Golden State Killer investigator finds closure after decades

A key investigator behind catching the notorious and elusive Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and Original Night talker,  shared with KTVU new details about the suspect and the case.

Paul Holes worked with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department and later, the District Attorney's office. before retiring at the end of March.     

He spent 24 years trying to identify the serial rapist and killer.

In January of this year, he decided to upload  DNA from a crime scene to GEDmatch, a genealogy website, to look for a match.

His hunch paid off, yielding a pool of potential suspects that was then narrowed down to one: Joseph James DeAngelo. 

That eventually led to DeAngelos’ arrest April 24 at his home in Citrus Heights, Calif. which Holes says DeAngelo has owned since 1979, at a time when many of the rapes and killings attributed to the Golden State Killer and East Area Rapist took place.

Nathan Harvey says he's lived next door to DeAngleo for 8 years.

"A little bit of shock from everybody," said Harvey," In my wildest dreams, if you would have told me two weeks ago that the man living next door would be accused of certain things, I would have told you you're crazy."  

He says DeAngelo helped him build a fence between their homes and he helped DeAngelo fix his garage door.  Harvey says the suspect was strong and able-bodied so he was surprised to see the DeAngelo in a wheelchair when he appeared in court last week.   

Holes, the retired investigator,  said DeAngelo's name never showed up in any case file.
It wasn't until he uploaded the DNA to GEDmatch, creating a profile from DNA collected at the crime scene in Ventura where Charlene and Lyman Smith were killed.

"GEDmatch gave us results that ultimately led to him," said Holes.
He told KTVU  he used the same method once before and it helped solve another homicide case in Richmond. 

Once he had a preliminary DNA match, he said he did old-fashioned police work to learn more about DeAngelo's history and habits. 

"This is what he looked like back then," said Holes as he pointed to a collage of old photos on his computer.

Holes said he learned that DeAngelo was a former police officer with first the Exeter police department, then Auburn where the chief  fired DeAngelo in 1979 for shoplifting. 

Holes contacted the former Auburn police chief and says he was told DeAngelo had threatened to kill the chief and may have also visited his home that same night he lost his job. 

"In the middle of the night, the chief's daughter walked into his room and said, ‘Daddy there's a man standing at my window shining a flashlight into my bedroom.’  The chief gets up and runs outside. Whoever that man was...was gone," said Holes. 

The investigator said that information made DeAngelo, in his words, an "interesting" suspect.  Holes said he never suspected the culprit would be a police officer.

But he said he now believes De'Angelo eluded authorities for 44 years, in part because of his police training. 

"During the attacks, he made misleading statements to the victims because he knows the victims are going to talk to detectives and he's doing what I call verbal staging," said Holes. 

It's that type of deception that Holes says DeAngelo displayed in his first court appearance last Friday when the  suspect spoke softly from a wheelchair. 

"He was under surveillance for a week. We saw a man who was riding his motorcycle at high rates of speed on the freeway.  He was moving around his house in a manner that the surveillance team said this guy does not look like he's 72 years old.  He looks like he's 50 years old," said Holes.  

He said during the course of the investigation, law enforcement  obtained discarded DNA from DeAngelo, rather than tipping him off by asking him for a DNA sample.

"There was enough of a chance that if he was the guy, if we went up to ask for a consent sample, even if he gave us a sample, it takes the lab some to analyze it, He'd be gone or commit suicide," said Holes. 
It wasn't until just a few hours before last week's arrest that the final set of DNA results came back and authorities say they were 100 percent sure that DeAngelo was the elusive Golden State Killer. 

"I believed that if we had not used the genealogy tool. It's entirely possible this entire case could have gone unsolved," said Holes.  

He said the most gratifying part was being able to tell victims himself that a suspect has been identified and arrested.