(If you want to read Part One of my series on the Golden State Killer, you can read it >here<!)
June 18th 1976. Sacramento county, California. 4am. A young woman wakes suddenly to find a young man watching her from her bedroom door. Her first thought is that it’s her Dad. Then she realises: this man is not her Dad – he’s wearing a ski mask and is brandishing a knife. She doesn’t know how he got in, but knows this is bad news. He jumps onto the bed, ties her up and tells her not to scream before raping her. Then he steals some small items of low value and leaves the room, although the victim doesn’t hear the door close and lies awake in terror for hours.
Although this time it is likely that he left the scene after committing the rape, this was later to be one of the East Area Rapist’s (known throughout this blog post as EARONS or DeAngelo from here on) favourite psychological tricks. After he began raping/murdering couples (which happens a bit later on in the time-line), he blind-folded his victims. After the rape he would make noises as if he had left, closing doors etc. In actual fact he would stay silently in the room for hours and hours at a time – and when the victim finally found the courage to move to get up – he’d shout at them in a low, harsh gravelly whisper and terrify them all over again.
From around 1976 to mid-1979, the East Area Rapist carried out more than 50 rapes and burglaries in the Sacramento Area. The first dozen were carried out around the Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights and Carmichael areas. At the time, DeAngelo lived in Auburn, the next town over. He was within the geographic radius which the police deduced the suspect was likely to live in. He travelled down the Interstate 80 to commit his crimes, as the police suspected. Yet his name NEVER came up on ANY of the suspect lists compiled before DNA testing was available (which is what eventually nailed him, but more on that later). As the crimes progressed in ferocity, so did the geographical net increase. There were anomalies to his formula – for example, 2 rapes in the city of Stockton, 50 miles from central Sacramento and almost 90 miles from DeAngelo’s house, that were 2 years apart but almost identical in nature. Interesting, the first of these rapes in Stockton was immediately after EARONS first known murder.
One of the first police officers to realise that they were dealing with a serial offender was Officer William McGowen from Visalia, who almost captured DeAngelo when he was active as the Visalia Ransacker in the early 1970s (detailed more in my previous post last week – click >here< to read). For McGowen, this was deeply chilling, as the burglar and night-time ‘peeper’ had progressed to more violent sexual crimes, which meant he would only get worse the longer they took to catch him. However, being outside of the state where DeAngelo was now operating, McGowen had next to no power in the investigation – the Sacramento police only realised they had a dangerous serial criminal on the loose almost 6 months after the first violent rape occurred in their jurisdiction.
At first, the EARONS targeted young women walking home or living alone. He’d carefully stake out the properties where the victims lived, preferring to target single-floor properties with screen doors that were on the corner of two roads, providing multiple exit routes. He’d sometimes watch a certain house for almost 6 months, constantly prowling their backyard overnight, sometimes breaking in whilst the occupants were out in order to leave windows unlocked, unload any guns in the house and store ligatures to use later.
The modus operandi (or method) of the EARONS was mostly the same during the late 1970s. Most homes would be staked out prior to the rape, he would usually target a young woman who was home alone in the early hours of the night, the victim would be blindfolded and gagged with their hands and feet bound and he would rape them. Often the victims were threatened that they would be murdered if they spoke about their ordeal to anybody. It’s a miracle that anybody spoke out at all, considering how hard it was for a woman to report sexual assault in the 70s (or even now, to be honest) – there are reports of police officers talking down to women who came forward as victims of EARONS.
During this time, it was probably incredibly obvious to the victims that EARONS would go on to be a murderer – reports state that he seemed incredibly mentally unhinged – sometimes crying in a very strange high-pitched voice for hours after a rape whilst in the same room as the bound victim. He also screamed, ‘Fuck you, Bonnie’ multiple times whilst raping one victim – it was later discovered that DeAngelo had been engaged to a woman named Bonnie who apparently ended the engagement, smart girl that she was. He was quoted as speaking to his victims in a low, gravelly harsh whisper – that was very obviously put on. When he accidentally forgot, and used his real voice, it was reported as being incredibly high pitched, not unlike a small child.
In May 1977, the EARONS changed his modus operandi even further. Supposedly wanting a further ‘challenge’ to his sickening crimes, he now targeted couples in their houses overnight. Again, his method didn’t vary much over the next few months. After silently entering the property and opening windows and doors as a means of escape, he would wake the unsuspecting couple in the middle of the night by shining a flashlight on their faces from their bedroom doorway. Then, he would order the woman to tie up her husband with ligatures before he led the husband into the living room area. The man would be ordered to kneel on the floor, whilst EARONS stacked plates and dishes onto his back before threatening that if he heard the dishes so much as rattle, he would immediately shoot everyone in the household. This held extra sway with the victims, as EARONS also sometimes targeted couples that had young children sleeping elsewhere in the house.
Then, fatally, something changed again. For the last two crimes in this specific part of the EARONS timeline, something stopped working.
