EXETER -- Retired Exeter officer in disbelief after seeing his former co-worker, Joseph DeAngelo's, mugshot.
The small rural city of Exeter is full of murals, friendly faces and small-town charm however, the East Area Rapist terrorized the Central Valley community in the mid-1970s and was known in Tulare County as the, "Visalia Ransacker."
DeAngleo, the suspected East Area Rapist, a grandfather and former cop, worked with Farrel Ward at the Exeter Police Department.
"There was no indication whatsoever that anything like that [could have] happened, was going to happen; he was just one of the guys,” said Ward.
Ward is a retired Exeter Corporal who worked with DeAngelo from 1973 to 1976.
“He was an educated idiot and he kind of laughed about it and I said, ‘you should be in the FBI,’ because he knew everything about everything,” said Ward.
The Visalia Ransacker burglarized many and killed one father.
“Working with a serial killer, you know, that’s… I mean, I guess I’m lucky to be alive and so are the other guys,” said Ward.
The staff with Exeter’s, Sun-Gazette, dug up a 27-year-old photo of DeAngelo when he joined the city’s police department.
Reggie Ellis, president and publisher of the Sun-Gazette, says the “Ransacker” case has long haunted the community.
“Just people thinking they knew who it was or always wondered about the guy down the street,” said Ellis.
The last time the Visalia Ransacker struck was late in 1975, according to Ellis. He also said that months later, DeAngelo joined the Auburn Police Department.
Now, with DeAngelo suspected of killing a dozen people and raping dozens more, it is heartbreaking for Ward whom had been sworn to protect the community alongside him.
“He was vicious, huh?” asked Ward. “I’d never believe that,” he said.
Ward says the statute of limitations has expired for many of the burglaries committed in the 1970s but the one murder case is still open.