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Documents released by judge are Sacramento County Sheriff’s first official statement linking Joseph DeAngelo to both EAR and VR cases

Documents released by judge are Sacramento County Sheriff’s first official statement linking Joseph DeAngelo to both EAR and VR cases

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

SACRAMENTO – While there was little mention of the Visalia Ransacker crimes at the April press conference announcing the arrest of the Golden State Killer, information released last month by a Sacramento judge marks the first ever public acknowledgement that the Visalia cases have a strong connection to the crimes committed by the East Area Rapist (EAR) and Original Night Stalker (ONS).

On May 29, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet authorized the release of the 48-page arrest warrant for Joseph James DeAngleo Jr., 72, as the Golden State Killer and the 123-page search warrant for his home in Citrus Heights, Calif. In the heavily redacted documents, Detective Robert Peters and Sgt. Kenneth Clark both stated “The EAR series was linked to a previous series of crimes in Tulare County, CA … “Both of those series have also been connected to a series of rapes and murders in Southern CA.” It goes on to state that “DeAngelo’s connection to these crimes has been established through his geographic ties to the locations where the attacks occurred, numerous circumstantial links, and a modus operandi (M.O.)… linked [to] Visalia Ransacker series.”

The documents also refer to the EAR committing 58 sexual assaults/rapes and 13 homicides throughout California even though he has only been charged with 12 murders in Sacramento, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Orange Counties. The 13th murder is that of Claude Snelling in Tulare County, who was killed in connection with the Visalia Ransacker (VR) case on Sept. 11, 1975. Snelling was shot and killed at his home while confronting the Ransacker who was attempting to kidnap Snelling’s 14-year-old daughter. Snelling was a journalism professor at College of the Sequoias, where DeAngelo would have attended the Public Safety Academy before being hired by the Exeter Police Department and the epicenter of the VR crimes. DeAngelo was an officer in Exeter, just 20 minutes from Visalia, for the entire duration of the VR crimes which included 100 burglaries between 1973 and 1976, when DeAngelo took a job with the Auburn Police Department in Sacramento County around the same time that the EAR crimes began in June 1976.

The entire EAR case against DeAngelo is centered around the double murder of Brian and Katie Maggiore on Feb. 2, 1978. Just after 9 p.m. that night, Brian, a 21-year-old sergeant in the US Air Force, and his wife Katie, 20, took their dog for a walk through Cordova Meadows, a quite middle class subdivision of Rancho Cordova, Calif. It was a dark night as there were few porch lights on and just a quarter moon to light the streets in an area which had already been terrorized by prowlings and burglaries. Witnesses say they saw the Maggiores chased into the backyard of a home in the neighborhood before being shot by an unknown assailant, who then jumped the fence, a common escape tactic for both the VR and EAR. Through multiple witness accounts, a composite sketch of the EAR was released on April 16, 1978. 

But the evidence centers around another murder across the state. The Ventura County District Attorney has charged DeAngelo with the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith. The couple, ages 43 and 33, were bludgeoned to death in their Ventura home in March 13, 1980, likely using a log from the wood pile on the side of their home. 

It was the earliest case in which DNA samples were analyzed. In 1996, semen samples taken from the Smith’s home allowed investigators to link three other homicide cases in Southern California, including the double homicide of Keith and Patrice Harrington in August 1980, the homicide of Manuela Whittuhn in May 1886 in Irvine, Calif. and the homicide of Janelle Cruz in May 1986. In 1997, more DNA testing of the semen from the Smith murder was linked to three more homicides in Contra Costa County in 1978-1979. In 2011, DNA from the double homicide of Cherie Domingo and Gregory Sanchez in July 1981 in Santa Barbara County was linked to the Smith case. 

That same DNA sample was tested again in the first quarter of 2018 and connected to family lineage of DeAngelo. According to the Sacramento Bee, Paul Holes, a retired investigator with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, uploaded the DNA from the GSK crimes to GEDmatch.com, a third-party web site that creates an ethnic background and genetic profile. That genetic information can then be uploaded to commercial sites such as Ancestry.com where it can be cross-referenced with similar matches. The crime scene DNA matched a GEDmatch user, a relative of DeAngelo’s. That swab was used by the Sacramento DA’s Crime Lab and was a 47% match of the DNA from the Smith case. Additional samples of DeAngelo’s DNA were taken from the door handle of the driver’s side of his car in the Hobby Lobby parking lot in Roseville, Calif. on April 18, 2018 and from the trash can outside of his home on April 23, 2018, the day before the search warrant was signed.

 The search warrant authorized Sacramento County Sheriff’s investigators to search for: blood, skin, body tissue, body fluids, hair, saliva, clothing fibers, lint, carpet/upholstery samples; firearms and ammunition such as spent casings, bullet holes, magazines, gun cleaning kits, gun purchase receipts/registration papers, holsters, gun cases; bindings including rope, string, shoe laces, line, cord; financial documents; stolen personal property; telephone directories, address books, rolodexes; digital storage devices; locked safes, lockboxes, chests; photo albums; clothing worn during the Maggiore murders; journals, dairies, maps or diagrams.

While there is no DNA evidence from the VR cases, the contents from DeAngelo’s home may eventually connect him to the Visalia crimes if they match trinkets or rare coins taken from the ransacked homes. As of press time, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office has not filed charges against DeAngelo for the murder of Claude Snelling. 

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