(LOS ANGELES) — A dirty tissue led to the arrest of one of the most-prolific serial killers in U.S. history, according to a newly unsealed search and arrest warrant.
After four days of deliberation, a judge unsealed the 100-plus page warrant on Friday for alleged “Golden State Killer” Joseph DeAngelo in connection to at least 57 attacks and 13 murders starting in the mid-1970s.
The warrant alleges the possible 13th murder is a professor killed in Tulare County during the time the suspect was known as the “Visalia Ransacker.” He has not yet been charged with this murder.
DeAngelo was arrested in his driveway in Citrus Heights, California, on April 24 and has been charged with with 12 counts of murder: two in Sacramento County, two in Ventura County, four in Orange County and four in Santa Barbara County.
According to the warrant, the initial DNA collected to connect DeAngelo to the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith in March 1980 was taken off his driver’s side car door handle when he was parked in Hobby Lobby parking lot in Roseville, California, in April 2018. Authorities surveilled DeAngelo driving this vehicle.
Additional DNA samples were then taken from DeAngelo’s trash can outside his residence in Citrus Heights on April 23. A piece of tissue was the conclusive DNA factor needed to link him to the these crimes, the warrant shows.
The DNA that was derived from the Lyman and Charlene Smith killings case was provided to the task force organized by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the district attorney’s office said.
Authorities compared the DNA from the Smith double murder to what’s available on genealogy websites to find a family tree for the suspect, sources said.
Officials then worked their way down that family tree until they found the 72-year-old DeAngelo.
DeAngelo was a police officer in Exeter, California, from 1973 to 1976, officials said. He then served as a police officer in Auburn, California, in 1979 before being fired for stealing a hammer, according to multiple reports.
The unsealed warrant shows police seized additional DNA evidence, computers and devices, firearms and four vehicles belonging to DeAngelo — a 2014 Toyota Camry, 2016 Suzuki motorcycle, white Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and a 2017 trailer — from DeAngelo’s home.
Authorities strip searched DeAngelo upon apprehension to make sure he didn’t have a concealed weapon and, once in custody, photographed specific body parts.
The heavily redacted affidavit provides victims’ chilling accounts of all of DeAngelo’s various aliases: the “Visalia Ransacker,” the “East Area Rapist” and the “Original Night Stalker.” The details of the sexual assaults are redacted, but all victims provide similar accounts: they remember hearing something in their house, at times being tied up and being told not to move.
In most all of the cases, victims reported hang ups or lewd calls, prior burglaries or seeing a prowler prior to the sexual assaults, the warrant shows. Victims provided similar descriptions of the suspect: white male, about 6-feet tall, 20 to 30 years old, an athletic build, dark or leather shoes, and wearing a jacket and gloves. He was reported to carry a knife, gun or tool. Some say he was not wearing pants, just white jockey shorts.
The documents also provide a detailed list of items stolen from victims, including rings, silver dollars, $2 bills, money clips, cuff links, antiques spoons, IDs, photos, keys, jewelry, china, cameras, a revolver, a ladies robe, leather bags, gambling chips, gold nuggets, bowls, clock radios, knives, prescriptions and a doctor’s bag with syringes.
In many of the murder cases, the murder weapon was taken from the scene.
The documents also show authorities believe DeAngelo followed the case for years, accessing law enforcement bulletins, media stories and documentaries detailing his alleged crimes.
The affidavit is organized by the different phases as he moved throughout the state and his crimes worsened, first as the “Visalia Ransaker,” including a possible first murder; the “East Area Rapist,” including the murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore; multiple rapes committed in Modesto and Davis, California; a series of rapes in the East Bay; and the final phase, a series of rapes and the 10 murders in Southern California.
The warrant shows authorities believe the “Visalia Ransaker” committed approximately 120 burglaries between April 1974 and Decemeber 1975. This was during this time DeAngelo was an Exeter police officer.
The killer’s crime spree almost lasted less than a year, the papers show. In December 1975, a Visalia police officer confronted the suspected “Visalia Ransacker.” The suspect removed his mask and begged the officer not to hurt him. The officer described the suspect’s voice as juvenile and effeminate. The suspect shot at the officer, wounding him with debris, before escaping.
In the late-1970s, when the suspect was known as the “East Area Rapist,” many people chased after the suspect, but he always seemed to get away.
On Feb. 16, 1977, a boy and his father chased down a man matching the description of the “East Area Rapist” after hearing noises in their backyard. The boy was shot by the suspect, but he survived.
The documents also provide details known about the 10 murders in Southern California. Victims were either shot or killed by multiple blows to the head. As the documents allege, the murders began to grow more gruesome.
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