The Original Night Stalker
From 1979 to 1986, a criminal known as the Original Night Stalker terrorized families throughout California - his crimes extending from Sacramento to Los Angeles. In this three-part series, I detail these crimes, and the investigation to find the criminal who would become known by many names.
Part One: East Area Rapist
It's 2:30 in the morning, on a Sunday. Imagine where you are. Most people would be at home, sleeping.
It's the middle of October, in Sacramento, California. It was a hot summer during America's bicentennial of 1976, leading to the biggest drought on-record, and now it's beginning to cool down for the fall. The sun is setting earlier and earlier with each passing day, kids are beginning to get excited for Halloween, and families must be thinking about plans for the upcoming holiday rush. The leaves have started to change colors, and even in the mainland of California, it's beginning to get a bit chillier in the evenings.
So, at 2:30 on a Sunday morning, where are you? This particular evening - October 18th, 1976 - took place several years before I was even born, but I can imagine where I would be on most Sundays like it: at home, deep asleep, without a worry in the world.
However, for one mother and the rest of her family, this normally relaxing time would become a nightmarish hell of which there would be little escape.
It all starts with a dog barking. A ten year-old boy wakes up to the sound of the family dog barking in his bedroom, where it has been locked up for the night. The boy, whose father is away for work, is home with his mother and four-year old sister. The other two are long asleep, and not wanting to wake them, the boy gets up to put the dog outside. He climbs out of bed, likely groggy with his eyes covered in sleep, and makes his way to the back door.
As soon as he puts the dog outside, the boy turns on the outside lights, illuminating the back patio and the surrounding area. In the corner of his sleepy eye he sees a dark figure near the kitchen window, and it shocks him. It's a man, wearing what looks like a dark hood and a dark T-shirt, but whom is absolutely naked from the waist down. Next to the man, laying in the dirt and the grass, is the window screen separating the family kitchen from the outside world.
The dog begins chirping at the dark, half-naked figure, but it's much too small to pose a real threat. The dark figure runs, the sound of any dog surely an imposing one, but quickly jumps on top of the fence, showing off at least some athletic prowess. The boy, in his shocked horror and confusion, closes and locks the kitchen door, and begins running towards the back of his house.
Towards his mother. Towards comfort. Towards what he has always known as safety.
During his mad dash, the boy catches a glimpse of the terror haunting him: the dark figure, beginning to climb through the kitchen window.
The boy reaches his mother's room in a panic, closing the door behind him. Just behind him, he hears a plate smash into pieces on the kitchen floor. The boy's heart is racing, and he isn't able to tell his mother much of what's happening.
"A man in the kitchen window," he repeats, likely out-of-breath and largely unintelligible. The mother reaches for her nearby phone, calling for the operator, only to get no reply. She tries the neighbor immediately afterwards, only to get the same response. Or, rather, the absence of one.
During these rushed, panicked, unsuccessful phone calls, the two can hear an audible thump from the kitchen, just down the hallway. Then, the racing thudding of footsteps down the hallway, just as the two begin to lose all hope of a happy ending.
The door swings open, revealing the intruder in all of his horrifying glory. He wore a black mask with a black T-shirt, with what is believed to be a black glove on one hand and a white glove on another. He carried with him a large knife, which he brandished threateningly as he ordered the screaming mother and child to "shut up." He begins to threaten, numerous times, to kill and/or butcher the entire family if they do not cooperate to his satisfaction. The mother pleads to spare the lives of her children, the ten-year-old son crying for comfort in her arms, and the four-year-old daughter in another room.
The dark figure demands to know if anybody else is home. The mother, in a panicked state, confirms that her husband is away at work. However, based on this intruder's M.O., he likely already knew that. He knew more about this family than they could have ever imagined.
During the chaos of the intruder's entrance, the dog continued to bark up at storm outside. The intruder commanded the dog to be brought inside and placed in an adjacent room, where it would be quiet. It's life was safe, for the time being.
The intruder tears the phone from the wall in a rage. He covers the boy's head with a blanket, and then binds the mother with strips of a towel from a nearby room. He begins to demand money, of which the family has very little on-hand. She offers up an envelope of cash headed for the American Heart Association, but it isn't enough. With her children left in other rooms, the mother is taken to the family room, where she is further bound, blindfolded, and gagged. During all of this, the intruder is rummaging through the house, looking. Searching for something. He finds several things of value, but takes nearly none of them.
One of the few things of value he decides to take is the mother's wedding ring. She has other jewelry in the house, but the intruder isn't interested in that. This intruder becomes intent upon getting this woman's wedding ring, going as far as to threaten chopping off her finger to get it. She is lucky in that she's able to pry it off with some soap, but that isn't the end of her troubles.
For the next few hours, the mother's life is a living hell. She is raped repeatedly. The intruder, now the rapist in this situation, continues to get up every few minutes to look around. To rummage. To search. To check on things in other rooms. He is methodical, but seems to lack attention for much longer than a minute or two. He doesn't keep still for long.
He continues to threaten her, accusing her of lying to him when he finds money in a nearby desk. He threatens to kill her and the children, trying to break her into complying. But in-between his threats, in-between the hours of rape, in-between instilling terror in this chosen family, this intruder tries to compliment this terrified, traumatized mother of two.
"Your body is beautiful," he said, admiring it with his intense, steely blue eyes while keeping a knife close to her throat. He tells her this on more than one occasion, usually between threats.
The mother, perhaps in a desperate attempt to keep her children alive from this unknown, violent attacker, compliments this shadowy enigma.
"You're such a good lover," she tells him. This takes him aback, and his blue eyes look back at her in shock of their own. Nobody had ever told him that before, he tells her.
"They usually just laugh at me," he says.
"Do you like to get complimented?" she asks, perhaps trying to buy time or leeway for the lives of herself and her children.
His response is one of the biggest clues to his identity that we have. Or, perhaps, it was just another way for him to throw off the police to his true identity.
"Yes, people make fun of me, especially since something happened to my face," before continuing with his violent, despicable act.
That was one night for one victim of the Original Night Stalker, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer. But the terror wouldn't end there, on that night. Not by a long shot.
The Original Night Stalker would go on to rape over 50 women, and murdered upwards of twelve people. That is, of course, if those are all the victims that we know of. The thing that is so terrifying about the Original Night Stalker is that he was never caught, or even identified.
His identity, just like his whereabouts, are completely unknown.
Spring of 1974 was a historic time for not only the United States, but the world. Richard Nixon was fast on his way to becoming the first president to resign after being impeached. The United States and Russia were still knee-deep in the Cold War, and a global recession was starting to take hold. The MRI was developed by scientists. Muhammed Ali was circling a boxing match with George Foreman, in what would later be known as the "Rumble in the Jungle." Bands like Queen, Abba, and Deep Purple dominated the Billboard Charts.
But in the burgeoning town of Visalia, California, a criminal was beginning to gain prominence. Known to Visalia locals as the "Ransacker," this criminal gained notoriety for his actions. He would break into houses, but not with the sole intention of stealing. He would canvass houses, presumably looking for something, but would just end up vandalizing the house.
Many of the people involved had items of value, but the Ransacker refused to take them. He seemed to enjoy being in these people's homes, to simply mess with their things. Perhaps to make them feel violated. Maybe they might notice objects out-of-place, or notice some leftover food had been eaten from their fridge. We don't know.
But what we do know is that this criminal, the Ransacker, broke in and burglarized over 80 homes in the Visalia area between April 1974 and the end of the following year. You might hope that the criminal simply lost interest and moved on, but the answers is much more tragic.
On September 11th, 1975, Claude Snelling, a journalism professor, woke up to strange sounds in his home. He left his bedroom, looking for the culprit of the sound, and what he found must have been an absolute nightmare.
According to all reports, Claude Snelling found his teenage daughter, Beth, being tied up by an unknown, masked assailant. This assailant had led this terrified daughter to the backyard, where he was attempting to kidnap her.
Claude Snelling, being the father that he was, jumped into action and tried to save the life of his daughter. He went for the masked figure, but wasn't fast enough... he was shot twice. Beth began to scream, which awoke her mother inside, and the masked assailant made a dash for it. Claude Snelling gave pursuit, but succumbed to his injuries just moments afterwards.
Mrs. Snelling, Claude's wife, called the police, but it was too late. The Ransacker got away, but the damage had been done. Claude Snelling had died, becoming this attacker's first official victim.
As you can imagine, this left the town of Visalia in quite a terror. The escalation of the Ransacker, in such a horrifying fashion, left the citizens reeling. The Visalia police force, in an effort to combat the Ransacker, began doing nightly stakeouts in the neighborhood that he had been active in.
They were successful, for a time. It wasn't until December 12th that the police staking out the neighborhood found a suspect, likely back for round two.
A man was walking through the neighborhood rather late, and Detective William McGowen was on-duty that night. He decided to try and apprehend this mysterious individual, so he tried to approach the man.
His efforts were in vain. The unknown suspect immediately turned on him, and began firing with a handgun. One of the shots hit Detective McGowen's flashlight, but the police officer was able to make it out alive.
However, the suspect was never apprehended. And just like that, after a single run in with a cop, the Visalia Ransacker was gone forever, never to be found.
To this day, investigators haven't been able to confirm that the Visalia Ransacker was the same person as the Original Night Stalker, due to the lack of evidence the Ransacker left behind. He stole nothing of value, just seemingly innocuous things like family photographs or sentimental heirlooms. But the two criminals are unanimously linked together, with most people who look into the case coming to the belief that the two are the one in the same.
The perpetrators operated under similar courses of action, and the escalation near the end of the Visalia Ransacker's reign of terror can be correlated with the origins of the East Area Rapist. Just months after the Ransacker had left Visalia, a string of rapes began to be reported in Sacramento, leading to the birth of the East Area Rapist, who would later be known by the monikers of the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer.
July 18th, 1976 - Our first victim is a young, 23-year old woman working as an insurance adjuster. She lives in a house in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of the Sacramento area, with her father, a retired service member of the United States Air Force. However, her father is away for the time being, having been gone for about two months. He's set to return home in just a matter of days.
The first victim was deep asleep when she was assaulted. She was awoken to the sound of a knife tapping against the wooden door-frame leading into her room, and the perpetrator was in what would become his customary outfit: a mask of some type, perhaps a dark gray or stained white balaclava, with a black T-shirt, dark-looking gloves, and he was naked from the waist down.
The physical description of the perpetrator was known from the get-go: he stood about five foot, nine inches, and weighed in at approximately 160 or 170 pounds. He was athletic-looking: thin and lithe, like a swimmer. The only identifiable thing about his face which was primarily hidden behind the mask, were his piercing blue eyes, a trait that would be repeated among all of his attackers.
However, that wasn't the only identifier of our perpetrator. One of the things that all of the victims repeated was the unusually... small... nature of the perpetrator's penis. In a few of his future cases, this seemed to be a point of resentment for him, and perhaps was one of the building blocks that led him to this psychotic life of aggression. That's not to put the blame of his actions at the foot of his genetics, but a lot of investigators have pinpointed this as a thing that may have begun a sexual crisis for him, leading him to escalate his crimes in such a serious, violent way.
