Police say the Golden State killer has committed at least 1
WARNING: This report contains some graphic descriptions of the crimes
Janelle Cruz & # 39; Parents were on vacation on the night of May 3, 1986.
Cruz, an 18-year-old restaurant clerk, invited a friend who later recalled being frightened at least twice by strange noises outside and in the garage. But the teen – described by her family as a kind-hearted, beautiful girl at the beginning of adulthood – released the sounds and her friend left at midnight.
The next morning, a realtor discovered Cruz in her bedroom. She had been raped and beaten to death, her teeth were shattered and her face was bloody beyond recognition. On the floor in front of the house were tennis shoe prints and in the backyard was missing a heavy wrench.
The investigators began to meet the last people who had seen Cruz alive and their former friends, but the case became cold. Although the police put together a rape set, the DNA test of the crime scene evidence was still in its infancy, and the kit was stored for many years.
Meanwhile, the Cruz family tried to continue their lives, but the thought of Janelle's murderer running free terrorized her.
"I have not been alone in my house for 32 years," says Michelle Cruz White, Janelle's younger sister. "I lived in fear and my mother too."
They did not know it in 1986, but Janelle was the last known victim of the Golden State killer and ended the decade-long thriller of one of the most sadistic serial killers and rapists in American history.
Since the early 1970s, an unknown assailant had terrorized various parts of California from Sacramento to south of Los Angeles, earning new nicknames for each crime: the "Vidalia Ransacker", the "East Area Rapist" and the "Original Night Stalker ".
It was not until the advent of DNA testing that law enforcement officials recognized that it was a single offender. And even then, it took another two decades to find him.
"This is part of our history that generations of investigators have worked for," said Sergeant Shaun Hampton of the Sheriff Department of Sacramento.
On June 18, 1976, a masked intruder broke into the bedroom of a 23-year-old woman who awoke as he stood over her, naked from the waist down. He tied her hands, stuffed a nightgown into his mouth, and raped her with a knife. After he left, she could call the 911 with her hands still tied.
It was only the first – over the next 12 months, the man known as the "East Area Rapist" hit repeatedly, sometimes even within days of a previous attack. Often he chose single-storey houses, reached through windowpanes and tied the hands of his victims. He blinded women with a flashlight and threatened to kill them.
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"Something's wrong with him," the first victim told the FBI years later. "There is something that is not right for someone who does it all the time."
Newspaper headlines from this period highlight the inexorable and productive nature of the attacker: "Coordinated hunting will begin for attackers of 11 women." "East Area rapist claims 15. Victims; no ID." "Rapist strikes for the 26th time, still no clues."
The case entered the daily lives of Sacramento residents, who armed themselves with rifles and baseball bats, bought watch dogs, and closed doors for the first time. David Caraccio, the online news editor for the Sacramento Bee newspaper, recalls that when he was 12 years old, the East Area Rapist hit a house near his home.
"Out of curiosity we jumped on our bikes, we checked out the house," he recalls. "The news stories do not exaggerate how big the impact was."
Also, the EAR, as he briefly became known, behaved in a frightening and sadistic way. He took trophies from his victims – trinkets, cufflinks. Before he raped a 13-year-old girl, he placed plates in a separate room on the back of the girl's mother and warned that he would cut off her daughter's fingers if he heard the plates rattle. In a recorded phone call to a woman, a man who was the EAR kept whispering, "I'll kill you, I'll kill you."
The EAR raped over two dozen women when it committed its first known murder in 1978.
Katie and Brian Maggiore were walking with their dog on the night of February 2, 1978, when they were violently confronting a strange man. Nobody knows what was said, but in the end, both 20-year-old Katie and 21-year-old Brian were shot dead. A man in a ski mask was seen by several witnesses on the run.
Katie had complained in the months before that a man was stalking her at work. Her colleagues said someone called Katie repeatedly and said, "It's your turn." A strange man sitting in a blue Volkswagen would watch her for hours. After trying to confront him, he set off to return hours later. Katie quit her job soon after
After the Maggiore murders, the EAR moved its hunting grounds to nearby Contra Costa County and committed another 20 rapes before killing again, this time an osteopathic surgeon named Robert Offerman and his girlfriend Alexandria Manning. Both were tied up and shot in Offerman's house.
From then on none of the victims of the EAR was allowed to live. In the early 1980s, an offender named "Original Night Stalker" began killing Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Orange counties. He seemed to develop a new taste for raping women before their partners before he did them both.
