Joseph James DeAngelo, the man suspected of being the Golden State Killer, was shopping at a Hobby Lobby near his California home when police swabbed his car door handle for DNA that linked him to a decadelong crime spree in the 1970s and ’80s.
Police followed their suspect to the craft store on April 18 and waited until he parked before collecting their sample from the driver’s side door, according to a partially redacted arrest warrant unsealed Friday by a Sacramento County judge.
Two days later, a Sacramento County crime lab returned a match. DeAngelo’s DNA coincided with DNA left at Golden State Killer crime scenes.
Genetic material on a piece of tissue taken the following day from a trash can left outside his suburban home in Citrus Heights, California, also returned a match.
According to the arrest warrant, DeAngelo is “47.5 septillion times” more likely to be the Golden State Killer than any other, unrelated person.
DeAngelo was arrested April 24.
He has yet to enter a plea, although he has appeared in court twice. DeAngelo has been charged with 12 killings.
His identification was a crucial turning point in the cold case. The Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, is believed to be responsible for more than 50 rapes and a dozen murders all over California.
According to the warrant, police believe DeAngelo is also the Visalia Ransacker, a man who burglarized around 120 homes in the Visalia, California, area in the mid-1970s, generally taking only personal trinkets of little value.
If police are correct, it would mean DeAngelo’s alleged crimes escalated in severity over the course of about a decade. The Golden State Killer’s last known victim was murdered in 1986.
In addition to DNA evidence, DeAngelo fits the killer’s profile: After serving in the Navy, he worked as a police officer in Exeter and Auburn, California, in the 1970s, near many of his alleged crimes. (He was fired from the Exeter department in 1979 for attempting to shoplift dog repellant and a hammer.) DeAngelo was also once engaged to a woman named Bonnie; one rape victim heard the Golden State Killer repeatedly saying, “I hate you, Bonnie!” during her assault.
The Golden State Killer was known for carefully plotting his attacks. He prowled mostly single-story homes and neighborhoods ahead of time to observe residents’ schedules. Sometimes, in preparation for his later return, he unlocked doors or windows, emptied guns and rearranged furniture for a quick exit.
Interest in the case was renewed shortly before DeAngelo’s arrest due to the release of a book on the crimes by the late writer Michelle McNamara.