After the violent deed was done, the perpetrator tied up the victim's hands behind her back, and even tied up her ankles with the chord of a hair dryer. The victim recounted how she once feared that there were two suspects in the house, because when the perpetrator would leave her room to rummage or search for valuables, he would whisper quite loudly. She could hear him in the other room, telling himself (or someone else) to shut up repeatedly.
Eventually, the whispers subsided. After a period of time has passed in silence, the victim decided to get up and make a run for it, and found the back door barred open. Her hands were still bound, so she couldn't do much but close the door with her feet, but she noticed that the deadbolt was engaged, preventing her from closing the door.
Miraculously, she was able to call the police from a phone in her father's room, using her numb, still-bound fingers to do so. She was safe, but the East Area Rapist had begun his crime spree.
Investigators found that someone had tried to cut the phone lines outside the house, unsuccessfully. They assumed that whoever had done this was an amateur criminal, and hadn't truly planned ahead. However, despite being able to cut the phone lines, the investigators found two strips of rope that the victim had brought with him in preparation for the crime.
Later, the victim would report clues that would later become hallmarks of the Original Night Stalker. She had witnessed an older dark sports car drive past the house several times, and every time she looked up at the car, the driver would look away. She noticed nothing of it at the time, but just days after the car stopped driving by, she started to get phone calls at sporadic times of night. The person on the other end of the line would never say anything, but as soon as she answered with a customary "Hello?", they would hang up.
July 17th, 1976 - Nearly one month after the original assault, the perpetrator strikes again: this time at two teenage girls who are home alone. This is in a slightly more upscale development from Rancho Cordova, in the nearby area of Del Dayo. With their parents away on a Church outing for the weekend, the two girls stay up until 10 PM or so watching television, but are woken just hours later by the perpetrator, who had been watching them for an unknown amount of time.
Footprints would later be found in the dirt outside their windows, but none would be found outside the master bedroom. This perpetrator knew that the parents were away, which indicated that he had some knowledge of the two or, most likely, he had been observing them for some time.
He tied up one sister before assaulting the other, telling her that he had wanted to have sex with her since junior prom. This victim knew it was a feint, since she had a photograph of herself at junior prom with her boyfriend displayed on her nearby dresser, where the perpetrator likely got the idea from.
Throughout the assault, the perpetrator kept insisting that their father, a doctor, should have been keeping medicine in the refrigerator. This confounded both daughters, who really had no clue what he was rambling about, but they didn't say anything. The perpetrator didn't think of checking the father's medicine bag, located in the master bedroom, but odds are that this was another fake-out from the Night Stalker. He tried to misdirect people in small, odd ways like that, trying to pose his sexual assaults as robberies-gone-wrong. This becomes a common thread throughout the multiple assaults.
The perpetrator lingers around the house for much longer this time. Investigators would find two cans of Coors beer in the family trash can, beers that didn't belong to the teenage daughters or the parents that were away. The investigators would also find four separate strips of rope, which indicates that the perpetrator intended on tying up two suspects and had planned on it, cementing the idea that he had been watching the two for some time.
On August 29th, a month after the second assault, the perpetrator returns to the same neighborhood of his first victim. Just two houses down, he chooses a house where a mother is home alone with her two young daughters. Their father was gone, having started to work overnights just two days prior.
The perpetrator sneaks in the house through the window of the youngest daughter, just twelve, but she is able to run to her mother's room. From there, the perpetrator attempts to bind the two together, but the mother refuses to give in. Instead of his customary knife, the suspects brings a revolver and a handheld club with him, and when the mother fights back, he decides to hit her in the head repeatedly.
However, this mother refuses to give up. She is able to run outside, followed closely by her two daughters. They run to a neighbor's house for help, while the perpetrator, naked from the waist-down, dives into a nearby patch of bushes. He is later seen by a neighbor simply walking peacefully away, still naked from the waist-down.
The mother, a 41-year old of no real physical prowess, describes the perpetrator as rather small and weak, whose voice gets rather high-pitched when he's not whispering through gritted teeth. The mother goes on to say that, if he hadn't had brought the gun along with him, she thinks that she could have taken him in a fight.
This really paints an illustrious portrait of the perpetrator, who is described by all of his victims as really young. Many have him pegged as being in his early twenties during these first assaults.
After the failure of his last attack, the East Area Rapist strikes again less than a week later, on September 4th.
This attack occurs outside of a victim's house, for the first time, and is one of the most brutal of the assaults.
It's easy to surmise that after his most recent failure, the perpetrator lashed out at someone rather quickly.
This was the first time that the Original Night Stalker began to use the canal system to get around. Instead of driving around and possibly getting his car identified, the perpetrator would use the canal system to travel, using the foliage and cover of darkness to get around with ease. This is a rather important fact, because the use of the canal system points out the methods by which our perpetrator would utilize.
He would attack again on October 5th, this time taking his time to terrify the family. The victim, in this case a wife of an Air Force officer and a mother of one, would make a few phone calls to the police in preceding weeks, indicating that a break-in had taken pace. She had found dirt on the floor of her son's room, and had noticed some inexpensive heirlooms had been taken or moved around, but her expensive jewelry hadn't been touched. Police told her that it was likely just neighborhood miscreants, and that it was nothing to be worried about.
Just like other victims, this one received many phone calls at odd hours of the day. It ultimately led to her husband leaving work at around 6:30 in the morning, on October 5th. A short time afterwards, she would hear clicks, sounds similar to light switches being turned on and off. Then she was attacked, pleading for the life of her son.
The rapist gave an indication that he knew her, and had seen her at "the club," an obvious hint towards the officer's club her husband frequented at the nearby Travis Air Force Base. He even mentioned her husband in his gritty voice, calling him "the captain," a true indicator of his rank.
Many clues can be ascertained from this case, as it was one of the first times the East Area Rapist made himself at home inside the victim's home. After the sexual assault had taken place, the victim went out into the kitchen and made himself something to eat with the family's frying pan.
Neighbors had identified a dark green Chevy Vega in the area weeks preceding the attack, and one neighbor had even made a note of it being in the neighborhood while the assault was taking place.
Bloodhounds were later called to try and get a hint of the perpetrator's scent, but this is when one of the most perplexing things happened. The bloodbounds began to go berzerk when they found traces of the perpetrator's scent, something they only do when they come across heavy drug users or people suffering from a debillitating disease. We really can't pinpoint which one, if either, could be used to label the Original Night Stalker, but this was one of the rare occasions where such a small clue could throw off an entire investigation.
The next assault took place on October 9th, just days later. He attacked a young woman that was sleeping alone in her family home, but had been inside the house for what seemed like hours before attacking her. Despite the fact that she was home alone, the perpetrator had created an intricate tapestry of rope, tying together many bedroom and hallway doors so that none of them could be opened. No one is quite sure how or why he decided to do this ahead of time, seeing as the victim was home alone.
But this was another case where the Original Night Stalker, the East Area Rapist, used the topography to his advantage. He was able to access this house via the canal system from the earlier attack, which gave him the ability to come and go at-will. People in the area reported seeing the dark green Chevy Vega, but it wasn't spotted in the neighborhood on that night. The perpetrator made his way via the canal.
I've already told you the story of the seventh victim, the mother from the original story. That was October 18th, which shows just how quickly the East Area Rapist was willing to act on his crime. He was obviously escalating, beginning to act much more frequently, and if his actions have shown us anything, it's that he was bold. He wasn't afraid to walk around neighborhoods calmly with his pants off, or to refrain from cooking up food in the family's kitchen with them tied up and victimized in the other room.
The eighth victim of this attacker wouldn't be raped. She was a 19-year old young woman that was headed home late at night, awaiting the arrival of her father and brother. She was attacked, and the perpetrator led her to the backyard, where he bound her. But instead of assaulting her further, he simply demanded her car keys.
She easily gave them, and was able to free herself. By then, the perpetrator was long-gone, and had taken her car. Not far, mind you, but just down the street where two of his earlier victims lived. It was less than a mile away, and was found just hours later. No one knows why this victim was treated differently, and was simply robbed of her car.
This is where the media blackout ended. This unknown perpetrator was given the name of the "East Area Rapist," and was heavily publicized in the local newspapers.
At this time, investigators were beginning to piece things together. The assaults had taken place in such close proximity to each other that this was obviously the work of a serial attacker.
Investigators knew the basic of the attacker, which was nearly unanimous from the victims: he stood about five-foot-nine, weighed about 160 pounds, had prominent blue eyes and either dark blonde or light brown hair. He was skinny in an athletic fashion, and was seen as very young by most of the attackers. Even his small penis was notable at this point, as a few of the victims, who had never had sex before, could still be classified as virgins.
He also left behind several calling cards: the green Chevy Vega was spotted at several of the crime scenes. He would call most of his victims in preceding weeks to learn their schedules, and planned ahead, evident by the rope he would prepare and bring with him. He even started to utilize a calling card: many of the victims had window screens with a small mark near the bottom left. Investigators thought this was his calling card, but later on, they theorized that it might have been his way of identifying houses that had a dog.
He would tear apart the victims' homes, but would rarely take anything of value. He would mess around with photographs or personal mementos, but didn't take much. He would eat their food, often after the attack had taken place. He would drink beer, often bringing cans of his own. The perpetrator would usually cut the phone lines before the attack, a skill he grew better at as time went on. However, on multiple occasions, he wouldn't do so, which led investigators to believe that those crimes were more impromptu in nature.
The East Area Rapist's most notable calling card, which I haven't really gotten into yet, was his propensity towards knots. This would help tie together many of the cases later on, but our perpetrator was an expert at tying the knots he would use in his bindings. The most distinguished of these knots was the diamond knot, a type of knot used primarily in the nautical world. Many theorized that this could point towards the East Area Rapist being a ranch hand.
However, so many things didn't make sense. He toyed with the victims, telling one victim one thing and telling one another. Investigators didn't know whether he was a member of the Air Force, whether he worked in a pharmacy, whether he was a sailor or ranch hand of types, or was just a local kid from the area. And when the bloodhounds went crazy at finding his scent, indicating a drug user or someone with a disease, the investigators most likely leaned in the direction of a drug user. It made sense, at the time. By all indications, this was an attacker that was robbing from his victims as much as he was assaulting them.
But, unfortunately, the East Area Rapist was just getting started. 1976 was coming to a close, but 1977 would be the year that he would gain the most notoriety.
1977 was the year where the East Area Rapist went from being a serial offender... to becoming an urban legend.
Part Two: Original Night Stalker
We left off near the end of 1976, and the East Area Rapist had been born. The cat was out of the bag, and now the Sacramento area was painfully aware of it.
Eight victims had been accounted for. Seven of them horribly raped, victims at the hand of this insane, methodical psychopath. However, now that the case was beginning to get heavily publicized in the local news, that wouldn't deter this psychopath in the slightest.
He attacked again, on November 10th, 1976, this time attacking a high school girl that was home alone. He had assaulted and bound her, and grew irate with her upon asking her a rather simple question. He said that she looked familiar, and asked if she went to the nearby American River College. She said no, that she was still in high school, and the perpetrator seemed to not believe her. Investigators aren't sure whether this was a moment of clarity for the attacker or him trying to confuse them yet again, but he seemed to abandon the attack after learning this.
