1970s Cold Case Golden State Killer Arrested: Disturbing New Details On His Heinous Crimes

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The case has been cold since the 1970s.

Who is the Golden State Killer and what did he do?  

Ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was identified as the Golden State Killer and was charged with two counts of murder in regards to the cold case.

Billy Jensen, an investigative journalist on an in-depth book on the Golden State Killer, confirmed DeAngelo was the suspect in the case. DeAngelo fits the description of the killer from the FBI. 

A little backstory: In the 1970s in Northern California people were terrified of one man who was wreaking havoc in quiet communities. He would break into people's homes and shine a flashlight in their face to throw them off-guard. He would then tie them up, sexually assault them, and ransack the home looking for valuables. Oddly enough, he would even stop in the middle of his heinous crimes to take breaks and eat food from the victim's kitchens during.

The press named the unknown attacker the 'East Area Rapist' or the 'Diamond Knot Killer'. It wasn't until later when true crime writer Michelle E. Mcnamara wrote a book on the crime spree called "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" that the name Golden State Killer came to be. 

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The Golden State Killer would survey the community and neighborhood of his possible victims for weeks before committing attacks. He would peep and prowl trying to gain surveillance. At first, he was simply a 'Peeping Tom; who burglarized home but eventually, he outgrew burglarizing and advanced to raping and murdering his victims. There were a few times he was almost caught but in the end, he always managed to sprint away through dark back roads to evade capture. 

In the course of his crime spree, the Golden State Killer burglarized over 100 homes, raped over 40 women and killed at least twelve people. The case has been cold since the 70's.

So how was the Golden State Killer caught? At the beginning of his crime spree, authorities had a hard time connecting the crimes together. They didn't know they were looking for just one man. The case has remained cold because of the killer's ability to hide his tracks and he was extremely careful not to leave behind evidence. DNA was retrieved but the authorities could not match a face and name.

The murders and assaults stopped suddenly in 1986 but the Golden State Killer has also been linked to international crimes. 

A year later in 1987, 'Mr. Cruel' emerged in Australia and terrorized the country from 1987 until 1991. The crimes of the Golden State Killer and Mr. Cruel are similar: both assailants wore masks; they both took food from their victim's kitchen during the attacks.

But the victim demographics differed: Mr. Cruel targeted young girls around the age of 13. The Golden State Killer's victims, while also women, were older. Mr. Cruel — who was also never caught — raped three girls under the age of 14 from 1987- 1991. The crimes stopped after the murder of a fourth girl, 13-year-old Karmein Chan, in a suburb of Melbourne.

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"Victoria Police is aware of the matter regarding the Golden State Killer in the U.S.," police wrote in a statement. "This was reviewed in relation to the outstanding Mr. Cruel ­investigations in Victoria and any connection has been ruled out." 

Both cases went unsolved for years until journalist Michelle E. McMamara came on to the scene, prompting new interest in the disturbing cases. The true crime writer was married to comedian Patton Oswalt at the time when she began to research and write her book, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark." Sadly, she died in April 2016 of an unknown heart condition when she took a combination of her prescription medications. Oswalt later revealed his wife took the medications for anxiety that came from the research she did on the horrific case.

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When McNamara died, the book was only half finished. Oswalt swore to finish his late wife's work and hired an investigative journalist, Billy Jensen, and a researcher, Paul Haynes, to go through the rest of his wife's research and finish the book. When the book was published, people were stunned at the research. McNamara was able to identify the killer, and even after her death she helped provide a major break in the 40-year-old cold case. 

"If Michelle had been married to somebody else, I’m not sure they would have pressed on with the book and been able to help make it happen in the way Patton did,” McNamara's editor at Harper Collins, Jennifer Barth said. “It was a total commitment.” 

The hard work paid off.

An arrest was made early Wednesday morning: ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was identified as the Golden State Killer and was charged with two counts of murder in regards to the cold case. 

We will update this piece as more details become available.

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Molly Given is a writer living in Philadelphia and lover of all things to do with mystery and magic in life. When she’s not writing her fingers off she can be found planning her next adventure in a new part of the world.

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