is possible that Sanchez tried to attack the killer before being tied up and this is how he ended up being shot. There were no signs of ligaments on his body, but the gun wound was not fatal. He was bludgeoned to death. Domingo was raped and had sign of being tied up, though nothing was found at the crime scene. She was also bludgeoned to death.

Domingo had two children, however none of them were at the house when the attack happened. The daughter, 15 years old was at some friends when the attack happened and the son was out of state, visiting family.

The last victim

The final victim was murdered several years later, in 1986. On May 4, the family of Janelle Lisa Cruz, 18 years old, was vacationing in Mexico. She was alone at home. The killer entered the house, raped her, then bludgeoned her to death.

The murderers were not linked together and were being investigated separately. False leads were followed and wrong suspects were arrested. It was only later on, with the help of DNA, when all this victims were linked to same serial killer.

Day of weekDateYearLocation
Monday October 1 1979Goleta, Santa Barbara County
Sunday December 30 1979Goleta, Santa Barbara County
Thursday March 13 1980Ventura, Ventura County
Tuesday August 19 1980Dana Point, Orange County
Friday February 6 1981Irvine, Orange County
Monday July 27 1981Goleta, Santa Barbara County
Saturday May 4 1986Irvine, Orange County


The Hunt For The Killer

It has been four decades since the killer’s first attack. At the time of the first rape cases were reported, investigators believed the author of the attacks targets only women living alone or being alone. However, that soon changed, as attacks on couples started being reported.

Police believed the Maggiore couple were victims of the East Area Rapist. That’s when it was realized they are no longer dealing with a serial rapist, but with a murderer.
“We thought he would never stop, but then two months after the Maggiore homicides, the East Area Rapist left our jurisdiction. It was like he disappeared in thin air” said Carol Daly, a retired detective from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. That’s when the murders started, 300 miles south of Sacramento. At that time, police didn’t realize that the crimes fit the pattern of the East Area Rapist. The killer became known as the Original Night Stalker.
The entire region was terrorized. “We had people sleeping with shotguns, we had people purchasing dogs. People were concerned, and they had a right to be. This guy was terrorizing the community. He did horrible things.” – said Special Agent Marcus Knutson.
Investigators had nothing to go on. A sketch was made with the help of an almost victim.

DNA introduced

“Over the years, we heard of homicides down in Southern California, and we thought it was the East Area Rapist,” said Larry Crompton, retired detective for Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department. “But he would not leave fingerprints, so we could not prove, other than his M.O., that he was the same person. We did not know anything about DNA.” (source: HLN series “Unmasking A Killer.”)

With the introduction of DNA evidence, investigators managed to connect at least 3 crimes suspected to be committed by East Area Rapist and they found a match. They finally had the proof that the East Area Rapist is the Original Night Stalker aka The Golden State Killer. This happened in 2001.

“That’s when I reached out to Orange County” in Southern California, Paul Holes, who investigated the case for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, said. “just to see, you know, if the East Area Rapist DNA was a match with the Original Night Stalker.”

FBI offers $50.000 reward

In 2016, the FBI offered a $50,000 reward for any information that could lead to his arrest and conviction.

“Just like any homicide investigation,”  Sgt. Paul Belli, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detective assigned to the case said, “our lifelines are people who give us information. It all boils down to people helping.” He added that the reward could give enough motivation for someone to come forward. “It may push somebody over the edge who knows something. It could provide us with that one tip we need.”

Original Night Stalker crime map

Investigators needed help. They knew the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker are one and the same person, however, nothing more was known. There was a sketch to go on, but after decades of waiting, the killer most likely would not have been recognized.

Original Night Stalker Sketch

Original Night Stalker Sketch


The Aftermath of the attacks

Up until this week, when finally the vicious serial rapist and killer was arrested, his crimes terrorized communities and taunted former victims along with investigators who desperately were trying to catch him.

Victims had to continue their lives not knowing if the attacker will ever come back for them. Bellow you can hear some of his victims talking about those horrific moments:



The moment he whispers on the call “I am going to kill you” will make all your fears alive and send shivers down your spine. Listen bellow:


Interest in the case

In recent years, there was renewed interest in the case. This year, a book and a series from HLN were released, in the hopes of shedding more light on the case.

The book is said to have helped in arresting the killer. Michelle McNamara (April 14, 1970 – April 21, 2016), wife of Patton Oswalt, became obsessed with the Golden State Killer. “There’s a scream lodged permanently in my throat now,” she writes in her New York Times bestselling, unforgettable I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

She was blogging about true crimes on her blog. It is then, when in 2007 she stumbled upon the unsolved murders committed by the Golden State Killer. You can find her blog here:  http://truecrimediary.com/

She passed away in 2016 at the age of 46, leaving the book unfinished. At the time of her death she had amassed 3,500 files related to the case, plus dozens of notebooks, legal pads, digitized police reports and 37 boxes from an Orange County prosecutor (the book was finished by her lead researcher and a colleague). You can find the book here: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark

A NHL series was also released detailing what was known about the serial killer. You can find it here: https://cnncreativemarketing.com/project/unmasking

The Arrest

On April 25, 2018, Sacramento police announced they arrested suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, 72 years old.

Joseph James DeAngelo

Joseph James DeAngelo – the Original Night Stalker aka The Golden State Killer

Authorities arrested DeAngelo at his longtime home in Citrus Heights, early in the morning. Citrus Heights was the scene of six of confirmed attacks between 1976 and 1977. The bastard continued living in the same area where he committed his attacks.

DeAngelo is reportedly being held without bail in Sacramento County Jail. Sheriff Scott Jones stated that DeAngelo was “very surprised” by the arrest and was apprehended quickly.

More information will follow probably and we will update this post with as much as we possibly can.

“It is fitting that today is National DNA Day,” Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said. “We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento.”

Detectives matched a discarded DNA sample from his home to evidence from the investigation, according to law enforcement officials who gathered outside the crime lab where the key break was uncovered. DeAngelo was arrested not far from where the Golden State killer committed some of his crimes.

While authorities didn’t say is what exactly led them to seek DeAngelo’s DNA, but they did say however that they his name emerged in connection with the crimes last week.


What we know about DaAngelo

DeAngelo was born in Bath, New York and he grew up near Sacramento. He attended Folsom High School in Folsom, California, and later earned a BA in criminal justice from California State University Sacramento. He ultimately settled in Citrus Heights, where he lived for more than 30 years. Local news reporters spoke to neighbors who described DeAngelo as “relatively nice” but prone to loud outbursts of cursing.

He served in Vietnam as a member of the US Navy. Investigators always had their reasons to believe that the killer might have some military background. Guess they were right about that.

DeAngelo in military

In 1973 DeAngelo became a policeman in the small town of Exeter. Later on, he moved to Auburn, California, continuing his work as a police officer, even getting praised for his work. But things changed in 1979. It is then, when DeAngelo was fired after being caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent. Apparently DeAngelo didn’t fight the firing, most probably to avoid having others question why he needed the dog repellent. Now it makes sense that he was able to move silently through houses, backyards without being disturbed by dogs. He paid a fine of $100 and got 6 months probation.

The most surprising thing about this killer is that he was actually a cop. Not only that, but he got arrested for shoplifting items that were more than suspicious; yet no one even tried to pursue this, asking questions. He just got a slap on his wrist and continued his attacks, killing 12 people.

Between 1981 and 1986, it is believed that he stopped killing because he might have had a child.






I guess all that remains now is to follow up with his arrest and trial.