Investigators later learned that the victim's family had lived next door to a similar family, whose older daughter greatly resembled the victim. This daughter *had* gone to American River College, unlike the victim. This began to fuel the belief that this perpetrator would stake out multiple houses at a time, likely striking at one when opportunity presented itself. It's possible that the East Area Rapist was beginning to confuse his crimes, but the confusion would not last long.
At around this time, after the case had gone public, the investigators began to link the investigation to the medical field. At this time, the rate of doctors-per-civilians was rather low, making the medical field not a very common theme. But this early into the investigation, there had been four links to the medical field surrounding our nine victims. One victim's family had a doctor, one had an RB, one of the victims was pregnant, and another lived next door to a doctor. In the latter case, with the victim living next door to the doctor, investigators found footprints leading around the neighbor's house, which fed into the theory that the East Area Rapist was staking out multiple houses at a time.
This, of course, also isn't including that many of the victims had "accidental injuries," which investigators used as fuel for this theory's fire. Many of the victim's suffered small cuts from the perpetrator's knife, and he often traced his knife along their abdomen in a similar fashion as morticians. He would never purposefully maim these women, but investigators saw a link between his already-violent actions and these pseudo-sadistic "accidental injuries."
Needless to say, having nearly half of your current assaults linked to one profession isn't something an investigator is going to pass up easily.
At around this time, the 7th victim, whose story I recounted in the introduction of the first episode, found an odd piece of potential evidence. A spoon, found underneath the couch in her living room. Many would try and reasonably rebut this as a silly piece of evidence, but it leads us straight into our first real suspect.
Investigators had released a BOLO alert, also known as a "Be On The Lookout" alert. The BOLO alert was for someone of the similar dimensions to the East Area Rapist: five-foot-nine, 170 pounds, young, with blue eyes and either blonde or brown hair. One of the suspects brought back was a man named Art Pinkton, who matched the description nearly to a 'T.' He was a bit older than the perpetrator had been described as, but that didn't stop investigators from being astonished at the likelihood of this being their serial rapist.
Pinkton was found with a serrated steak knife, a separate pocket knife, three screwdrivers, a round file, two rocks, a business card for a psychiatric social worker and... oh yeah, a spoon in his pocket. This was too unlikely a coincidence for investigators to overlook, so he was brought in and investigated further. They discovered that Pinkton had been arrested about ten years prior for a series of rape charges. Ever since his release from prison, he had been classified as a mentally-disoriented sex offender, and hadn't been able to get a job due to his societal status. Investigators reasoned that this gave him plenty of time to pursue the type of stalking that the East Area Rapist was known for.
Obviously, Pinkton denied all involvement in the assaults. But, peculiarly, his family didn't feel the same. One of his sisters, along with her husband, came forward to investigators with potential evidence. They told of how Pinkton was obviously mentally unbalanced, and how he had spoken of his desires to kill someone in the past. Apparently, according to these distressed family members, he had gone as far as lying in wait with a gun for a chosen woman to walk by, but she had decided to do something different that day, saving her own life.
Pinkton's sister offered up his tool box up to investigators, hoping that some evidence could be found and her brother could be helped. Unfortunately, there was nothing in his tool box linking him to any crimes, just old, half-rusted tools. Pinkton was released, due to lack of evidence.
Lead investigator Richard Shelby, the author of "Hunting A Psychopath," one of the best books on the subject of the East Area Rapist, personally linked Pinkton within two city blocks of two separate rapes in San Diego, both of which matched the M.O. of the East Area Rapist. But there was no evidence or reason for him to keep Pinkton locked up, so he had to release him.
Police officers, who were staking out Pinkton's house for any sign of activity, had reported and seen nothing on the night the East Area Rapist struck again, seemingly eliminating him as a suspect. He would move away from the area a little while later, further proof against him.
Years later, after DNA testing became commonplace, Pinkton's DNA was matched up against that supposedly left behind by the East Area Rapist, to no match. Investigators became comfortable knowing that they hadn't let the perpetrator slip away, but Pinkton found himself in trouble just a few years ago for the death of his own brother.
With the serious lack of other suspects, the upper police brass became desperate to appease the public with an arrest or a track on a supposed suspect. Despite some of the lead investigator's resistance, a correlation was made between our perpetrator, the East Area Rapist, and another similar serial offender known as the Early Bird Rapist. Both had been plaguing the Sacramento area, but had completely different M.O.'s and almost an antithetical physical description.
The East Area Rapist was described as lean and fit, whereas the Early Bird Rapist was not so, more round and not fit in the slightest.
The police brass decided to pursue the two as the same, leading to a slight bungling of the early investigation. We don't know how many potential suspects were let go or eliminated because they didn't match the physical description of the Early Bird Rapist, which DNA would prove as an entirely separate case years later.
The perpetrator would strike again on December 18th, at yet another high-school aged girl that had been left home alone. And just like the prior assault, this victim lived next to an older, similar-looking girl. The perpetrator would ask many times when her parents were expecting back, implying that he had been watching the house for quite a while.
Everything seemingly went by-the-book for this perpetrator here. But found at the scene was a band-aid, which didn't belong to the victim or the victim's family. This band-aid had a small amount of blood found, identified as type-O, which later would go on to be a source of confusion for the investigation.
At around this time, the police decided to hold a public forum to address the public about their understandably-serious concerns. Many of the nearby citizens came out, and were addressed by the investigators in charge of the case.
This public forum has become the linchpin of the East Area Rapist myth, to many. So many rumors have been thrown out about it, that the East Area Rapist attacked one of the citizen dissidents the very next night, and that a potential suspect can be spotted in a theorized photo from the forum. I haven't found anything to substantiate these rumors, although they DO have some basis in reality.
The fact is, a man with a thick Italian accent did stand up and berate the police force for their ineffectiveness and their inability to find the perpetrator. Many of the myths regarding the East Area Rapist claim that the man, in a primal act, puffed out his chest and declared that he would never allow such a terrifying thing to happen to his wife. I cannot claim that this is truth, and it seems to be a thing of fiction, dramatized by somebody somewhere.
Another rumor persists that this Italian native and his wife were attacked a day later, in a power move perpetrated by the East Area Rapist. That is a myth. Him and his wife were attacked, but it didn't happen for nearly seven months.
The Original Night Stalker was anything if not patient.
Another interesting note can be learned from the public forum. Investigator Richard Shelby, one of the lead detectives, had made a note of officers to search after anything interesting. Even at this point, in early 1977, it was common practice for criminals to revisit their crime scenes and taunt investigators. It wasn't too far-fetched for Shelby and the other investigators to stake out the public forum in hopes that it would attract the rapist himself.
One of the police officers pulled over a tan Volkswagon Bug. The reason that the officer was so interested in the driver was because of their physical nature: they stood a five-foot-nine, about 175 pounds, and had dark with greenish hazel eyes. Upon further investigation, Shelby and the detectives discovered that he was an employee of the Department of Justice, in some capacity. He wasn't able to be arrested, due to the innocent nature of his presence there, but the presence of such a suspect can't be overlooked.
Many theories have persisted that the East Area Rapist was present at the night of the public forum, but incredibly, they can't be discounted.
1977 had officially started, and he attacked again on January 19th and January 24th. This was shortly after the public forum, in which many had been aware of what, exactly, the investigators had been looking for. During the public forum, the investigators told the public that the perpetrator had been using an ice-pick in his assaults, despite later recanting that information.
However in these assaults, timed right after the public forum, the perpetrator began using an icepick as a weapon. Many find it more than a coincidence, and a likely reminder that the East Area Rapist was presence at the town meeting.
The police force began a specific task force aimed at catching this serial offender. In addition to a handful of detectives focused primarily on identifying and finding this attacker, there were an equal amount of "X-Ray Units," plainclothes officers that would prowl the area of the assaults at night. They would utilize the same tactics as the East Area Rapist, by marching around the same type of areas, climbing through trees and shrouded areas, etc. They found many suspects, likely deterring other similar crimes, but were unsuccessful in catching the man they were looking for.
This podcast is really a slippery slope. I try not to inject too many of my opinions in the matter, because I would love for this to be a fact-based analysis of the story not judged by my emotion. But this is a case that's hard to narrate chronologically, because there is so much information that can be gleamed throughout each case. And, because there are so many incidences that happened, I don't want the podcast to get bogged down with case files and irrelevant details.
Needless to say, the East Area Rapist continued on his tear throughout 1977. He would strike again on February 7th, against an unsuspecting mother. This mother was one of the bold that fought back, perhaps for fear that something would happen to her young daughter in the very next room. She nearly freed herself and won over the assailant, even going as far as taunting him for his less-than-impressive man parts afterwards. Detective Richard Shelby would later write in his book that this woman was a personal hero to him, and still is. Can't blame him, really... this woman sounds like an absolute badass in the face of such horror.
He struck again on March 8th. He was now attacking his victims at an unrelenting pace, on victim number 14 in just a matter of months. This time it was a 37-year woman that was woken up at around 3:00 AM with a bright flashlight in her face. This was becoming a hallmark of the East Area Rapist... he would wake up his victims with the intimidating, confusing glow of a handheld flashlight, and begin the threats before they even had the chance to come to their senses.
It wasn't two weeks later, on March 18th, that he would strike at a 16-year old that was arriving home from her job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. At this point, it was becoming apparent that the perpetrator didn't care for the victim's age, ethnicity, or health. He was attacking women in their early 40s just as often as he was assaulting teenage girls. Our perpetrator wouldn't even care if they were pregnant, as had been the case in a few of this incidences.
However, it was two weeks later that the East Area Rapist would take the next step into sadism.
April 2nd, 1977. It's 2:30 AM, and a woman is awoken to the shaky, bright blur of a flashlight in her face. Before she can jump up, a voice speaks down to her in gritted teeth.
"Don't make a sound," he says. "Do you see this gun?"
She can't, but that doesn't stop her from saying "yes." No one in this situation, outside of a fictional action hero, would say otherwise.
The perpetrator orders her to wake up her boyfriend, who is asleep next to her. The boyfriend wakes up in a start, but the perpetrator shines the flashlight in his face now. He commands the woman to tie up her boyfriend, and shows her some shoelaces that have been laid out ahead of time.
She follows through with the demands, tying up her own boyfriend to the perpetrator's satisfaction. The perpetrator, wearing the atypical outfit of a ski mask with a dark jacket and dark pants, demands through gritted teeth to know where their money is, or else he's going to kill them like he did a family in Bakersfield.
The two victims are obviously worried about making it out of this situation alive, but none more so than the woman. Unlike the boyfriend, she has two kids sleeping in nearby bedrooms... a son and a daughter, both under ten years old.
The perpetrator takes the boyfriend's wallet and leads the woman into the living room, telling the two that he doesn't trust them to be in the same room. The boyfriend considers trying to free himself, but the perpetrator comes back into the bedroom with an impromptu fail-safe. He brings with him dishes, which he decides to stack atop the boyfriend's back while he begins his ransack of the house.
