Suspected Golden State Killer charged with 13th murder

Suspected Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo. File Photo courtesy of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office

Aug. 13 (UPI) — Prosecutors in California charged the man suspected of being the so-called Golden State Killer with a 13th murder count Monday.

Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward charged Joseph DeAngelo, 72, with first-degree murder for the death of Claude Snelling in 1975. Snelling, a College of the Sequoia professor, died while stopping the kidnapping of his 16-year-old daughter.

Snelling awoke in the middle of the night to a noise outside his house, where he found a masked man attempting to abduct his daughter. Snelling intervened, but was fatally shot and the man escaped on a bicycle.

It is the earliest known slaying linked to DeAngelo, whose alleged crimes spanned the state of California in the 1970s and 1980s. Law enforcement officers in the state initially didn’t tie together the crimes, and the man responsible was known by a number of monikers depending on the area.

The earliest offenses linked to DeAngelo were in Tulare County, where police and early media reports described him as the Visalia Ransacker. He is accused of more than 85 burglaries before allegedly killing Snelling.

He’s also accused of dozens of rapes and 12 murders in other parts of Central and Southern California, where he was known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Diamond Knot Killer.

In addition to Snelling, police charged DeAngelo with the murders of Robert Offerman, Debra Manning, Charlene Smith, Lyman Smith, Keith Harrington, Patrice Harrington, Manuela Witthuhn, Cheri Domingo, Gregory Sanchez, Katie Maggiore, Brian Maggiore and Janelle Cruz.

Most of the killer’s victims were women who were home alone or with their children. If their husbands were home, they were often tied up during the attack.

Police announced in April they were able to link DeAngelo to the slayings using DNA evidence from some of the crimes entered into a genealogy website.

Ward, though, said there was no DNA evidence linking him to the Snelling death. He said there was enough evidence and witness statements to convict him.

“We’re talking about a crime that’s occurred over 40 years ago,” Ward said. “Time is not on our side.”

DeAngelo was an officer with the Auburn Police Department for three years in the 1970s and he also had a job with the police department in Exeter, which is near Visalia where the burglaries from 1973 and 1976 happened. He was divorced and was living with his daughter and granddaughter at the time of his arrest.

The Golden State Killer case was the subject of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, an investigative book written by the late Michelle McNamara and a podcast of the same name featuring interviews with McNamara, her husband Patton Oswalt and others who worked on the book.

Oswalt, an actor and comedian, helped to get McNamara’s book published after her death in 2016 and has promoted it since its release in February.


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