The Golden State Killer Evaded Capture for 40 Years

Who is The Golden State Killer Suspect?

The man suspected of being The Golden State Killer is Joseph DeAngelo. Born in Bath, New York on November 8th, 1945. A Damage Controlman in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, then a police officer in Exeter until ’76 and in Auburn until ’79. Discovered shoplifting, he was fired and spent his remaining working years, from 1990 to 2017, as a truck driver.

The Golden State Killer
By FBI [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What he did

Over his lifetime he burglarized more than 120 properties, raped over 50 people, and killed 12 people that are known to the police. The killings began in 1978 and ended in 1986 but not because he was caught. And it was the distinctive MO (Modus Operandi) that linked his crimes together initially before DNA could be used to confirm the connection.

HOw he was caught

DNA evidence on a genealogy site led to the arrest of the Golden State Killer. You’ve seen those sites, put in your surname and see if you’re related to royalty. And you’ve probably seen those DNA testing kits to find out how much of the DNA from around the world is part of you. And if you’re anything like me, doing the school run when you heard the news, you were wondering how on earth did they use those things to catch him.

Well, the DNA evidence wasn’t a spit in a tube and send it off test -he hadn’t got caught up in modern technology and made a mistake. It was DNA evidence collected from the original crime scenes suspected to be those of The Golden State Killer. Remember, at this point, they had no idea who he was. And the suspects they had had had been eliminated.

Recovering DNA

A retired detective entered the DNA profile into GEDmatch -a Florida based personal genomics website that has records of over 800,000 DNA profiles. And identified the killers family.

From there they learned that DeAngelo had once been engaged to a girl named Bonnie, who he met at school. And during one of his crimes, recorded in a statement, he had said to his victim, ‘I hate you, Bonnie.’

But this still wasn’t enough, circumstantial at best. They needed more. And recovering items from DeAngelo’s trash, Law Enforcement found fresh samples of his DNA and had them analysed. They were a match.

On April 14th, 2018 an arrest was made. And we heard, through our radios, TV’s, and over Social Media, that The Golden State Killer had been arrested.

How did he evade the police for so long?

For DNA evidence to work, you need something to match it to. And over the years the technology has advanced enough to allow the DNA collected from the original crime scenes to be compared.

But the police didn’t have a suspect with matching DNA. They had evidence but nowhere to go with it. But when that advancing technology provided an opportunity they took it.

DNA played a huge role in this case, allowing police to both eliminate people as suspects and connect crime scenes not thought to be otherwise connected. Ultimately leading them to the perpetrator.

December 11th, 1977

Whilst he was active he made a number of calls, to his victims and to the police, warning them when and where he was going to kill next.

One of those calls was placed on December 10th, 1977. Telling police he was going to hit tonight, telling them where. Extra police were put on patrol in the area and at 2.30 am on the 11th of December the police spotted a masked bicycle rider.

The masked rider eluded the police on two occasions that night, finally making his escape on foot after ditching what turned out to be a stolen bicycle.

Later that same day…

…the following poem entitled Excitememts Crave arrived at Sacramento Bee’s editor’s office claiming to be from the East Area Rapist.

All those mortal’s surviving birth / Upon facing maturity,
Take inventory of their worth / To prevailing society.
Choosing values becomes a task; / Oneself must seek satisfaction.
The selected route will unmask / Character when plans take action.
Accepting some work to perform / At fixed pay, but promise for more,
Is a recognized social norm, / As is decorum, seeking lore.
Achieving while others lifting / Should be cause for deserving fame.
Leisure tempts excitement seeking, / What’s right and expected seems tame.
“Jessie James” has been seen by all, / And “Son of Sam” has an author.
Others now feel temptations call. / Sacramento should make an offer.
To make a movie of my life / That will pay for my planned exile.
Just now I’ d like to add the wife / Of a Mafia lord to my file.
Your East Area Rapist
And deserving pest.
See you in the press or on T.V.

Was it from The East Area Rapist? No one knows for sure, some suggesting that his ability to elude capture earlier in the day inspired him to write and send in this poem.

What happens next?

DeAngelo’s next court appearance is May 14th. It’s thought the investigation will go on for a very long time and the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department are calling for any sexual assault victims who did not report the crime at the time to contact law enforcement. Presumably, because the statute of limitations on his known sexual assault victims has expired and he cannot be charged with those crimes.

The police have searched his property for any trophies he may have collected (such as jewellery, photos, and identification of his victims), as well as the balaclava’s he was known to wear. Anything found will be entered into evidence, examined, and then used in court during the trial.

Michelle McNamara’s involvement

Patten Oswalt’s wife, Michelle McNamara, was a crime reporter who covered the crimes of The Golden State Killer. She was writing a book about his crimes before she sadly passed away.

Patten, dealing with the death of his wife and the responsibility as the sole parent to their daughter, knew he needed to finish the book and put it out into the world to get her the recognition she deserved. Hear what he has to say about it in the video below.


There will inevitably be some discussion over the way the DNA evidence was linked to DeAngelo, using the genealogy service by a retired detective. A questioning of whether the evidence is viable and that is something that will have to be determined by the courts.

A lot of questions will arise about what information the police should be allowed to access. But that is nothing new, it has taken many forces years to allow profile pages on social media sites that interact with the public. There are upsides and downsides to all of these things.

But its worth noting, once it has been used and accepted in court it can and will be used again, with varying methods of success.


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