If the boyfriend tries to move, almost at all, the dishes come straight off of his back and onto the floor, a loud enough noise to alert the perpetrator from rooms away.
The perpetrator does the same thing to the woman while he searches the house, stopping multiple times to untie her and rape her. In-between the random looting and sexual assault, the perpetrator decides to indulge in the family's kitchen leftovers, matching what we've heard of the East Area Rapist before. He would come back and put some of her high heels on her before continuing, almost at random.
It's worth noting, at this point, that the suspect had been robbed months beforehand, of what we cannot say. During this attack, the family poodle, a breed of dog already notorious for being poor guard dogs, did almost nothing. It didn't even bark. Many have attributed this to the East Area Rapist scoping out the house beforehand and becoming "known" to the dogs. This wouldn't be the last time this point would be addressed.
After the hours of torment and abuse, the rapist had left, but it goes without saying that these two victims had been traumatized beyond belief. But at this point, it was quite obvious that our criminal was not only learning from his mistakes, but he was escalating at a truly relentless pace.
The investigators began to learn more about the motives of the East Area Rapist throughout this time, but he was still an enigma to them. Psychologists had narrowed down the possible job descriptions to including utility employees, as many of the eyewitnesses to the criminal had seen him checking meters in neighborhood houses days, if not weeks, in advance.
The psychologists were narrowing down the description of the killer even further, including the likelihood that he would live 10-15 miles from where the crimes took place, and would most likely bike to work every day. Funnily enough, the investigation squad working under Richard Shelby found a likely suspect who completely fit the description.
This man had once worked for the city of Visalia, living just outside of town. He biked to work constantly, and had for years. Two days after the Visalia Ransacker was nearly caught by Detective McGowan, before shooting out the officer's flashlight, this utility employee filed for a transfer. Where to, you may ask? A suburb just outside of Sacramento, about 10 to 15 miles away from where most the crimes were centered.
Detective Shelby & Co. investigated the man, taking Detective McGowen with them to question the suspect. Neither could come up with any definitive proof on the suspect, eventually eliminating him because of his physical proportions... the East Area Rapist was described as thin and athletic, whereas this man was not. He biked to work every day, that much was certain, from his gigantic, tree-trunk legs, Shelby notes in his book, but he was most definitely not the man they were looking for.
However, this type of coincidence can't be overlooked. In a case that is fraught with "what ifs," this man remains one of the biggest, at least in my eyes.
The identity of the East Area Rapist eluded all of the detectives working on the case. Neighborhood eyewitnesses were reporting strange dealings in the days leading up to assaults, noticing a trend of sightings that would plague a neighborhood. People described a man running from the area of the crime just minutes afterwards, or of normal, foreign-looking cars driving around the neighborhood constantly in recent weeks.
One of the many deterrents to finding the criminal was the overall description of him. A vast majority of the sightings had the basics down: he stood about 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, with either blue or hazel green eyes, and normal-looking features. All of the victims even reported that he was in-shape, lean, very young, and most likely shaved his legs, as they would be very brittle during the sexual assaults, similar to a man's face just days after shaving.
But one of the things that drove investigators crazy was the unreliability of the suspect's hair color. Many spotted a victim with dark brown hair, and others would report a man with light brown hair. Many said he was blonde, but a few later cases would even report a young man with odd-looking gray hair. A few of the investigators began to realize that this suspect, who most likely had a constant amount of supplies at his disposal, was probably using an assortment of wigs to confuse possible descriptors.
It apparently worked, because he was never caught and the East Area Rapist was nowhere near finished with his spree of terror.
The East Area Rapist, now bored with attacking single women, began to set his sights on couples. He would attack another couple on April 15th, in an almost identical manner to the one before. Then again on May 3rd. And again, just two days later, on May 5th, to a pair of friends that weren't even a couple.
One of the couples consisted of a man and a woman who worked at a pharmacy together, and another had just gone through a dental procedure and was taking a generic brand of codeine for the pain. The perpetrator identified the off-brand drug name, and demanded to know where the victim's codeine was. This indicated that he was knowledgeable in pharmaceuticals, and furthered cemented the theory that he was related to the medical field.
The perpetrator continued to strike. He attacked a couple on May 14th. And then on May 17th. And again on May 28th.
During the last two, he began to give larger, broader threats. He threatened to start killing people if he saw news of the attack on TV or in the newspaper. He demanded for the victims to tell the "pigs" - presumably the cops - that he was serious.
Of course, they wouldn't have to. The East Area Rapist would tell them himself.
That phone call was just one of many that the East Area Rapist made to law enforcement in the year after he started his attacks. By that point, in December, the East Area Rapist had become an urban myth, growing to infamous proportions in the Sacramento area within just over a year.
After the incredibly frequent attacks in May, the East Area Rapist had disappeared for a few months. The investigation continued, with the police zeroing in on many different suspects that included a local preacher with shady character flaws and a local Air Force brat with enough anger and mental issues issues to put him on a watch-list for future crimes, to say the least. But they had no success. As is with every lead in this investigation, it eventually turned up empty.
Sacramento began to breathe a sigh of relief, hoping that the criminal had eased away for at least the time being. But their peace was short-lived, as the East Area Rapist came back in full force in September, attacking yet another couple. This time, however, he attacked not inside the confines of Sacramento, but about an hour south in Stockton, California. He wouldn't make this a habit, moving back to Sacramento just a few weeks later.
Several things continued to repeat themselves. Dogs would refuse to bark at this masked intruder. The perpetrator would often be considered foul-smelling, with several of the victims indicating that he either had strong body odor or incredibly bad breath. Also, his small penis was noted again and again.
One of the things that began to get noticed was the perpetrator's abhorrence of heat. In many of the houses, the East Area Rapist would either turn off the heater or try to dismantle it entirely. Investigators didn't think much of it at the time, but when it's taken into account alongside his frequent breaks to step outside or go to the fridge, it's likely that he had some physical aversion to heat or even maybe an illness that plagued him.
Taking us back to the bloodhounds from the first episode, that identified either a drug dealer or a physically sick person, it's beginning to look like our suspect was suffering from something. Of what, we have no idea, but it would help explain his absences throughout his criminal career.
Investigators began to notice something else entirely: very rarely did the suspect ejaculate. These most likely weren't rapes of a sexual nature, and this swung the case fully into the sadist camp of thinking. The perpetrator wasn't utilizing these crimes for his own perverted desires, but most likely in an effort to cause these victims pain. This would also explain the taunting phone calls placed weeks, months, and years later.
Many of the local newspapers began to run with the theme that, because the perpetrator wasn't usually interested in his victims sexually, that he was likely a closeted homosexual.
During the attack on October 1st, back in the La Riviera and Rancho Cordova area of Sacramento, the East Area Rapist woke up a pair of young lovers. The couple had a shotgun leaning against a nearby wall, and the Rapist tried to goad the young man, just 21 years old, into going for it. He was challenging his victims and taunting them at the same time, because investigators later found that the bullets from the shotgun had been taken out ahead of time and lined up underneath the bed.
The East Area Rapist was now breaking into homes and dismantling the defense systems these couples had in place to protect themselves. He knew what he was doing, and he was trying to emotionally torment these victims in addition to the physical torture.
He would attack couples again on October 21st and 29th, with the same M.O. Then he attacked an elder mother and her teenage daughter on November 10th, but both victims insisted that no rape had taken place. On December 2nd, he attacked a sleeping mother just minutes after her husband had left to go hang out with some friends.
1978 began, and he would until January 28th to attack his next victims, a pair of teenage girls that were home alone for a few hours that night.
Things were going just as the East Area Rapist had likely imagined. But the water of the investigation would get a little murkier just a few days later.
It's February 2nd, 1978, at around 9:00 in the evening. A pair of gunshots break the cold silence of the night, alerting this friendly neighborhood to danger.
Then, a woman's screaming. It's not coming from a house, from from outside. A backyard, in a neighborhood of Rancho Cordova, where the majority of the East Area's Rapist strikes have been occurring.
Some brave, concerned dare to look. At least one or two rushes to the phone to call 911, but are interrupted just a moment later.
Brian and Katie Maggiore were a young couple living in Rancho Cordova in the early months of 1978, having both moved there just months prior. Brian was a sergeant in the Air Force, having been previously stationed in Alaska. He and Katie were both alumni of Fresno High School, presumably high school sweethearts.
Brian was just 21 at the time he was shot and killed, and Katie was 20 when she died, just moments later.
The two had been married for a little over two years, and had been living at an apartment in Rancho Cordova for mere months. Katie had been living in Fresno while Brian was stationed up in Alaska, so the two were probably excited to be together. They had a small dog named Thumper, whom the two were walking on this fate-filled evening of February 2nd.
Very little is known of how or why these two love-birds were singled out by this shooter. One of the main stories repeated over and over again is that their dog, Thumper, likely a little poodle of sorts, somehow slipped loose and took a run into a neighboring backyard. The two gave pursuit of their small dog, according to this story, and ended up in the wrong backyard.
It's possible that they stumbled upon a secret of sorts: maybe they encountered our Rapist as he was unmasked and stalking another house. Perhaps they knew who he was, and could identify him as one of their many neighbors. Many lean on this being a part of this shooting, because the East Area Rapist hadn't killed anyone as of yet, and the shooting didn't match his modus operandi in the slightest.
However, we do know for a fact that somehow, Brian and Katie ended up coming across a shooter, who chased them through a couple of backyards before catching up to them and killing both.
To this day, the murder of Katie and Brian Maggiore has only been linked to the East Area Rapist, but not confirmed. The only evidence found was a small pair of ligatures found near the scene... ligatures similar to those that the East Area Rapist brought with him to his crimes. A nearby neighbor had nearly avoided becoming a third victim, when one of the stray bullets came in through his living room window and missed him by inches.
A couple of witnesses recalled seeing a suspect similar to the East Area Rapist fleeing the scene of the crime. But this suspect was taller, standing well-over six feet, and had been wearing cowboy boots and a leather jacket, items never before associated with the Rapist.
Another suspect had been spotted hours prior, with this one much more resembling the East Area Rapist. He stood the proper height and wore the traditional blue ski jacket associated with the Night Stalker. But this suspect had been seen with a small mustache, and the Rapist had never been spotted with facial hair during any of his crimes.
This is when the investigators began to believe that there was either an opportunist in the area, or it was likely that the East Area Rapist had an accomplice.
By this time, in 1978, police were used to the idea of copycats trying to pass off their crimes as East Area Rapists crimes. They presumed that they'd get away with their crimes, but relied on the media for their information and often got important details wrong that led to their capture.
However, during one case of the East Area Rapist breaking in and terrorizing a young couple, they had reported hearing a car honking multiple times outside, on the street. On more than one occasion, this led to the Rapist taking a break and stepping outside for a moment or two. They even reported hearing the doorbell ring a few times in quick succession, leading to another break from the rapist.
Investigators didn't know what to do with that information at the time, but now with two suspects alleged in the Maggiore murders, they began to seriously debate the prospect of the East Area Rapist having an accomplice.
