September 27, 2020

WARNING: article contains graphic brutality and sexual violence

He’s one of the biggest names when it comes to the true crime genre in 2020: Joseph DeAngelo. Of course, before 2018, he was known by many names due to his ability to get around California: the East End Rapist, the Diamond Knot Killer, the Original Night Stalker, and of course the Golden State Killer.


Many things factor into what makes a serial killer. For some, it’s simply having a chemical imbalance, which results in psychopathy or sociopathy. For others, it’s due to childhood trauma, such as extensive abuse or incredibly strict parents, that make them lack empathy for others.


However, due to limited information, we don’t know much about his childhood, so it’s impossible to say whether or not any trauma pushed him into his life of crime. Joseph DeAngelo was born  in Bath, New York, in 1945 then grew up in California. It’s rumored by family members he witnessed his 7-year-old sister being raped by two airmen and suffered from abuse from his parents, however this hasn’t been confirmed. It’s also said he suffered the worst out of his siblings due to his abusive parents, and he was drafted in the Vietnam War, all of which could have desensitized him towards violence. 


After serving in Vietnam, DeAngelo majored in criminal justice at California State University Sacramento. Criminal justice studies the patterns of criminals in order to prevent crimes in the future, so it makes sense why he was able to get away with his crimes for decades.  


In 1973, DeAngelo became a part of the Exeter police department until 1976 when he was transferred to Auburn. A year before that on September 11, while serving as a police officer, DeAngelo committed his first crime.


“File:Golden State Killer police sketch vs mugshot.png” by left: FBI, right: Sacramento Sheriff is marked with CC0 1.0

After tying up Professor Claude Snelling’s daughter, DeAngelo forced her to watch him shoot her father, kicked her in the face, and then took off. While this may have been his first murder, this was actually counted as his 13th murder, being that they didn’t connect this with him till 2018.


The same year he was stationed in Auburn, DeAngelo was fired for theft of a hammer and dog repellent. This started his serial burglaries and rapes in eastern Sacramento County, being coined the name “The East Area Rapist.” 


While he would almost always commit his crimes at night, the Golden State Killer spied on his victims, taking time out of his day to watch and learn their schedule. Sometimes, he’d call victims and carry conversations to learn more about when the best time to strike was.


Once the sun set, DeAngelo would pry open a window, then search the house for valuables, money, and identification. Sadly, some couples would be subject to his forms of torture, which included him tying up couples and raping the woman. He’d even place a plate on the man and told him if the plate were to fall off, DeAngelo would kill both of them. Twelve people fell victim to this.


In 1978, Brian and Katie Maggiore were walking their dog together as DeAngelo shot and killed Brian instantly. Katie ran in the streets, yelling for help, but she was shot in the head before it arrived.


The burglaries turned into more rapes and murders, some couples being bludgeoned to death (one man being beaten 24 times before dying), sending California into mass panic as another serial killer stalked the state once again.


The Golden State Killer took a break from a life of crime in 1981 and continued this till 1986. Jim Huddle, DeAngelo’s brother-in-law, noticed how the killings seemed to follow him and matched up with patterns in his life. For example, during this break, DeAngelo had his three daughters. 


Huddle, along with many others in the family, can recall conversations of when DeAngelo would ask them about what they think about the Golden State Killer, secretly wanting to hear praise for being able to get away with it or fear. He even joked after a particular “shouting match” with his wife, as the Huddles call it, on his daughters watching Friday the 13th (1981); “You guys are sick. You like that stuff?” he questioned.


Of course, this “cooling period,” as the F.B.I. may call it, didn’t last forever. DeAngelo committed his last rape and murder on 18-year-old Janelle Cruz. Like the others, she was tied up, sexually assaulted, then bludgeoned. 


For 32 years, the case of the Golden State Killer went cold until investigators realized DNA was collected from one of the crime scenes.


Using DNA for investigation purposes is a fairly new strategy, so forensic scientists used DNA they collected from the East End Rapist and put it through many tests. Many people come up as a match for a piece of DNA, so scientists used genealogy–through places where family members willingly submit their DNA to public databases–to trace who the killer could be. 


In April of 2018, Joseph DeAngelo was arrested at age 72. His prosecutors note how when in the interview room, DeAngelo whispered to himself, “I did all those things. I destroyed all those lives.”


Stay tuned to learn more about DeAngelo’s arrest, family and life in prison in next week’s article!


Timeline gathered from: Family testimonies gathered from:

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About the Writer
Erin Brody is a Writing and Publishing senior from West Homestead and is the Editor-in-Chief/Director of Operations of The SIREN Media Group. She particularly enjoys investigative journalism and crime... writing and researching it, of course.

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