Who is Joseph James DeAngelo, the ex-cop suspected as Golden State Killer?

Joseph James DeAngelo's yearbook photo when he was a senior at Folsom High School in June 1964. 

Call him the Golden State Killer, the East Area Rapist or the Original Night Stalker, a state-wide investigation has led officials to say “it’s our pleasure to call him defendant.”

On Wednesday a 72-year-old former police officer was taken into custody and accused of being the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and killer who terrorized residents of the Bay Area, Sacramento and Southern California in the late 1970s and ‘80s.

Joseph James DeAngelo, who allegedly committed at least 12 homicides, 45 rapes and numerous home burglaries throughout California between 1976 and 1986, was booked into Sacramento County jail on two counts of murder around 2:00 a.m. Wednesday, officials said in a media briefing. Two of the East Area Rapist’s killings were in Ventura County, which is where the warrants were issued out of. 

Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Sheriff Scott Jones said they relied on “innovative DNA testing” to arrest DeAngelo, who was not a suspect until six days ago.

“We found the needle in the haystack, and it was right here in Sacramento,” Schubert said in the media briefing Wednesday afternoon. 

DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn Police Department in 1979 after he was arrested that July for stealing a hammer and a can of dog repellant from a Citrus Heights drug store, according to Auburn Journal articles at the time. 

In September 1979, two months after DeAngelo was fired, the Golden State Killer stabbed a dog while prowling in a neighborhood, according to “I’ll be Gone in the Dark,” a book written by Michelle McNamara about the Golden State Killer.

Billy Jensen, a co-writer of the book, tweeted a clip of the 1979 article that documented DeAngelo being fired. It states that “DeAngelo failed to answer any of the city’s investigations and did not request an administrative hearing.” Jensen wrote in the tweet that DeAngelo “just took his punishment and left the force so no one would look deeper.” 

Residents in the Citrus Heights neighborhood – a suburb in Sacramento County – where DeAngelo was arrested said he has lived in his three-bedroom home for at least two decades. The house was cordoned off by yellow crime-scene tape as Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators and FBI agents milled around inside. 

And while neighbors highlighted that DeAngelo enjoyed taking his boat fishing, they added there was a darker side to him. They said he had a temper and could be heard screaming for things seemingly minor, like not being able to find his keys. 

The Golden State Killer began his attacks in the summer of 1976, according to the FBI. That’s a three-year overlap from when the Golden State Killer’s attacks began and when DeAngelo was fired as an Auburn police officer. 

“Burglaries and rapes occurred in Rancho Cordova and Carmichael, California, both suburbs of Sacramento,” the FBI wrote on a “Most Wanted" poster. “The EAR/GSK gained entry into the homes of his victims by prying open a window or door while they slept. He would then shine a flashlight into the face of his victims, tie up the female victim and, if a male victim was present, tied him up as well. The EAR/GSK then ransacked the residence and raped the female victim. He often took small items from the residences including coins, cash, identification, and jewelry. Some victims reported receiving telephone calls from the suspect after the crimes."

After graduating from Folsom high school in Sacramento County in 1964, DeAngelo served with the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War before eventually receiving an associate’s degree with honors in police science from Sierra College in Rocklin.   

DeAngelo went on to be a police officer with two different California agencies from 1973 to 1979. One in Auburn, roughly 30 miles from Sacramento, and the other in Exeter, which is in Tulare County about 11 miles from Visalia. 

Marriage license records show that DeAngelo married Sharon M. Huddle when he was 27 years old. Huddle was 20 at the time. According to heavy.com, a newspaper article from The Exeter Sun reveals that DeAngelo was hired as a police officer in Exeter that same year. 

And that article said DeAngelo, who officials said has adult children, was born in Bath, New York and is the son of Joseph James DeAngelo Sr. and Kathleen Bosano. Bosano died in 2010 and it is unclear if his father is still alive, according to heavy.com. 

DeAngelo went on to study at California State University at Sacramento and graduated with a degree in criminal justice, specializing in criminal law. And before being hired in Exeter, he interned with the Roseville Police Department in Placer County. 

DeAngelo worked for Sierra Crane and Hoist Co. in Newcastle, which is less than five miles away from Aurburn. Dates of employment are not clear. He was reportedly affiliated with the Vet’s Club, AGS, President’s Honor Roll and the International Diving Association, according to the Auburn Journal article.

In a “Most Wanted” poster, the FBI described the Golden State Killer as 5-foot-10 white male and somewhere between 60 and 75 years old. The added he may have had interest in the military, or some military training, suggesting he was proficient with firearms. 

McNamara dubbed the East Bay Rapist the Golden State Killer in a Los Angeles magazine article published in February 2013. She responded to the new title in her blog, True Crime Diary, where she said it was not well received by all. “The displeased felt that sounded too glamorous, like he was a Hollywood star. But as my research takes me across California the more I feel the moniker, with its jarring juxtaposition, is apt.”

Online jail records show that DeAngelo is being held on the two counts murder without bail in the Sacramento County Main Jail. 

“For the 51 ladies who were brutally raped, sleep better tonight,” said Bruce Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were murdered. “He isn’t coming through the window. He’s now in jail. And he's history.”