It wouldn't explain WHY the crimes were committed, but it would help them to explain the HOW.
The police had long been investigating how the East Area Rapist was able to cover so much ground. They had long suspected that he scoped out most of his targets during the day, using a disguise or a job to pose as a friendly, neighborhood worker.
Many of the houses he struck were located nearby other houses that were for sale, leading to a thought that he was involved in real estate. But then that idea quickly spiraled into another, that he would scope out the empty houses that were for sale first, learning to see what kinds of windows the nearby houses had in common, the types of locks, the floor plans, escape routes, etc.
Quite a few of the houses in the area were also under construction, or were having some type of work done. At more than one of the East Area Rapist's crime scenes, they found paint marks, which implied that the perpetrator might have been involved in construction or painting. Paired up with the knowledge that he often had strong body odor and was physically fit, it seems to be a pretty solid theory.
But another theory came from the victims themselves, after the crimes had been committed. We already know that in the weeks leading up to the assaults, the victims would get phone calls from the perpetrator. Only occasionally would he actually talk to the victims, often in quick, veiled threats before hanging up himself. He would usually call his victims afterwards, taunting them, and the police would try and "trap" the phone, so that they could trace the call. But almost every single time, after successfully trapping the phone, the calls would stop.
A few of the victims reported that, after they had been assaulted, they would try and make calls but the line would go dead. This was back in the day when homes still had land lines, so they would call out the phone company to repair it, only to have the same results, regardless of the phone. Even when they would change their number, the problems would persist.
On one occasion, the victim had been getting hang-up phone calls in the weeks leading up to her assault. Just two days before her assault, she had the phone number changed, but that didn't stop the caller. She found it likely that the perpetrator worked for the phone company, and had access to the phone numbers of the victims.
Police began to get worried, because none of their ideas were working. Despite nearly coming across the Rapist multiple times, none of their tricks were working. While many would theorize this as the East Area Rapist being a cop himself, or having access to the police, Detective Richard Shelby notes that it's probably more likely that the suspect had a police radio on him, and could overhear whenever the police were planning on trying to trick or capture him.
The East Area Rapist, at this point, was becoming the thing of nightmares. He now had upwards of thirty victims, not including their families he had terrorized in the process. And while he was still called the East Area Rapist by the area of Sacramento, he would soon set his sights elsewhere. After the murder of the Maggiore family, the East Area Rapist all but disappeared from the Sacramento area, returning at random intervals over the next few years.
For now, the East Area Rapist turned his attention south, focusing on cities like Danville, Fremont, Concord, and San Jose. It would still be some time before he moved down to the Los Angeles area, but he would slowly start to make his way there.
For all of the atrocities committed by this assailant thus far, the worst chapters were yet to come.
Part Three: Golden State Killer
Imagine knowing that the criminal known as the Original Night Stalker, also called the East Area Rapist and the Golden State Killer by others, has been inside your home.
You've been watching the news, so you recognize all of the signs. You've been getting the type of hang-up phone calls associated with this psychopathic madman, and you've been getting them for weeks. Perhaps he asks you if Ray is there, before hanging up. Maybe you noticed a door or a window ajar when getting home from work, or you've noticed some family photos have been moved around by someone other than yourself.
So you're diligent. When you get home, you begin to check your windows for any disturbances. The East Area Rapist, as he was primarily called during this time period, was know to cut holes in window screens and unlock the windows that way. You'd likely make sure that all of your doors and windows have stayed locked, and you're more than likely going to slowly, cautiously check behind your shower curtain and any closed closet doors.
But as you're searching your house, which is located nearby a deep gully right next to railroad tracks, the type of house that would immediately attract this serial offender, you notice something. A wedding photo has been taken out of its picture frame, and surprisingly been placed on top of a notepad inside a desk drawer. You just used the notepad yesterday, and your spouse hasn't used it in days.
Now you're scared, but you're holding out hope that it's a simple mistake, a misunderstanding.
Then, upon a more thorough search of the house, you find a rolled-up coil of rope hidden under a couch cushion. There's only one possible explanation for that, and it's a terrifying one.
The Original Night Stalker has been inside your house, and he's planned on making you his next victim.
What some may call paranoia saved a family from untold terrors on one night in December of 1978. The East Area Rapist had been active for over two years, at this point, and was now continuing his venture south from Sacramento into more centralized California.
Following the hints given to them from the news media and the police, this family was able to find the clues that put them in the sights of one of the most violent serial offenders in human history and avoid tragedy all together.
Unfortunately, just as everything else in this case, it didn't stop the offender from finding another family to torment. At this point in his career, the Original Night Stalker wasn't lacking for victims.
July 5th, 1979 - It's just about three-thirty in the morning, on the day after a national holiday in Danville, California, when neighbors are woken up by the sound of screams. It's not usual to hear loud sounds coming from this house in particular, as the homeowners, a man named Bill and his wife, were quiet people. So it was quite the shock to hear them causing a ruckus.
Bill and his wife, who shall remain nameless, had talked about what they would do if the East Area Rapist ever set his sights on them. While Bill would attack the masked intruder, his wife would make a break for it to try to get outside and get some neighborly assistance, or at least alert people to what was happening. At the very least, Bill would save his wife and give this pervert a thrashing.
So on this night, Bill, a light sleeper by nature, was alerted to the sound of rustling. When he looked up, he saw a mirror's reflection of a man pulling a mask over his head. Instead of lying still and waiting to be assaulted, Bill woke up his wife by enacting the plan. He was screaming and rushing the intruder before his wife even knew what was happening, but she quickly caught on.
It was one of the first times that the East Area Rapist had met a match, and while he himself was quick to react, he hadn't planned for such an occasion. The masked intruder had nearly been bested by a bound, middle-aged mother just a year or so beforehand, and Bill now had the jump on him. Bill wasn't just bigger than the Rapist, he was MUCH bigger.
While the neighbors were alerted by the wife's screams for help, it was Bill's roars that gave them a cause for concern.
"Who the fuck do you think you are?" Bill shouted at the East Area Rapist as he rushed him. "Get the fuck out of here now and you can leave!"
The neighbors, awake and alert and likely trying to find out what was happening, didn't just sit on their laurels as so many other neighbors of victims had done. They called the cops as soon as possible, and just minutes after Bill had scared off this would-be attacker, the cops arrived with dogs to track the scent.
The dogs followed the scent into a nearby patch of ivy, which was so potent that it caused one of the dogs to jump into it, believing the suspect was still there. It was apparently so strong in the East Area Rapist's odor that detectives believe he had been there just moments beforehand, and if it wasn't for the damp environment that led to the end of the perpetrator's trail, they might have been able to capture him.
The East Area Rapist was lucky on this fated morning, as he managed to evade capture yet again. However, if we are to believe that the East Area Rapist is the same person as the Visalia Ransacker, then this will have been the second close encounter with law enforcement that he had, and the second time he all but disappeared.
Where we left off at the end of part two, after the murder of Brian and Katie Maggiore in early 1978, the East Area Rapist had moved south of Sacramento into other areas. While he returned to Sacramento on occasion, he began to torment other areas such as Stockton, Danville, San Jose, Fremont, Concord, and Modesto.
His M.O. had remained the same since leaving Sacramento, but no one could argue that he was running out of steam. By this point, in July of 1979, he had assaulted nearly 50 different families, and had terrorized countless others through unknown home invasions, quick phone calls, or his notorious late-night and early-morning prowling. It's even possible that he had additional victims that refused to come forward and report their assaults, not wanting to go through the painstaking ordeals again and again.
In 1978, police hounds had followed the scent of the East Area Rapist from a victim's house to a field, where they found a piece of ripped-out notebook paper next to tire tracks. This paper contained the angsty rant you heard in the introduction of the show, and it had seemingly been left behind by the East Area Rapist. Whether it was accidentally left behind, purposefully done so, or even belonged to the East Area Rapist himself isn't a sure thing. But after sending a poem to a local television station the previous year, which you heard in episode two of this podcast, many began to assume that this was the perpetrator's way of goading the police. Into what, we have no idea.
The East Area Rapist would always operate under the same guideline: he would wake up a couple with a threat. He would usually be aiming a gun at them, or shining a bright flashlight in their face, and would present them with an option: to either die in bed lying next to their loved one, or comply with him and live to see another day. The East Area Rapist would often tell them that he was just there for money, and give them some melodramatic line about "being gone in the dark of the night", before giving the woman shoelaces that she would use to tie up her own husband.
Oftentimes, the shoelaces came from the victim's own shoes. On rare occasions, the East Area Rapist would bring his own pre-cut sections of rope with him, or would tear strips from the family's towels. He would bind his victims, hand and foot, and blindfold them to the best of his ability. More often than not, the perpetrator would utilize a specific time of knot known as a diamond knot, which isn't very well-known to anyone outside of the nautical world. On more than one occasion, the victims would be found hours later with their hands tied so tightly that they were black due to lack of circulation.
He would rape the women, maybe more than once, and would put stacks of dishes on the husband or boyfriend's back to make sure he didn't try to free himself. When he wasn't raping or terrifying his victims, he was walking around, more than half-crazed, tearing apart the family home but not really stealing anything. At most, he would steal the family's wedding rings or photographs, but left most things of value behind. He would eat leftover food from their refrigerator, often taking breaks to do just that or to even step outside.
Detectives found bottles or cans of beer outside many of the crime scenes, most of the time the beer not belonging to the victim. This was a violent offender that came prepared, even for the post-game celebration that he threw himself.
But throughout many of the assaults, the East Area Rapist had a dark side he tried to hide. As he worked his way south, many victims began to report hearing him cry in other rooms, often repeating the word "Mommy" to himself.
When he performed the despicable act of rape itself, he oftentimes wouldn't even become aroused. Many of the victims recalled his penis as being unusually small, and even more so when he struggled to maintain an erection, which was constantly.
And now, after his close encounter with defeat in Danville, California, the East Area Rapist moved much further south, to the Los Angeles area, where things would take a more noticeably tragic turn...
Months after his disastrous assault on Bill and his wife in Danville, California, a couple was woken up to a flashlight in their face, and a voice urging them to "wake up."
The date was October 2nd, and the setting was Goleta, California, a smaller town located in Santa Barbara County. Goleta is located just two hours west of Los Angeles, and is hundreds of miles south of anywhere that our perpetrator had assaulted as of yet.
The couple complied with the perpetrator and his demands, even when it became clear that he wasn't interested in their money. He made sure that the husband was properly tied up by the wife before binding her hands and leading her into another room. He bound her hands so tightly that it didn't just restrict blood flow, it cut it off entirely.
Throughout this ordeal, the perpetrator kept murmuring to himself under his breath.
"I'll kill 'em, I'll kill em" he kept repeating, while the poor wife laid on her own living room floor, bound and blindfolded. The perpetrator did as he always did, rummaging the house in small bursts before returning to threaten the victims some more.
But in this case, the perpetrator's eclectic bursts of energy would almost be his undoing.
