DNA from a tissue left in a trash can led authorities in April to arrest former police officer Joseph DeAngelo on suspicion of being California’s notorious, elusive Golden State Killer, according to warrants released on Friday
DNA from a tissue left in a trash can led authorities in April to arrest a former police officer suspected of being California’s notorious, elusive Golden State Killer, according to warrants released on Friday.
Documents released by a judge at the request of news outlets detail the case Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators pieced together to obtain arrest and search warrants for 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo, Jr, who is now facing murder charges in multiple counties.
Voluntary submission of DNA to private genetics testing and analysis companies also played a role in DeAngelo’s arrest.
DeAngelo is suspected of terrorizing California by committing at least a dozen killings, roughly 50 rapes and over 100 burglaries throughout the 1970s and ’80s, across the state.
In total, 123 pages of documents were released by Judge Michael Sweet, over the objection of DeAngelo’s defense team.
DeAngelo appears here in Sacramento Superior Court on Friday in Sacramento, California
To crack the investigation that’s been ongoing for 40 years, police zeroed in on DeAngelo by using genealogical websites to identify potential relatives of the killer based on DNA collected at a crime scene.
Investigators used DNA from a semen sample collected at the double murder of Lyman and Charlene Smith in 1980 in Ventura County to find one of DeAngelo’s relatives and eventually the suspect himself, according to the warrants.
The crime scene DNA was entered into private DNA testing and analysis databases that are intended, in part, to find relatives and assess ancestry. Once a distance relative was matched to that DNA, detectives told The Los Angeles Times that they were able to close in on DeAngelo based on his age, employment and close proximity to the location of many of the Golden State Killer’s crimes.
DeAngelo stands with his attorney Joe Cress (left) in a Sacramento, California jail court on Tuesday, locked in a cell
Cress stands next to his client DeAngelo appears in Sacramento Superior Court on Friday
After identifying DeAngelo as a suspect, investigators followed him to a Hobby Lobby located just outside of Sacramento in Roseville, and took a swab from the door handle of a car he exited on April 18.
The door handle sample matched DNA from semen found at a Golden State Killer crime scene, but didn’t immediately lead to an arrest.
The reliability of so-called ‘touch DNA,’ which is how the industry refers to DNA collected when only a few human cells are left behind when someone touches an object, has been an issue of controversy among forensic experts.
Five days after the ‘touch DNA’ was gathered into evidence, investigators collected trash from cans left outside DeAngelo’s home in Citrus Heights, California.
A piece of tissue plucked from the trash on April 23 proved to be the piece of evidence they needed to obtain an arrest warrant, according to the documents.
Sacramento County Sheriff officers take evidence bags out of the home of DeAngelo, in Citrus Heights, California on April 25
Authorities dig in the backyard of DeAngelo’s home in Citrus Heights, California on April 26
DeAngelo was arrested on April 24 and has since been charged with 12 counts of murder in Sacramento, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Orange counties. Prosecutors haven’t yet decided where he’ll be tried.
Following his arrest, investigators began searching DeAngelo’s house, vehicles and storage locker, as well as his computer and cellphone for anything else that may tie him to the dozens of murders and rapes he’s suspected of committing.
Authorities said the Golden State Killer stole dozens of rings, watches, cufflinks and tie pins from his targets over the years that detectives hoped to find, along with an odd assortment of items that included women’s purses, cameras, jewelry made from coins, china, a clock radio and a wooden bowl.
He also took drivers’ licenses, photographs and other identification from his victims, according to the documents.
Detectives also hoped the killer might have kept three blunt objects containing blood, tissue and hair from four victims who were beaten to death. One of the weapons is described as ‘possibly a metal sprinkler head.’
It’s not clear what was recovered from the searches because a judge ruled that those records should remain sealed.
Law enforcement authorities process evidence at the home of suspected ‘Golden State Killer’ Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, in Citrus Heights, California on April 25
Sheriffs deputies are seen in front of the home of DeAngelo in Citrus Heights on April 25
The documents that were released said that through matching DNA, detectives were able to tie rapes in Northern California to several murders in Southern California, that had otherwise seemed unrelated and had kept authorities guessing for years.
The heavily redacted affidavits recounted chilling behavior by the Golden State Killer. The Sacramento County district attorney’s office noted that the overwhelming majority of the material redacted was blacked out at the request of DeAngelo’s public defenders.
The documents told the story of how neighbors of Brian and Katie Maggiore reported numerous silent or lewd phone calls before the double murder of the Maggiores in Sacramento in 1978.
A 25-year-old woman in the community reported finding shoe prints outside her bedroom window and drawings in what appeared to be bodily fluids, according to the affidavit.
The Maggiores were shot while on a walk one evening. The attacker then fled, running through multiple neighbors’ yards. To one, he said, ‘Excuse me, I’m trespassing,’ the documents state.
Suspected ‘Golden State Killer’ Joseph James DeAngelo, is seen at right while he was a police officer in 1979
A file photo of DeAngelo while working for the Simi Valley Police Department is seen here
The documents details how another couple was found beaten to death with a fireplace log in Ventura, and another was shot to death while tied up in Santa Barbara County.
The killer was known to be prone to ‘explosive violence’ when cornered, and once confronted by police or neighbors, he tended to never again attack within that same jurisdiction, the documents said.
Descriptions provided by those neighbors helped investigators draw their first composite sketch of the killer.
DeAngelo was a member of the police force for small towns in California until 1979, at which time he was fired for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent in the city of Auburn. After that he spent decades working as a truck mechanic, living just north of Sacramento in a suburb, amidst the communities that had been rocked by sexual assaults and killings that are now attributed to the Golden State Killer.
DeAngelo has already been charged with the fatal shootings of the Maggiores in Sacramento and 10 more counts of murder in three other counties.
Detectives also accuse DeAngelo of a 13th killing, the fatal shooting of Claude Snelling in 1975 in Visalia, in the documents.
DeAngelo has already been charged with the fatal shootings of the Maggiores in Sacramento and 10 more counts of murder in three other counties; He is suspected in roughly 50 rapes