Authorities in Sacramento reportedly have arrested a man suspected of being the “Golden State Killer” responsible for multiple killings, rapes and burglaries statewide since the mid-1970s, including four murders in Orange County.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who appears to fit the description of the elusive California killer, was arrested overnight on two Ventura murder charges and was being held without bail at the Sacramento County main jail, according to multiple media reports.
Authorities would not immediately confirm he was the man who’s been sought for decades, but the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office scheduled a noon news conference to make a “major announcement.”
NBC affiliate KCRA reported that FBI agents and other law enforcement officials surrounded a home in the Citrus Heights area of Sacramento County where property records showed DeAngelo has lived for at least two decades.
The long-sought suspect, also known as the East Bay Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Diamond Knot Killer, is believed responsible for a dozen murders, about 45 rapes and multiple residential burglaries between 1976 and 1986 in the San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles areas, according to the FBI, which in June 2016 announced a reward of $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.
The emergence of DNA technology in the late 1990s helped local law enforcement link the suspect to four unsolved murders in the Southland, according to Irvine police Detective Sarah Tunnicliffe.
The first locally known victims were a husband and wife — Keith and Patrice Harrington — in Laguna Niguel. Their bodies were found in their home on Aug. 19, 1980, Tunnicliffe said.
On Feb. 6, 1981, Manuella Witthuhn, was found dead in her Irvine home. The last known Orange County victim — 18-year-old Janelle Cruz — was found on May 5, 1986, in her Irvine home.
The DNA tests in the late 1990s also helped investigators link the suspect to murders in Ventura and the Santa Barbara area, according to Tunnicliffe, who said the suspect appears to have been inactive from July 1981 through 1986 when Cruz was killed. Investigators theorize he may have been out of the country or in another state during that period.
The crime spree appears to have started in the summer of 1976 with a series of burglaries and rapes in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento. The suspect would pry open a door or window and awaken victims with a flashlight and then tie them up. At times, their attacker would call the victims on the phone later.
In the Irvine cases, the killer broke into the homes, Tunnicliffe said.