(LOS ANGELES) — The suspected “Golden State Killer,” believed to have committed 12 murders, at least 50 rapes and multiple home burglaries in the 1970s and 1980s, is now behind bars. The sudden arrest of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo this week has shocked some of his victims and their family members, bringing their decades-old emotions back to the surface.
DeAngelo, a former police officer, was taken into custody on Tuesday at his home in Sacramento County, the same county where his alleged crime spree began in 1976. The crimes continued across the state until 1986.
His alleged “reign of terror” spanned from the Sacramento area in Northern California down to Orange County in Southern California, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a news conference Wednesday.
Bruce Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were alleged victims of the “Golden State Killer” in 1980, said at the news conference: “[To the] ladies who were brutally raped in these crime scenes, sleep better tonight. He isn’t coming through the window. He’s now in jail and he’s history.”
Here’s a closer look at some of the victims.
In 1976, Jane Carson-Sandler was cuddling with her 3-year-old son in Citrus Heights, California, when a man with a butcher knife broke into her home and tied them up.
In 1977, 13-year-old Margaret Wardlow became the youngest victim of the “Golden State Killer” when she was tied up in her Sacramento home and raped, according to ABC affiliate KGTV in San Diego.
The attacker tied up Wardlow’s mother and stacked plates on top of her so he would hear if she moved, KGTV said.
Wardlow, who had read articles about the “Golden State Killer,” thought he seemed to thrive on his victims being powerless, KGTV said. So when he said to her, “Do you want to die? Do you want me to kill your mother?” Wardlow said she responded, “I don’t care,” which she thinks saved her life, reported KGTV.
“Certainly I’m a victim. I was 13 years old, a man came into my home, tied up my mother and raped me. But I don’t own that,” Wardlow told KGTV. “I can choose whether I own that or not, and I don’t own it.”
Wardlow said she will go to court appearances for the suspected “Golden State Killer,” and said she wants to look him in the eyes and ask, “Why?”
Later, the crimes escalated to murder.
Brian and Katie Maggiore were the first murders victims of the “Golden State Killer.” In February 1978, they were shot and killed while walking their dog in the Sacramento area.
Brian Maggiore was a 21-year-old sergeant in the Air Force and his wife, Katie Maggiore, was 20, according to The Mercury News.
Their deaths also marked the “Golden State Killer”‘s final attack in the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s jurisdiction, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Another couple killed by the “Golden State Killer” was Lyman Smith, 43, and his wife, Charlene Smith, 33.
In 1980, they were killed in their Ventura, California, home. Charlene Smith was bound and sexually assaulted, The Ventura County Star reported.
“They were bludgeoned to death with a log that was from a stack of firewood they had outside their home,” Lyman Smith’s daughter, Jennifer Carole, told ABC station KGO in San Francisco.
Charlene Smith had been an interior decorator and Lyman Smith was on the short list for an appointment to the Superior Court bench, the Ventura County Star reported.
“I never in my lifetime expected to see [an arrest],” Carole told KGO.
Janelle Cruz, 18, believed to be the final victim of the “Golden State Killer,” was raped and murdered in 1986 in Irvine, California.
Janelle Cruz was a “free spirit,” with a “big heart,” her sister, Michelle Cruz, said on “Good Morning America.”
“She was the type of person that would stand up for you,” Michelle Cruz said. “She was sort of my backbone.”
But after she died, the family left Irvine and never returned, Michelle Cruz told ABC News on Wednesday.
Her sister’s murder “completely changed my world, my life, my identity,” Michelle Cruz said.
“I kind of lived in sort of a bubble” for the first 20 years, Michelle Cruz said. “I never really talked about the case.”
But she started talking about her sister’s death more about eight years ago, she said, “hoping to spread awareness and solve the case.”
She was always worried about her own safety, never staying home alone and barricading her windows and doors.
“I won’t have to research this case for hours every day and miss out on my children and my family,” she said. “I can finally breathe again.”
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