The man suspected of being the Golden State Killer, a notorious serial killer suspected in a dozen homicides and 50 rapes across California, was a former police officer who was fired in 1979 after allegedly shoplifting from a drug store, authorities said.
The decades-long search in the serial murder-rape cold case ended on Tuesday with the arrest of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo at his home in Citrus Heights, a city roughly 13 miles northeast of Sacramento.
DeAngelo was booked on suspicion of two counts of murder related to homicides in Ventura County in March 1980. The Ventura County District Attorney's Office has charged DeAngelo with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the case, DA Greg Totten announced at an early afternoon news conference in Sacramento.
KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento was the first to report on the arrest and identification of the "Golden State Killer" suspect.
Investigators believe the serial killer and rapist -- who was also dubbed the Original Night Stalker and East Area Rapist -- committed 12 homicides, 50 rapes and at least 120 home burglaries across 10 counties in the state from 1976 to 1986.
For decades, the subject managed to elude capture, though the case remained the subject of intense scrutiny and interest throughout the years.
"It is the most prolific unsolved serial killing case probably in modern history," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told KTXL prior to the arrest being announced.
The suspect was identified through DNA evidence, authorities said.
DeAngelo is a former police officer who, in the 1970s, worked for two separate law enforcement agencies, according to Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones.
From 1973 to 1976, he worked in the Exeter Police Department near Visalia, which is located nearly 200 miles southeast of Sacramento.
"That was roughly during the time as the Visalia ransacker cases were occurring," Jones said at the news conference.
After, he worked for the Auburn Police Department in Auburn, which is located about 35 miles northwest of Sacramento. Jones placed the dates between 1976 and 1979, when he was fired for alleged shoplifting.
DeAngelo was accused of stealing a hammer and a can of dog repellant from a drugstore in Sacramento, according to an Auburn Journal article published on Aug. 29, 1979. He was caught by a store employee, a sheriff's report obtained by the newspaper stated.
Then-Auburn Police Chief Nick Willick told the paper that DeAngelo's dismissal was determined to be warranted based on the investigation into his fitness and conduct.
"It is very important that the community have the utmost trust and faith in its officers' integrity," Willick said at the time. "When this trust and faith has been compromised, officers can no longer effective function in the community."
A number of the suspected crimes tied to the Golden State Killer occurred in Sacramento and surrounding areas in the late 1970s, while DeAngelo was a member of the Auburn police force.
Based on the timeline of the crimes laid out by the SFGate.com, the firing coincided around the time the attacks shifted from Northern to Southern California.
The killer's last suspected attack in the Northern California area took place in Danville on July 5, 1979. The next time the "Golden State Killer" struck was on Oct 1., 1979, in Goleta, a city in southern Santa Barbara County.
Then, within the span of a year, the individual was suspected of killing six people, including two women who were also raped. The crimes occurred in Goleta, Ventura County and Dana Point.
DeAngelo faces charges in at least one of those homicides, the one that occurred in Ventura County on March 13, 1980, according to Totten. The defendant is accused of killing Lyman Smith and Charlene Smith, who authorities said had also been raped.
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty in that case, Totten said.