On the 5th July 1979, in Danville, Contra Costa County, a man awoke to find an intruder stood in his bedroom, attempting to pull a mask onto his face. The home-owner immediately sprang into action, screaming obscenities at the masked intruder. He then promptly woke his wife and they ran out of their open screen door, whilst the intruder stood still and simply watched, before fleeing himself.
This attack was followed by yet another aborted attempt:
On the 1st October 1979, EARONS targeted a house in Goleta, which is in the southern area of Santa Barbara County. As always, he broke in through windows that were left unlocked and open, and awoke the couple, threatened them and proceeded to tie them up. Whilst he tied both the hands and feet of the male victim, he only tied the female’s hands with twine that he had brought with him. When he left the room to search for the woman’s purse, the female victim took the opportunity to try to escape. However EARONS noticed and grabbed her, proceeding to throw her against a door. This produced a very loud thudding noise, which aroused the suspicion of a neighbour. When the neighbour, who happened to be an off-duty FBI officer, heard a woman screaming, he called 911 and grabbed his gun before heading next door to assist his neighbours. During the commotion with the female victim, the male victim had managed to throw himself off the bed and stagger out the back door. However, the attacker pursued him and dragged him back into the property. Around this time, the woman began screaming and the attacker made the decision to stop and flee, still holding the knife he’d taken from the couple’s kitchen, which he discarded later.
In a further twist, the FBI officer attempted to follow the attacker but his car failed to start after three attempts, after which EARONS was unfortunately far enough away that he managed to jump over a back fence and disappear from view. During this last attack, the suspect was not wearing a mask, allowing both his victims and the officer to get at least a glimpse of his face, from which further composites were drawn.
Almost a whole year before these two aborted attacks, a young couple walking their dog were attacked and killed by a man who many now believe was DeAngelo prowling the area to scope for possible victims. In April 2018, this was the very first charge to be brought against Joseph James DeAngelo after his arrest. On the 2nd February in 1978, the Maggiores decided to take their dog for an evening walk at around 9pm. As a completely chance decision, they went a slightly different route to the one they usually took – a route which unfortunately led them right past DeAngelo. As they walked up the road, DeAngelo was barely visible, standing in the shadow of a tree in somebody’s front yard. A neighbour had noticed him, but the Maggiores hadn’t.
What follows next isn’t entirely clear. Somehow the Maggiores ended up in somebody else’s backyard with a man and as they fled the backyard, he shot them both in the backs as they ran away. Their dog was later found, shivering, by the pool in the same backyard.
Perhaps the most common theory as to how the couple ended up in someone else’s backyard is that Katie Maggiore recognised their attacker as the man who stalked her at her work, and left her threatening phone calls. Katie worked at a local gas station, and a man reportedly sat outside her work and stared at her for hours on end. She had gone out to confront him before, so it’s plausible that she would have confronted him again if she saw him prowling, especially in somebody else’s backyard and with the added back-up of her male partner.
Another small detail that points to the EARONS involvement in the Maggiores death is that Katie was also receiving phone calls at her work where she was threatened with being raped. EARONS repeatedly phoned women who were alone – sometimes he hung up, sometimes he breathed heavily and sometimes he threatened women. On the night of Feb 2nd, a young woman in the house next to the backyard where the Maggiore shooting happened, received another phone call from a strange man (I think this was the third call shed received of this nature). The man on the other end of the line told her this was the last night that she would live.
Obviously, we’ll know the definitive answers once all of this goes to trial but my guess is that Katie recognised him and confronted him. When they realised he was extremely dangerous, they tried to flee but were killed as the EARONS now knew they could identify him and link him to most of his previous crimes from his behaviour (lurking in backyards etc.) The attacker hadn’t put his mask on at this point, and as he left the scene he tried to hide his face from various neighbours but was briefly glimpsed by two people. Unfortunately, this didn’t deter the EARONS and he returned to Ranch Cordova just two months later to commit another rape.
The significance of the Maggiore murders cannot be understated. This is only the second time we know the EARONS to have killed, and the first (Officer McGowen) was almost not pre-meditated – although I know the choice to carry a gun is in itself perhaps a pre-meditated intent of using it. Now having killed for the second, time, the attacker knew this was a perhaps fail-safe way of preventing himself from being identified. However, it took until the two failed attacks of 1979 for him to adopt murder as part of his routine.
It’s a common trope that serial killers want to be caught – and I’ve read a fair bit online about how the EARONS wanted to be a celebrity for his crimes, but somehow I don’t buy into this theory. He ONLY killed, so as not be identified, in my opinion. Yes, he probably also got gratification from it, being the depraved fuck that he is, but he committed well over 50 rapes without murder prior to 1979. Also, his first three murders were not rape victims, the only motive for him was self-preservation.
Stay tuned for the next (final?!) blog post on the Original Night Stalker and Golden State Killer attacks committed by DeAngelo over the period 1979-1986. I’m hoping to have the post up a fortnight from today (23rd October) and then I’ll have to pick another true crime persona to write about – any suggestions welcome!
Not too spooked,