Law Enforcement Looks Back on Years of Searching for the East Area Rapist

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CITRUS HEIGHTS — Different Sketches, different scenes, different names, but a unifying sense of horror investigators say was all caused by one man.

He was known in parts of California as the Original Nightstalker, in others as the Golden State Killer and locally as the East Area Rapist, and was pursued by law enforcement for more than 40 years.

According to the FBI, his voice was recorded a year into his crime spree as he called a past victim back to further terrorize her, saying “I’m going to kill you.”

The suspect’s crime catalog eventually included 12 murders and nearly 50 rapes.

In the end, what eventually unmasked Joseph James DeAngelo and connected him to the case was something he couldn’t change about himself or conceal — DNA.

“This is very huge. This is almost like catching Jack the Ripper,” said Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones. “This is a horrific, prolific offender that has escaped justice. Justice hasn’t been swift but it will certainly be sure.”

This was one of the few open cases handed over by the last sheriff when Jones was elected to the post eight years ago.

Leadership at the county’s District Attorney’s office has changed hands during that time as well. Jan Scully gave up the reins there after five terms but the case was in its infancy when she first started working in the office as a deputy DA in 1979.

“We all lived through this for many years, following leads that never turned into anything. And I remember Anne Marie saying, ‘If it’s the last thing I do, we’re going to solve this case.’ And the task forces that she’s brought together statewide was just critical,” Scully said.

Current DA Anne Marie Schubert put together the task force two years ago to drill down on ways to find the East Area Rapist.

“It will always be, for me and anybody else associated with this case, a moment in time we will never forget,” Schubert said.

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