The 'Golden State Killer': Inside the timeline of crimes

·3 min read

The notorious "Golden State Killer" was behind serial rapes and murders across California in the 1970s and 1980s -- but decades passed before a suspect was identified.

In 2018, Joseph DeAngelo was arrested, and on June 29 the 74-year-old former police officer is set to plead guilty to a string of crimes.

Here's a look back at the case:

1973-1976

From 1973 to 1976, DeAngelo was a police officer in Exeter, California, officials said.

1975

On Sept. 11, 1975, DeAngelo, while serving as an Exeter police officer, allegedly shot and killed professor Claude Snelling at his Visalia, California, home, according to Visalia police.

Visalia is 10 miles away from Exeter.

1976-1979

DeAngelo then served as a police officer in Auburn, California, from 1976 to 1979.

PHOTO: Suspected 'Golden State Killer,' Joseph James DeAngelo is the police officer on the right in a photo from 1979. (Auburn Journal )
PHOTO: Suspected 'Golden State Killer,' Joseph James DeAngelo is the police officer on the right in a photo from 1979. (Auburn Journal )

He was fired for allegedly stealing a hammer and a can of dog repellent, The Associated Press reported, citing Auburn Journal articles from the time.

1976-1978

In the summer of 1976, burglaries and rapes terrorized the eastern district of Sacramento County.

PHOTO: An evidence room from the 'Golden State Killer' investigation. (Courtesy FBI )
PHOTO: An evidence room from the 'Golden State Killer' investigation. (Courtesy FBI )

The "Golden State Killer" would break into his victims' homes by prying open a window or door while they slept, the FBI said.

Sometimes he would take jewelry, identification, cash and coins from the victims' homes.

PHOTO: Ransacked drawers after an attack by the 'Golden State Killer.' (Courtesy FBI )
PHOTO: Ransacked drawers after an attack by the 'Golden State Killer.' (Courtesy FBI )

1978-1981

In February 1978, the "Golden State Killer" shot and killed Brian and Katie Maggiore, who were walking their dog in the Sacramento area.

PHOTO: Murder victims Katie Maggiore and her husband Brian Maggiore were on an evening walk with their dog in their Rancho Cordova neighborhood when they were chased down and murdered, Feb. 2, 1978, Rancho Cordova, Calif. (FBI via AP, FILE)
PHOTO: Murder victims Katie Maggiore and her husband Brian Maggiore were on an evening walk with their dog in their Rancho Cordova neighborhood when they were chased down and murdered, Feb. 2, 1978, Rancho Cordova, Calif. (FBI via AP, FILE)

The burglaries continued in the East Bay area of Northern California, and then escalated into rapes and murders along the California coast, the FBI said.

MORE: 'Golden State Killer' victim recalls rape that 'terrorized' her

According to the FBI, the "Golden State Killer" would often "attack couples, tie up both victims, rape the female, and then murder them."

On Dec. 30, 1979, Alexandria Manning and Robert Offerman were killed in Goleta, near Santa Barbara.

PHOTO: FBI sketch for the 'Golden State Killer.' (FBI)
PHOTO: FBI sketch for the 'Golden State Killer.' (FBI)
PHOTO: FBI sketch for the 'Golden State Killer.' (FBI)
PHOTO: FBI sketch for the 'Golden State Killer.' (FBI)

In March of 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were killed in Ventura, north of Los Angeles.

In August of 1980, Keith and Patrice Harrington were slain in their home in Dana Point in Southern California.

On Feb. 5, 1981, 28-year-old Manuela Witthuhn was raped and killed while home alone in Irvine in Southern California.

In July 1981, Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were killed in Goleta.

1986

No crimes were attributed to the "Golden State Killer" from July 1981 until 1986, when 18-year-old Janelle Cruz was raped and murdered in Irvine.

MORE: 'Golden State Killer' victim's sister: 'I can finally breathe again'

That was his last known crime.

In this June 15, 2016 photo law enforcement drawings of a suspected serial killer believed to have committed at least 12 murders across California in the 1970's and 1980's are displayed at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP, FILE)
In this June 15, 2016 photo law enforcement drawings of a suspected serial killer believed to have committed at least 12 murders across California in the 1970's and 1980's are displayed at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP, FILE)

2018

The case went cold for decades.

DeAngelo's name came up for the first time in the investigation in 2018, Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.

PHOTO: Joseph James Deangelo, known as 'The Golden State Killer,' is seen in this police booking photo, April 25, 2018, after being apprehended.  (Sacramento Police Department)
PHOTO: Joseph James Deangelo, known as 'The Golden State Killer,' is seen in this police booking photo, April 25, 2018, after being apprehended. (Sacramento Police Department)

DeAngelo became the first public arrest obtained through genetic genealogy, a new technique that takes the DNA of an unknown suspect left behind at a crime scene and identifies him or her by tracing a family tree through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to public genealogy databases.

To identify DeAngelo, investigators narrowed the family tree search based on age, location and other characteristics.

Once authorities zeroed in on DeAngelo, they surveilled him and collected his DNA from a tissue left in a trash.

MORE: Suspected 'Golden State Killer' due in court in front of socially-distanced victims, families

Investigators plugged his discarded DNA back into the genealogy database and found a match, linking DeAngelo's DNA to DNA found at crime scenes, prosecutors said.

He was arrested in April 2018 in Sacramento County.

Since DeAngelo's arrest, over 150 suspects have been identified through genetic genealogy.

2020

DeAngelo is charged with 13 murders and multiple rapes and burglaries.

He is expected to take a plea deal on June 29 to avoid the death penalty, victims' relatives told ABC News.

Monday's court hearing will be held at a California State University–Sacramento ballroom. With over 150 victims and relatives expected to attend, prosecutors sought a room that would be large enough to accommodate them and promote social distancing, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The 'Golden State Killer': Inside the timeline of crimes originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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