He murders Lyman and Charlene Smith, newlyweds Keith and Patti Harrington, and Cheri Domingo and her friend Greg Sanchez. The Smiths were beaten with a log fire.
He also raped and killed a woman named Manuela Witthuhn while her husband was in a nearby hospital in 1981. He finally raped in 1986 and beat Janelle Cruz to death before disappearing without a trace for the next 32 years.
The fact that the rapes and murders were sometimes hundreds of miles apart thwarted investigators accustomed to going directly to the most likely suspects – spurned lovers, family members or acquaintances of the deceased. The lack of DNA technology also meant that law enforcement had much less to do.
"We had excellent investigators back then, who were very busy with the case," says Lieutenant Paul Belli, who has been in charge of the case since 2008. "Nobody could have predicted that the cases in Southern California were our type."
Janelle Cruz was dead for a decade when it was discovered that her body's DNA sample was identical to Harrington's and Manuela Witthuhn's DNA. Over time, the DNA profile also coincided with the Domino and Sanchez murders and the Smiths, as well as with two rape cases of Contra Costa County from the late 1970s.
Although law enforcement agencies have had a DNA profile for the Golden State killer for decades, no profile has been found in any national DNA database, implying that the man was never caught later crime in which his DNA was collected.
Eventually, a task force along with the FBI joined all concerned jurisdictions to try to work together, offer new rewards and send out a call for tips to the public. Although journalists and Lehnsucher detectives were fascinated by the case and gave thousands of tips over the years, no suspect has ever reached the DNA profile until two weeks ago.
On Wednesday, April 25, Sacramento District District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced that 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo had been arrested and murdered by the Smiths, Harrington, Maggiore, Manuela Witthuhn, and Janelle Cruz was charged. Further charges are in preparation.
The night before, rumors had spread in the community of survivors and family members that rumors had taken place. The senior detective in Janelle Cruz's case called Michelle Cruz White and her mother over loudspeakers to deliver the news.
"I was crying, I was crying," says Cruz White. "My mother dropped her jaw and she was shocked."
The break came after Paul Holes, a retired public prosecutor investigator from Contra Costa and longtime investigator of the case, ransacked a free genealogy site called GEDmatch.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the site is a place where people can find long-lost relatives and has a database of 800,000 DNA profiles. Steve Grippi, deputy head of the Sacramento district attorney, confirmed that a DeAngelo family member had used the service and they were able to isolate him as a suspect, collecting "discarded" DNA on two occasions. They finally had a match.
"We looked for a needle in a haystack and found it," says District Attorney Schubert, who has played a role since her deputy district attorney's office in 2000.
DeAngelo is a former police officer with the Auburn Police Department, who was released after stealing a hammer and a dog breaker from a hardware store in a hardware store in 1979. He married and had a daughter and worked for 27 years as a truck mechanic for a supermarket chain.
Sheriff Scott Jones told the Sacramento Bee that DeAngelo was "very surprised" when he was arrested.
Since the arrest, officials of all jurisdictions touched by the Golden State killer have been pouring into the quiet street in Citrus Heights for an exhaustive search of the house.
Lieutenant Belli said from outside the house that he was looking for trophies collected by the GSK over the years from his victims, as well as ski masks and firearms.
"We're obviously trying to go with a fine tooth crown," he says.
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DeAngelo first appeared in a courtroom in Sacramento on Friday. He sat in a wheelchair in an orange prison uniform and whispered softly. He has not filed a lawsuit and has been assigned to a public defender. His next court hearing is scheduled for 14 May
It has not yet been decided whether the case will be merged into a single jurisdiction or whether the state will seek the death penalty.
In the meantime, the Sacramento Sheriff Department is calling for more victims of sexual assault that may not have reported at this time to contact law enforcement agencies.
"This investigation will take a very long time," says Sergeant Hampton.
Michelle Cruz White choked on the phone with the BBC when she collapsed for the first time, when she found out that her sister's rapist and murderer had finally been brought to justice, she says.
She says that she can finally handle how the case affected her life, and the arrest confirmed her decision two years ago to come out in public and talk about the murder.
[My family] I thought, by showing my face to the world, I endangered our entire family and put us all at risk, "she says." I just felt so relieved it was over and my sister was at peace
DeAngelo may still claim his innocence.
But after this arrest, Cruz White says she'll finally be able to relax time in 32 years.
"All his secrets will be communicated to the world. He can no longer hide and die in peace, "she says." We did it. He is where he has to be. "