Sealed police warrant: Golden State Killer’s dark past

WARNING: Confronting

Newly unsealed court documents have revealed how the Golden State Killer moved about almost invisibly while terrorising Californian neighbourhoods.

The documents, parts of which a judge has now released, show how ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo allegedly committed serial rape and murder for decades.

Police suspect the now 72-year-old DeAngelo used drainage canals crisscrossing suburbs to materialise in streets he would then haunt for days.

Joseph James DeAngelo, who authorities suspect is the so-called Golden State Killer responsible for at least a dozen murders and 50 rapes in the 1970s and 80s. Photo / AP
Joseph James DeAngelo, who authorities suspect is the so-called Golden State Killer responsible for at least a dozen murders and 50 rapes in the 1970s and 80s. Photo / AP

The heavily redacted files list 50 attacks on mothers, children and couples who were burgled, tied up or assaulted, but survived before DeAngelo allegedly escalated to murder.

The files end with seven homicide cases in which 12 people were murdered.

The arrest warrant links DNA samples taken from semen and blood to what police believe are DeAngelo’s ascending states of criminality.

The sexual, stealthy, fearless, unhurried, sadistic and cruel nature of his crimes — concentrated in different areas — garnered four criminal monikers.

In almost every victim’s description, the attacker is about 175cm, white caucasian with “heavy” legs and a small penis.

As his crimes escalated, he bound victims’ hands behind their backs, threatened them with a knife or gun and raped them or demanded they give him sexual relief.

The police warrant implies he was the pale, pudgy man with a squeaky voice known as the Visalia Ransacker, a serial prowler, voyeur and burglar behind a staggering 120 break-ins in less than two years.

Between March 1974 and late 1975, he plagued the then tiny town of Visalia in California’s San Joaquin Valley, 340km north of Los Angeles.

The files make the eerie connection between DeAngelo and the crimes in that he trained in 1974 for his police job at the Kings County Public Safety Academy.

The academy was on the grounds of the College of the Sequoias in Visalia and was the epicentre of the streets plagued by the Ransacker.

Golden State Killer photofits in his various alleged criminal pasts, which were all in California and near where DeAngelo lived.
Golden State Killer photofits in his various alleged criminal pasts, which were all in California and near where DeAngelo lived.

Visalia was a 20-minute drive from Exeter, where DeAngelo worked as a police officer.

In September 1975, a man broke into the home of College of Sequoias professor, Claude Snelling.

Six months earlier, Professor Snelling had chased away a late-night prowler under his daughter’s window.

On the second occasion, Snelling confronted an intruder wearing a ski mask about 2.20am trying to kidnap his daughter.

The kidnapper shot Snelling twice, and the professor later died.

The intruder seemed to be one step ahead of police, some of whom suspected they were dealing with one of their own.

But in an attempt to catch him, they ramped up night patrols and stake-outs.

On December 10, 1975, Detective Bill McGowen was on West Kaweah Ave, Visalia, an area of heavy Ransacker activity.

He was positioned in the garage of a house when he spotted a prowler peeping through a window, chased him and confronted him with his gun drawn and flashlight in the man’s face.

The suspect removed his ski mask and begged McGowen in a voice that was “juvenile and effeminate” not to hurt him.

Katie and Brian Maggiore were shot dead in Rancho Cordova, where the rapist and killer kept returning.
Katie and Brian Maggiore were shot dead in Rancho Cordova, where the rapist and killer kept returning.

The suspect held one hand up, but reached into his pocket and pulled out a pistol which he fired, hitting McGowen’s flashlight.

The Visalia Ransacker escaped and never struck again. Shortly afterwards, DeAngelo moved north to Sacramento.

According to an affidavit in the warrants files, Visalia’s “pattern of explosive violence followed by escape when cornered would repeat itself”.

In June 1976, the first of a series of sexual attacks began by a man who stalked people’s houses before finally breaking in and raping women.

The man, who would nonchalantly stride through the house without pants on, would some to be known as the East Area Rapist.

He originally targeted women alone or in the company of children, but he would escalate to attacking couples during his three-year reign of terror.

Joseph James DeAngelo grew up in Sacramento area, and attended Folsom High School, near the infamous Folsom State Prison.

Both are a 20-minute drive from Rancho Cordova, where a cluster of attacks by the East Area Rapist occurred.

On October 18, 1976, a woman arrived at her Rancho Cordova house at 11pm and was grabbed while getting out of her car.

A man put his hand over her mouth and a knife at her throat.

He then bound her hands and feet, gagged and blindfolded her, stole her car and drove off.

Charlene and Lyman Smith were bound and bludgeoned to death in their Ventura home.
Charlene and Lyman Smith were bound and bludgeoned to death in their Ventura home.

Another woman at home with her two daughters woke at 3.15am to the sound of wind chimes by her bedroom window.

She saw the silhouette of a man trying to pry open her screen and sat up, after which one of her girls woke.

The pair went to the kitchen to use the phone and as they were standing there, they heard a curtain rod fall to the floor.

A man appeared in front of them with a club in one hand and a gun in the other.

He was naked from the waist down.

He told them to freeze or he would kill them, tried to tie one of them up, struck her with the club and then fled next door.

The attacker then moved on to couples, tying up the husband while he took the wife to another room and raped her.

The warrant documents consider that “phase one” of the East Area Rapist’s grip on Sacramento came to an end on February 2, 1978.

“Shortly after 9pm, USAF Sgt Brian Maggiore and his wife Katie, 20, took their dog for a walk in Cordova Meadows, the quiet middle class subdivision of Rancho Cordova in which they lived,” the warrant reads.

“The area they walked was very dark. Only a quarter moon, a few porch lights, and a couple of residential light posts at the edge of an occasional driveway provided illumination.

Joseph James DeAngelo stands in a Sacramento, California, jail court. Photo / AP
Joseph James DeAngelo stands in a Sacramento, California, jail court. Photo / AP

“At the time Cordova Meadows was heavily prowled and burglarised and was the location of several sexual assaults.”

At some point, the couple were assailed by a man, and perhaps chased in a violent encounter.

A neighbour “described the violent encounter … and watched as they ran … through a section of fence that had been blown down.

“Brian Maggiore was subsequently located in suffering from a gunshot wound that rendered him unable to speak.

“At the crime scene where both Brian and Katie were shot, a single pre-tied shoelace was located a few feet from where Brian was lying.

“Brian and Katie Maggiore were each transported to area hospitals where they died as a result of the gunshot wounds”.

Phase one was over, phase two had begun.

The burglaries and stalking would continue but police were now looking for a killer.

When he attacked, he was fearless and the brutality, meticulous planning and sadistic rapes that characterised the man later known as the Golden State Killer would become a hallmark.

The warrant document lists an astonishing number of personal items taken from victims by the Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer.

Most is jewellery, and the Californian district attorney states it “believes DeAngelo will still be in possession of these items”, but does not say whether they were found at his house after his April arrest.

But the authorities preparing to arrest the pension-aged DeAngelo, who was living with relatives at Citrus Heights just 15km from his alleged old killing ground, had other clues to match apart from DNA and murder trophies.

“In the years following the completion of all crimes committed by DeAngelo, he would have accessed updated attempts to identify him,” the warrants reads.

“He would have used electronic devices … to locate media updates.

“Serial killers and rapists often keep journals or diaries of their criminal activity.”

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