Former Police Officer Arrested in 'Golden State Killer' Case

A former police officer has been arrested after investigators identified him as the "Golden State Killer," a notorious California serial killer who has been at large since 1976.

The 72-year-old ex-cop is named Joseph James DeAngelo, and according to a report by CNN, authorities were able to match DNA samples discarded from his home to evidence from some of his crimes, which continued up until 1976.

Sacaramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told reporters that DeAngelo seemed surprised when he was arrested this week without incident. His decade-long crime spree spanned ten counties in California, so tracking him down was a Herculean effort for detectives.

"We all knew that we were looking for a needle in a haystack but we all knew that the needle was there," said Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. "It is fitting that today is National DNA Day. We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento."

DeAngelo is being held without bail in Sacramento. He worked as a police officer in Auburn, California for some time, though he was fired in 1979 after he shoplifted from a drug store. He was trying to make off with a can of dog repellent and a hammer, Jones told reporters.

"Very possibly he was committing these crimes while he was employed as a peace officer," Jones admitted.

DeAngelo's other monikers included the "East Area Rapist" and the "Original Night Stalker." The first known report of one of his crimes took place on June 18, 1976, when a woman identified only as Jane says that he crept into her house while she was sleeping in bed with her 3-year-old son.

Now, more than 40 years later, DeAngelo is the first suspect caught or even identified with the serial rapist and murderer. Of the sparse evidence collected, police worked mainly off of a sketch from a victim who narrowly got away.

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"These cases are some of the most horrific I've had to investigate," said Erika Hutchcraft, an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney's Office. "They're not a one-time, you know, crime of passion, but these are almost passionless crimes. Very cold, very violent."

"Over the years, we heard of homicides down in Southern California, and we thought it was the East Area Rapist," said Larry Crompton, retired detective for Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department. "But he would not leave fingerprints, so we could not prove, other than his M.O., that he was the same person. We did not know anything about DNA."