While he walked around the house, threatening to murder the couple under his breath, the woman tried to make a break for it. Still bound and blindfolded, she hopped her way to the front door, falling into the wall once and likely alerting the attacker. She managed to open the front door and hop outside, her leg bindings falling off, and as she tried to make a run for freedom, she was screaming for her life.
Unfortunately, her rapid momentum led her directly into an outer wall of the house, stopping her. The perpetrator would rush to grab her and take her back inside, but at this point, the damage had been done.
The husband, bound in the bedroom, had heard the screams of his wife at the front of the house, and began desperately trying to work himself free of at least his leg bindings. He was able to do just that, and was able to crawl outside their bedroom window.
Thankfully, this couple lived next door to an FBI Agent, who was staying up late at night to read a book. The front of his house faced this one, and when he heard some screams erupting, however muffled, it must have caught his attention. He began to dial 911 to alert the authorities, and tried to find his pistol to help out his neighbors.
As the perpetrator dragged the wife back inside, continuing his threats, he made his way to the back bedroom where he found the couple's sliding glass door opened. The husband was gone. Unknown to the attacker, he was hiding underneath a nearby orange tree, but for all intents and purpose, he had escaped.
The masked intruder rushed to the front of the house to find that the wife had escaped out the front door yet again. Just like the last assault in Danville, this one had failed horribly.
The perpetrator began to make his escape, using a bicycle that detectives would later find out was stolen from a block or two away. But during this escape, the perpetrator encountered our friendly neighborhood FBI agent, who gave pursuit in his car.
After a few blocks of evading the FBI neighbor's car, the perpetrator would abandon the bike and hop over a fence. Not wanting to face a grisly fate while climbing the fence himself, the FBI agent refrained from further chasing the suspect, knowing that the police were inbound and just moments away.
When he returned to his house, he found the wife in his yard, naked and terrified but unharmed. The husband would later be found in the backyard, still bound at at his wrists and ankles, hiding in the same shrub he had escaped to. He, too, was unharmed, but thoroughly terrified.
Fortunately for this couple, they had survived a terrifying assault perpetrated by our same assailant. Unfortunately, they would be the last couple he would ever leave alive.
Santa Barbara detectives believed that this was just a failed B&E, seeing as there was no sexual assault and the East Area Rapist was located hours away. While the ligatures raised some suspicions, the failure and location of the assault made it appear to be a copycat, nothing more and probably nothing less.
They would find out, months later, that their assumption was dead wrong.
December 30th, 1979.
Just days after Christmas, and a single day before New Year's Eve, the city of Goleta, California must be in the seasonal mood. The East Area Rapist seemingly hadn't assaulted anyone since July, and outside of the botched late-night robbery in early October, Goleta had been a normal town.
Unfortunately, this would be the first time that the Original Night Stalker would leave his victims behind without the ability to recount their terror to investigators.
Some neighbors awoke a short time after three o'clock in the morning, believing that they had heard a firecracker in the distance. It might have been so muffled and faint that it simply kicked them out of sleep, and they weren't quite sure what they had heard.
But then it happened again, three more times, in quick succession. They still weren't sure, as it might have been some kids firing off some fireworks ahead of the New Years holiday, so they remained cautiously alert, waiting for it to happen again. Just to be sure.
It happened once more, and hours later, these neighbors would find out the reason.
Dr. Robert Offerman lived in the Goleta condo, and sleeping next to him was his girlfriend, Dr. Deborah Manning. Robert, along with her other friends, called her Debbie. She was technically still married, but had recently filed for divorce from her husband and had made her relationship with Robert public the week beforehand, when the two hosted a Christmas party for medical and legal professionals.
Both details, the Christmas party and her divorce, would go on to mar with the case with relevant and irrelevant details later on.
When their bodies were discovered, there was a white chord around Robert's wrist, but he wasn't fully bound. It was likely that, in the process of being awoken and tied up, Dr. Robert Offerman had decided to fight back for his life. Unfortunately, he had encountered this mysterious attacker when he had all but given up on mercy, and had been shot four times with a .38 pistol as a result. His body was found right as he had fallen.
It appeared that the last, fatal gunshot was reserved for Dr. Debbi Manning herself. She was found, still-bound, and lying face-down on Dr. Offerman's bed with a single gunshot to the head.
We can't even begin to imagine the amount of terror these two lived with in their final moments.
What detectives found at the crime scene is eerily similar to that traits given to the East Area Rapist. Outside of the murder, this played out exactly like something from our original culprit's playbook: he attacked the victims while they were sleeping in bed, just hours after the two had been intimate. This would not only become a trend for the Southern California victims, but it had been becoming commonplace in the Sacramento-area assaults before our perpetrator disappeared.
The attacker of these two doctors had not also turned off the condo's thermostat entirely, but had turned off all of the lights. A betting man would surmise that this attacker had some aversion to heat, and perhaps even a sensitivity to light. The East Area Rapist had been openly hostile towards heaters in the houses he attacked in Sacramento, sometimes going as far as trying to break them to turn them off, and his propensity for striking in the dark and cool of night had been commonplace.
Some paint chips were found on the victim, which later would connect this case to theories regarding construction workers or professional painters.
This attacker even helped himself to Dr. Offerman's Christmas leftovers, presumably after murdering the couple in bed.
Unfortunately, this attack happened in the last days of the 1970s, when information wasn't as readily-available as it is now. While detectives nowadays might be able to piece one and two together by utilizing internet resources and streamlined communication, things weren't this way forever.
Looking back at this crime, knowing what we do, it's easy to surmise that this was the work of the East Area Rapist, but it wasn't until 2001 that DNA would permanently link the Northern and Southern California crimes together.
In her last minutes, Debbi had hidden the jewelry she was wearing in the crack separating the bed from the wall, so as far as Santa Barbara detectives were concerned, this was just another botched robbery.
In the years since, detectives have tried to find a common thread connecting all of the victims. For some cases, it's a common gas station car wash. For others, it's the Alpha Beta Market, a California-based grocery store chain that many of the victims frequented, which was eventually bought out by other companies in 1995.
But one of the links that keeps showing its ugly head in every investigation is the Original Night Stalker's connection to the medical field. Many of his Northern California victims were doctors or nurses, or had even recently been to the doctor or prescribed pharmaceuticals. And now, two more doctors were murdered in their home, just days after hosting a party for co-workers and other related professionals.
One would almost like to see a copy of that party's guest list, just to see if any of the names pop up interest.
In the days after the murder, noticing that not many of the condo's valuables had been taken, the investigation focused on the former-spouses of both Dr. Offerman and Dr. Manning, the former who was neck-deep in a divorce with multiple assets, and the latter which had just started the divorce proceedings.
Of course, all investigations would lead to a dead-end, but other interesting information would arise.
One of the nearby neighbors of Dr. Offerman's condo was a young nurse, who had just started a job at a nearby hospital. She had found twine inside her house, and when detectives searched the house, they found more instances of the same twine, hidden in plain sight that could make for our perpetrator's easy access.
This same type of twine would be found multiple times, seemingly all over the area. It would be found inside other houses, in backyards, in garages, even in a nearby open field. Right beside the open field were footprints: footprints which matched the size and shoe type of not only the East Area Rapist, but our current attacker.
However, an interesting note is that right beside the human footprints were that of a dog. These dog prints seemed to keep right alongside the human tracks, and made it seem as if our aggressive prowler had begun bringing his pet along with him in certain instances.
Speaking of dogs, an interesting occurrence happened at around this point. The break-ins that can be expected from the Original Night Stalker were happening all over the area, and one family came home from an event earlier than expected. Through their living room window, they could see a dark figure moving about quickly, as if he had not anticipated being interrupted.
They rushed inside, likely to scare him off and to alert the police, but he was already gone, having vaulted over their back fence before they even made it inside. But they would find that their family hadn't been unharmed. Not entirely.
Their dog had suffered an injury to its eye, an injury perpetrated by the masked intruder. This was clearly an individual that wasn't interested in just raping his victims anymore. This was a terrorist that wanted to inflict as much pain as inhumanly possible.
On March 13th, 1980, the perpetrator would strike again, this time in Ventura, California - about forty miles east, closer to Los Angeles itself. Lyman Smith was a 43-year old lawyer, a beacon of the community who was well on his way to being appointed judge. Charlene was his 33-year old wife, a beautiful younger woman that everyone adored.
Charlene had been married twice before, and Lyman had been married once before, having a few children from that previous union. His 12-year old son, Gary, primarily lived at his mother's house, but was headed over to his father's house to do some yard work. Lyman insisted that his children had to earn their allowance, so Gary got his by mowing lawns and weeding.
Gary was shocked to find the front door unlocked, and to find the state of the house in such disarray, but that was nothing compared to what he was have felt when he found his father and stepmom dead in bed.
Lyman and Charlene Smith were still bound, Lyman by Charlene's hand and Charlene with the Original Night Stalker's notorious diamond knot. A blanket had been draped over their bodies, and the nearby wall was splattered with their blood.
This was the first time that detectives became enamored with the knot used. Known as the diamond knot, and also called the decorator's knot or the Chinese knot, it was an intricately-folded knot that very few people know how to tie. Investigators would try to find some symbolism there, as Charlene was a decorator herself and some detectives thought that there might be a connection between the two.
This time, our perpetrator had not been quick or gentle, instead choosing to beat both victims to death with a log found outside the house. And unlike the last set of victims, Charlene had been raped before her death.
The investigation would soon turn on some of Lyman's business associates, one of which spent an entire year in jail facing trial before being exonerated. The investigators wouldn't link this crime scene to the nearby Goleta double-murder until much later, due to the presence of rape, the means of killing, and the location. It would be much, much later that the crime would be connected to the Original Night Stalker, but he was nowhere near done.
August 19th, 1980.
Dana Point is a small town in Orange County, perhaps the perfect embodiment of the Southern California beach community. Located just south of Los Angeles, it's exactly the type of place a young couple would love to build a foundation on which to comfortably spend the rest of their lives together.
For Keith and Patti Harrington, it was just that. Keith was a 24-year old that was in his third year of med school, and was preparing to begin a medical internship that would help set him up for life. Patrice, who was called Patti by everyone in her life, was slightly older, a 27-year old registered nurse. The two had known each other for less than a year, but had gotten married just months prior, in May, and lived together in a small gated community in what most people would describe as paradise.
The house belonged to Keith's father, Roger, a self-made man that loved his children and was more than happy to let them live there until Keith graduated later that year.
Unfortunately, after being invited over for dinner by Patti days prior, it was Roger who found the bodies of his son and new daughter-in-law in bed, with the covers draped over them just like the prior victims. Patti had been raped, records would later state. Keith had been killed by a single blow to the head, maybe two, but Patti had been beaten with an unknown object multiple times. There was a piece of brass that would later be uncovered from the wounds on her head, and detectives assumed that the perpetrator had used a piece of brass piping from outside, where Roger had been installing a sprinkler system in his spare time.
The bindings had been cut from the victims after their deaths, perhaps as a way for the perpetrator to hide his ties. The diamond knot had specifically been noted on the last victim, and it was possible that this was a clue to his identity that he wanted to keep hidden.
