Suspected East Area Rapist Charged with Visalia Ransacker Murder

VISALIA -- Investigators say they have officially linked the suspected East Area Rapist to a murder committed by the so-called Visalia Ransacker.

Joseph DeAngelo, 72, is charged with the 1975 murder of Claude Snelling, with a special allegation of the use of a firearm, according to Stuart Anderson, spokesman for the Tulare County, California, district attorney's office.

The Visalia Police Department and officials with the district attorney's office held a news conference Monday to give details about the latest charge.

MORE: Listen to FOX40's podcast about the East Area Rapist case - EXPOSED.

Claude Snelling was a journalism professor at the College of the Sequoias. He was, by many accounts, a family man and a father who ultimately died protecting his teenage daughter.

"He was a hero to his family. He was a hero to his community for what he tried to do to save his daughter," said Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar.

Salazar says back in September of 1975 Snelling woke up to a suspected kidnapper.

"Snelling didn’t hesitate," Salazar said. "He jumped in to save his daughter’s life, immediately acted and in doing so the Ransacker, or DeAngelo, killed him."

FOX40 spoke to a neighbor off-camera who says he remembers the gunshots that night and the tragic scene that unfolded afterward.

For decades, investigators only knew that the Visalia Ransacker killed Snelling. Now they have named their sole suspect.

DeAngelo was a police officer with the Exeter Police Department from 1973 to 1976 before he left for the Auburn Police Department. Around the same time, the police chief says the Ransacker killed Snelling and burglarized about 100 homes over an 18-month period, from 1973 to 1975.

"By the filing of murder charges against Mr. DeAngelo, we have officially linked what is known as the Visalia Ransacker to be the same individual that is the East Area Rapist," said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward.

DeAngelo, who was also a Vietnam veteran and mechanic, was a reclusive neighbor in Citrus Heights, a town about 16 miles northeast of Sacramento, according to residents.

Authorities said the Maggiores were killed after possibly spotting the Golden State Killer as they walked their dog near a home in Rancho Cordova. The complaint alleges that DeAngelo shot the couple using an "unknown caliber firearm."

DeAngelo appeared in court in late April in a wheelchair, but didn't enter a plea to the charges of murdering the Maggiores.

Investigators say there are similarities to the Ransacker and the East Area Rapist.

Both suspects cased homes before they broke in. Both helped themselves to victims' food. Both made chilling phone calls weeks after an attack.

Decades after the killings terrified communities throughout California, authorities tracked down DeAngelo using data from an ancestry website where people submit their DNA results in hopes of tracking down relatives and ancestors.

DNA from a crime scene was matched to genetic material from a relative who was registered on genealogy sites, and authorities later obtained a discarded sample of DeAngelo's DNA.

Investigators say, unlike the East Area Rapist cases, they do not have DNA evidence and a number of witnesses have passed away.

"There’s some physical evidence that we’re continuing to work on that we believe is gonna help the case. Good ol’ police work from victims and witnesses," Salazar said.

FOX40 also reached out to Snelling’s daughter who said she was advised by the DA not to speak to media. The District Attorney says at this point they’re working on the possibility of DeAngelo's extradition to Tulare County.