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Golden State Killer Suspect Joseph James DeAngelo Charged With Four Murders After DNA Tests

"We found the needle in the haystack, and it was right here in Sacramento," a district attorney said.

By Gina Tron
Investigators Explain How DNA Was Used to Find the Golden State Killer Suspect

The suspected Golden State Killer now faces four murder charges after his arrest for a reign of terror that led to at least 12 deaths.

Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and charged Wednesday for the 1978 murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore in Sacramento County. But police announced in the afternoon that he is also charged with the 1980 slayings of Keith and Patrice Harrington, who were beaten to death inside their home.

These are the first charges filed for the case of the Golden State Killer, who terrorized California in the 1970s and '80s and eluded authorities ever since.

"For anyone that lived here in this community in Sacramento, the memories are very vivid," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a press conference. "You can ask everyone who grew up here — everyone has a story."

She said that since 2016, police have beefed up efforts to catch the man they believe is responsible for at least 12 homicides and nearly 50 rapes between 1979 and 1986 across California. The killer, who was also known as the East Area Rapist, is a suspect in dozens of burglaries in the area.

Schubert said the past six days have seen swift movement in the notorious cold case. DNA analysts at a crime lab found a break in the case. A warrant for DeAngelo’s arrest was issued on Tuesday for the 1978 murders.

"We all knew as part of this team that we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also all knew that the needle was there,"  Schubert said. "We found the needle in the haystack, and it was right here in Sacramento."

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said police conducted surveillance on DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former cop. They took his DNA from something he threw in the trash, which linked him to the crimes. Jones said the DNA helped confirm what he thought police already knew: “That we had our man.”

Coincidentally, Wednesday marks National DNA Day, which commemorates the day in 1953 when the first papers on the structure of DNA were published.

Special Agent Sean Ragan, who works with the FBI in Sacramento, thanked the public and the media for helping to keep the case in the public eye. They also thanked everyone who sent tips to police, noting that they have received thousands over the last two years alone.

[Photo: Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office]