One thing was pretty unique about this killing, in that the location itself didn't match the perpetrator's usual hunting ground. He usually picked houses located nearby ravines, creek beds, rivers, alleys, open fields... places where he could stalk his pray uninterrupted. But this house was in a gated community, and it wasn't nearby any of those things. It was if the killer wasn't interested in re-treading the same ground, and wanted to simple cause pain.
Years later, Keith Harrington's brother, Bruce, would champion the cause of Proposition 69, now a California state law that requires all criminals to give samples of their DNA to the State of California's DNA database. He put up millions of his own dollars to the campaign in his painstaking effort to get the law passed, and it has helped ensure that killers like this never develop again.
So, while Keith and Patti Harrington's murder remains a tragedy of the highest caliber, there was a slight sliver of good that came out of it, as Proposition 69 has become a common practice throughout the United States Justice System.
At this point, detectives were stumped. The crimes were so spread out, and so different, that detectives were still slow on accepting that they were the works of the same serial offender. Detective Richard Shelby, now off of the East Area Rapist case, was eager to point out similarities between his perpetrator and this new Southern California murderer, but other detectives weren't as gung-ho.
This is when the Original Night Stalker entered another one of his lull periods. This wasn't the first, and it wouldn't be the last, but it's noticeable to point out that he didn't attack again until February 6th, which is about half a year later.
February 6th, 1981.
Manuela Witthuhn was a 28-year old housewife that had been employed as a mortgage broker for the time being. Her husband, David, was in the hospital with a viral infection of sorts, so she was home alone.
Her father had insisted that she allow the family's German Shepherd to stay at the house with her, but she refused. She felt safe in her own home, although she had a weird quirk of sleeping in a sleeping bag when she was home alone... for her, a sleeping bag meant safety.
Little is known of how or when Manuela was found, but she was found in her sleeping bag, brutally murdered at the hands of this psychopath. Bruises were found on her wrists, which implied that she had been pretty tightly bound up, and there were other bruises found on her body, implying that the perpetrator had been rather rough and violent.
For some reason, the attacker had tried to make this attack look like a burglary. A lamp, which might have been the murder weapon, and a valueless crystal ball had been taken, but besides that, nothing of value had been stolen. Another notable missing item was the tape from the house's answering machine, which led detectives to believe that whoever was responsible knew the victim or her husband.
The family television was found in the backyard, perhaps in the hopes of making this look like a burglary-gone-wrong, but investigators would later look through this guise.
Another notable find was a screwdriver, which the perpetrator had used to unlock and get through the back sliding glass door. The screwdriver was rather plain, but a brown paint stain on the handle would later go on to be a point of interest in the investigation.
For the longest time, Manuela's husband, David, was a primary suspect in the case, although his hospital stay should have been enough to eliminate him as a suspect. In 1997, DNA would later prove that this case was connected to the Original Night Stalker, but at the time, this was just another robbery-gone-wrong.
July 27th, 1981.
It had now been nearly two years since the perpetrator struck in Goleta, beginning to slow his pace of crimes significantly. For some reason, on this night at the end of July, he decided to return to this small Southern California town.
The crime took place not far from where the other assaults in Goleta had taken place, along the San Jose Creek.
This night, the victims would be 35-year old Cheri Domingo and her 28-year old boyfriend, Greg Sanchez.
Cheri had been staying at the house, having recently been laid off from her job at a company involved with computers, a company that Greg worked for. The house belonged to a relative of Cheri's that had recently passed away, so she had elected to stay there and help oversee the house while the real estate company tried to sell it.
The day before the murders, a younger man had asked to see the house, and requested a tour. Detectives would later find that a screen to a window he had looked at had been removed during this tour, and it might have been one of the main components of the later breaking and entering.
Eyewitnesses would spot a similarly-aged young man around the neighborhood the day of the murder, and more than one eyewitness saw this young man, who had longer, light hair, with a similarly light-haired German Shepherd.
A neighbor would later recall hearing a single gunshot, but wouldn't call the police because they weren't sure of what they had heard.
A real estate agent would come to the house the next day, and would find the dead bodies in the bedroom. Greg Sanchez, still naked from the night before, was found dead with his body halfway in the closet, as if he had been taken unawares. He had been shot once in the cheek, a non-fatal wound, and then hit in the head repeatedly until he had died.
Cheri Domingo had been raped by this psychopath, hog-tied, and then her head had been bashed repeatedly in a similar manner. The ties had been cut off and taken away by the perpetrator after the act itself, but the markings and the scene itself made it clear what had happened.
It wasn't until the later DNA testing happened that proved this incident was the work of the same masked intruder that had been plaguing California for the better part of five years, but now his presence was beginning to be known in Southern California.
It was time, once again, for the Original Night Stalker to disappear.
In perhaps the most baffling thing of the Original Night Stalker's criminal career, he disappeared for the better part of five years. He had been gone from the Sacramento area for years, at this point, and was quick on the way to becoming the thing of legend.
Even in Southern California, with more modern crimes and a body count piling up, the Original Night Stalker's case file was starting to get cold.
The investigation continued, but as we can look back over the past thirty years to see, nothing came of it. Suspects came and went, some more interesting than others, but they always went.
Then, on May 4th, 1986, nearly five years after the murder of Cheri Domingo and Greg Sanchez, the Original Night Stalker would strike for the final time.
Jonelle Cruz was an 18-year old woman with her entire life in front of her. She was a cashier at a local pizza place, and was presumably a part of the mid-1980s culture that was all about having fun. Her parents had gone to Mexico on vacation, and despite the fact that the family house was for-sale, Jonella decided to stay behind.
It was a Sunday night, and Jonella had had a male friend over earlier in the evening. The two of them were just friends, not dating, and while they were hanging out, they heard multiple sounds outside the home. The young male friend would later recount these details to police, but he remembered the two of them looking outside Jonelle's bedroom window, but not investigating further.
The sound might have been the gate to the backyard closing, or the door to the garage being shut. They didn't know, because they chose not to investigate beyond the bedroom window.
Sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 that night, Jonelle said goodbye to her friend, and then followed him out to her car. From there, she dropped by a local store to grab some supplies, and then she was never seen alive again.
Just like in prior incidents, Jonelle's body was found by a real estate agent the following morning.
Blood was found in the kitchen, leading detectives to believe that the perpetrator had surprised her there, hitting her with a pipe wrench that would forever remain missing from the family garage. Then he had taken her to the bedroom, where she would be found hours later, with signs of being bound, gagged, raped, and then brutally murdered.
The Cruz family home was no more than a mile away from where Manuela Witthuhn had been murdered years previously, so it was located right in the Original Night Stalker's Southern California hunting grounds. But it wasn't until DNA testing, years later, that this case would be attributed to the same psychopathic killer. The time between the crimes was just too vast, too inexplicable.
From here on out, everything about the Original Night Stalker is purely hypothetical, gossip built upon theories, old evidence, and presumptions.
No one knows why the Original Night Stalker did the things he did, or why he chose to wait five years in between his string of murders and the final senseless murder of Jonelle Cruz. Many have theorized that he was in prison for unrelated offenses, or that he might have been in the military, gone from the area for the duration of the early 1980s. For all we know, he was a contractor of sorts with a family, that spent the early 1980s helping raise his children and couldn't sacrifice large chunks of his evenings to stalking and prowling other young couples.
Out of all of the cases, over fifty of them, there are connections to be made. But over he past 40 years, the most experienced detectives and investigators have struggled to make sense of it all. Was this unknown attacker a construction worker, as surmised by some of the evidence left behind? Was he a doctor, or somehow involved in the medical field with ties to many of the victims? Was he a military member, as that would help explain his physical abilities and the location of the crimes? Was he involved in education, seeing as many of his victims were either teachers, educators, or younger students? Was he a real estate agent, which would help explain why so many of the victims houses were, or lived next to houses that were, for sale. We honestly just don't know, and that's what's so terrifying about this killer. For someone that relied on a large amount of luck to remain unknown, this killer has evaded some of the best detectives in the world for a lifetime.
Even his identity in the pantheon of California serial killers was unknown. It wasn't until the late 1990s and early 2000s that DNA linked together many of the cases, decades after the assaults had taken place. In Sacramento, the legend of the East Area Rapist still loomed large after the years of terror placed on innocent citizens, but in Southern California, these seemed to be largely unrelated murders that occurred in the golden age of the serial killer. Even the name of this unknown assailant was derived years later, when compared to the more well-known serial killer Richard Ramirez. Investigators and journalists realized that this criminal had the M.O. perfected years before Ramirez himself turned to a life of violent crime, thus making him the ORIGINAL Night Stalker.
We don't know how many total victims this suspect created, because unfortunately, most of his victims never knew he existed. He operated in the shadows of society, striking whenever his victims were away or asleep, lurking just outside or even inside their homes. To him, anywhere was available for him to creep, and he seemed to relish feeling the intimacy of another's home. It's very possible that this unknown assailant has a collection of trophies taken from his years as a criminal: a large assortment of wedding rings, lost family photographs, murder weapons, small mementos or tokens taken from homes.
It would be nice to say that there are positive updates to be made, but despite the hard work being done by detectives to this day, there isn't much progress that can be accounted for. This case has become one for the ages, and despite many suspects that fit the bill, including a fellow known as "Carlos" to Detective Richard Shelby and others, none have been arrested in connection to the rapes and murders.
As I've stated multiple times during this podcast, DNA has gone on to connect all of the Northern California sexual assaults to the Southern California murders. Until the DNA proved it, the separates cases were linked together only in motive and detective guesswork. But now we know for a fact that the cases are connected by the same perpetrator.
In 2004, Proposition 69 was passed by one of the victim's brothers, who wanted to ensure that things like this could never happen again. Now, criminals are required to give up DNA to the state database.
On September 21st, 2015, the United State Air Force Office of Special Investigations, also known as the AFOSI, announced that it was still looking into the murder of Brian and Katie Maggiore. While this was bitter news for people hoping for a happy ending, it just shows that while the crimes may have been committed a generation ago, the authorities are restless in trying to find justice for those taken too soon. While many believe that the perpetrator may be dead or long-gone, authorities believe that they will find the perpetrator any day now.
Detectives have never given up on this case, and it remains one of California's most notorious unsolved mysteries. Despite the little-known nature of the Original Night Stalker, the case has remained in the public's eye not only because of the published works of Detectives Larry Crompton and Richard Shelby, but also because of a strong internet presence and the reporting of the LA Times Michelle McNamara.
If you would like to learn more about the Original Night Stalker, you can do so by joining the EAR/ONS Proboard online. This remains one of the most vibrant, active communities of people discussing the case, evidence, and theories.
You can also check out the Questerfiles online, a large, ever-growing case file online archived by one man who has arguably done more for the publicity of the case than anyone else.
You can definitely learn more detail by checking out the published works of two of the original detectives, Larry Crompton and Richard Shelby. Both of their books, "Sudden Terror" and "Hunting a Psychopath," respectively, give great detail about each case and really give you a good idea about how the investigation itself unfolded. Michelle McNamara is penning an upcoming book about the subject, in which she is going to attempt to rebrand the killer with the monikker of "The Golden State Killer." Be sure to be on the lookout for that, as it's undoubtedly going to be a treasure trove of information.
