The killer was thought to have law enforcement or military experience. He was believed to stand around 6 feet tall, with an athletic build. He was presumed to live in the Central Valley and Sacramento area at different points in the 1970s.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was a former police officer who served in the Navy in Vietnam. He was 5-foot-11, with a sturdy frame. He worked in Exeter until 1976, before moving to Auburn, a town 30 miles northeast of Sacramento.
Blessed with hindsight, authorities now say that DeAngelo fit their profile for the East Area Rapist, also known as the Golden State Killer. The 72-year-old faces a dozen counts of murder across the state. He is also suspected in dozens of rapes.
The four-decade manhunt sparked multiple law enforcement task forces, spawned an FBI website dedicated to catching the killer and prompted lawmakers to create a DNA database of known and suspected felons. Working off witness testimony and hunches, investigators whittled down the potential pool of suspects over the years. Yet until they pioneered a novel forensic tactic in recent months — running crime-scene DNA evidence against data from genealogy websites — DeAngelo’s name never appeared on their list.
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