And lastly, if you have any information about the case, please contact the authorities. This is a still one of the largest open cases in America, so any information that could lead to the arrest of the culprit is of the utmost priority.
April 26th, 2018 Micheal Whelan
Yesterday - April 25th, 2018 - was a day that many of us in the true crime community have been waiting a lifetime for.
It was the day that the serial offender who went by many names - East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, Golden State Killer, and even Visalia Ransacker - was arrested.
Despite not being on the radar of law enforcement more than a week ago, this person-of-interest found himself under extreme scrutiny. Ever since this announcement, investigators and websleuths alike have been desperate to learn about this figure who presented himself as a monster, but was nothing more than a frail, old man.
Joseph James Deangelo stands roughly five-feet-ten-inches tall, weighing in at around 205 pounds. Born on November 8th, 1945, he is now seventy-two years old, and has the type of grandfatherly appearance you'd expect from the neighborhood crank.
Deangelo graduated from Folsom Senior High School in June of 1964, and would join the US Navy later that year, in September. He spent twenty-two months in combat, in Vietnam, which would explain how he collected a vast knowledge of various ties and bindings.
Apparently, during this nearly-two year stint in Vietnam, he lost a finger during combat. Or, at least, he lost a partial finger.
After returning stateside, he attended Sierra College, where he obtained a degree in Political Science. He then began working at the Sierra Crane & Boost Company, in Newcastle, California - which is about half-an-hour northeast of Sacramento.
At this point, in the early 1970s, he was engaged to a woman named Bonnie. I'll leave her last name out of it, because she has very little to do with this tory. However, many have tied this in to some of the later attacks by the East Area Rapist, when he would frustratingly say the name "Bonny" to the people he was harming. Many, at the time, believed this to be the word "mommy," but it's looking more and more likely that it was the latter.
It sounds like the engagement to Bonnie was called off, at around the time that Deangelo was attending California State University in Sacramento. He would eventually obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Law, with an emphasis on Criminal Justice, and his engagement and relationship to this Bonnie would end.
In May of 1973, he joined the Exeter Police Force. Exeter is a town south of Fresno, California - a few hours away from Sacramento. It is also a stone's throw away from Visalia, a town where a criminal bandit named the Ransacker would surface a year later, in 1974.
Between 1973 and 1976, Joseph Deangelo continued to work for the Exeter Police Force. The crime spree of the Visalia Ransacker carried on from 1974 to the very end of 1975, starting out as a series of cat burglaries and eventually culminating in the shooting death of professor Claude Snelling, and a close-call by Detective William McGowen.
In 1976, Deangelo packed up and moved back to northern California, heading to the town of Auburn - nearby his old haunt of Newcastle. It also put him back into spitting distance of the Sacramento area, where a criminal began to strike... known as the East Area Rapist, this criminal would rape dozens of women, and become feared for his brutal, violent methods.
Throughout this time, Joseph Deangelo presented a normal, everyguy presence to the rest of the world. He worked for the burglary squad of the Auburn Police Department, and settled down with his wife, who was named Sharon. They had begun dating shortly after the end of Deangelo's engagement to Bonnie, and were beginning to think about starting a family.
However, things would reach a point of critical mass in 1979 - three years after he started working for the Auburn police and three years after the brutal crime spree of the East Area Rapist had begun.
On July 6th, 1979, the East Area Rapist had nearly been caught by tracking dogs. They were following up on his scent, and many think that this was one of the occasions where the Rapist got by on luck more so than any physical prowess.
So, it stands as no coincidence that just fifteen days later - on July 21st - a newspaper report indicated that Auburn police officer Joseph James Deangelo had been fired. He had been caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent, which - now, looking back - makes it almost painstakingly obvious. But, hindsight is 20/20, and the occasions where tracking dogs hesitated to follow his path, guard dogs left him alone, and survivors explained a "foul odor" to police are beginning to make sense.
From this day forward, the crimes of the East Area Rapist began to subside, and the criminal we have come to know stepped forward: the Original Night Stalker, also called the Golden State Killer. These crimes began taking a more tragic turn, and began to focus less on any sexual gratification, but more on depravity and instilling fear.
That fear has lasted for decades, in the form of threatening phone calls and traumatic memories, until just this week.
Joseph James Deangelo lived in the Southern California community known as Citrus Heights - just down the block from where many of the crimes attributed to the Original Night Stalker took place. He has lived there for over thirty years, in fact, and obtained a bit of a reputation among his neighborhood.
Over the past two or three decades, Deangelo has become known as the bitter, angry old man that lives in a surprisingly nice community. His marriage to his ex-wife Sharon ended in the early 1990s, and their three daughters have all gone on to have lives of their own.
He worked most recently as a truck mechanic, retiring only a couple of weeks ago, in April of 2018. Many say that he was still active in his old age, who would constantly go mountain biking, and who planned to fish in his newfound retirement. He was also a fan of maintaining model trains, and was a gun hobbyist that collected weapons and ammunition.
However, many neighbors have also gone on-the-record to describe his odd behaviors. He is described as having an extremely short temper: sometimes losing it in his yard while doing yardwork, and yelling out at nobody in particular. He was also known for being the guy to yell down the street at anyone he felt like.
At least one neighbor also described him as being "extremely meticiulous," cordoning off sections of his driveway with markers to point out where cars should park, where the boat should be parked, etc.
Needless to say, he was an odd duck, that stood out in this relaxing community in Ventura County.
Police have been hesitant to say how Joseph James Deangelo came onto their radar, but they have indicated that it was a recent development - as in, they weren't aware of him being a person-of-interest at all up until a week or so ago.
Some online reports have indicated that a family member of his was arrested for drugs. And, when their DNA was collected, it came back as a partial match; this then created a pool of candidates for police to look into, eventually landing Joseph Deangelo on their radar.
These same reports say that they were scoping out Deangelo over the last few days, and waiting for a moment to collect a proper throwaway DNA sample from him. When he left his home to head to a nearby Hobby Lobby, they were able to get a DNA sample from the man, and further testing confirmed that this was the guy they were looking for.
On the afternoon of April 24th, 2018, sometime around 4:00 PM, Joseph Deangelo was outside, mowing his front yard. An innocuous police vehicle pulled up to ask for some directions, and when Deangelo got close, police moved in and they were able to arrest him without incident.
The same online reports, which I'm choosing to trust right now but may be proven wrong on later on, as more details come in, say that Deangelo was in shock after being arrested. He kept muttering to investigators and himself:
"But I lived a good life. I pushed him out."
In the early morning hours of April 25th, 2018, Joseph James Deangelo was booked into Sacramento jail. At 2:29 AM, precisely - around the same time period that many of his offenses took place.
He was arrested on a double homicide warrant from Ventura County, regarding the killing of Lyman and Charlene Smith. However, he is also facing charges for the Brian and Katie Maggiore murder from Sacramento County, as well as charges from Orange County for the murders of Keith and Patrice Harrington, Manuel Witthuhn, and Janelle Cruz.
It is undetermined how Santa Barbara County is going to proceed with charges, regarding the murders of Robert Offerman, Debra Manning, Cheri Domingo, and Gregory Sanchez; but I assume they'll join the fray soon enough.
As Deangelo was being booked, police were seen taking away boxes of evidence, which I'm sure will point to the type of person he was. It will be interesting to see whether the keepsakes he stole from victims and survivors will be found among them.
During an initial bout of questioning, Deangelo seemed cooperative and was telling investigators plenty. Reports seem to indicate that he confessed to multiple crimes, and even confessed that the crimes attributed to the Visalia Ransacker - never confirmed to belong to the same crime spree - also belonged to him.
This would open him up to additional charges, including the shooting death of professor Claude Snelling - as many of his burglary and sexual offense charges have passed the statute of limitations.
He is reportedly on suicide watch, and police are trying to make sure that he doesn't take the coward's way out before being arraigned and standing trial.
And now, with his DNA on-file, it should be relatively easy to try and tie him to any other crimes he committed in the preceding decades. Many have insisted that a criminal like the Golden State Killer would have never quit cold-turkey, but I'm sure that as more details and charges emerge, we will get a better portrait of this sick offender.
Yesterday, April 25th, was the day that this news emerged. It also happened to be my 28th birthday, so it was very exciting to wake up to this news. I originally didn't think it was real; I thought it was some kind of fever dream, and I had to pinch myself a few times before I realized it was all really happening.
It just seemed fitting, to me: this is the story that made me start this podcast. At the time, in October of 2015, not many people were talking about it. There were a couple of online resources, and a couple of books written by former-Sacramento detectives, but that was about it. Now, it's become the focus of countless documentaries, podcasts, and bestselling books. I think that this goes to show you that all it takes is the proper amount of attention to keep stories in the limelight, and would like to thank everyone involved in this story for stoking those fires.
That includes the team over at Casefile, Generation Why, My Favorite Murder, and the Criminology podcasting squad. Also, several people online have worked tirelessly to keep the details public, including my friend, the Nerdfather himself, and Gian Quasar. Also, of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't include the legendary Michelle McNamara, who passed away before she could she her bestselling book get published, as well as Kat Winters and countless others.
Before I sign off, I would like to say a couple of things. First of which is, stick around through the end if you want to listen to yesterday's press conference in its entirety. I'm including it in this episode because of just how momentous it was: I described it to my wife as the true crime Super Bowl.
However, before I play that clip, I want to read for you a note from Michelle McNamara, titled "Letter To An Old Man," which is extremely pertinent for this update:
"One day soon, you'll hear a car pull up to your curb, an engine cut out. You'll hear footsteps coming up your front walk. Like they did for Edward Wayne Edwards, twenty-nine years after he killed Timothy Hack and Kelly Drew, in Sullivan, Wisconsin. Like they did for Kenneth Lee Hicks, thirty years after he killed Lori Billingsley, in Aloha, Oregon.
The doorbell rings.
No side gates are left open. You're long past leaping over a fence. Take one of your hyper, gulping breaths. Clench your teeth. Inch timidly toward the insistent bell.
This is how it ends for you.
'You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark,' you threatened a victim once.
Open the door. Show us your face.
Walk into the light."
Sources and further reading
- "Hunting A Psychopath" by Richard Shelby
- "Hot Prowl" by Jack Gray
- "Sudden Terror" by Larry Crompton
- The Quester Files: The Night Predator
- EAR/ONS/GSK Proboards
- LA Magazine - "In the Footsteps of a Killer: The Writer's Cut"
- LA Magazine - "Profile of a Killer"
- LA Magazine - "The Evidence Locker: Inside the Case of The Golden State Killer"
- LA Magazine - "The Five Most Popular Myths About The Golden State Killer Case"
- LA Magazine - "UPDATE: Investigators Have a New Lead on the Golden State Killer"
- LA Magazine - "UPDATE: In the Footsteps of a Killer"
- LA Magazine - "UPDATE: Was The Golden State Killer a Cowboy?"
- EAR-ONS.com: Crimes
- Fox 40 - "Decades Old Murder Case Revisited by Investigators"