Authorities announced Wednesday that they have arrested a man they believe is the serial killer and rapist known as the Golden State Killer. 

72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, of Citrus Heights, was named as the suspect arrested in the decadeslong case. DeAngelo has been identified as a former police officer who worked in Auburn Visalia. 

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert says a breakthrough in DNA led to the arrest. 

“We found the needle in the haystack. It was right here in Sacramento,” Schubert said.  

DeAngelo was arrested at his Citrus Heights home and was booked into jail on two counts of murder. 

The Ventura County District Attorney has filed capital murder charges against DeAngelo for the 1980 murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith. 

The Golden State Killer is a violent serial burglar, rapist, and murderer who terrorized Northern California communities in the 1970s and 1980s, according to sheriff’s deputies. 

Police believe the Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, was responsible for 12 homicides, almost 50 rapes and 120 home burglaries that spanned a decade starting in the late 1970s in Sacramento County.

“It is the most prolific unsolved serial killing case probably in modern history,” said Schubert.

Neighbors told KTXL they saw DeAngelo as a “nice guy” but was occasionally prone to profane outbursts heard throughout the neighborhood.

Deputies say the masked rapist, armed with a gun, would break into homes while single women or couples were sleeping. He would tie up the man and pile dishes on his back. He would then rape the woman while threatening to kill them if the dishes tumbled.

He often took souvenirs, notably coins and jewelry, from his victims, who ranged in age from 13 to 41. 

DeAngelo was fired from the Auburn Police Department in 1979 after he was arrested for stealing a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a drug store, according to Auburn Journal articles from the time.

Investigators believe the rapes, and dozens of burglaries often used to case neighborhoods, escalated in 1978 when the killer fatally shot U.S. Air Force Sgt. Brian Maggiore and his wife Katie as they walked their dog.

He was dubbed the East Area Rapist after his start in Northern California. The Original Night Stalker after a series of Southern California slayings. The Diamond Knot Killer for using the elaborate knot to bind two of his victims. And most recently the Golden State Killer.

The following is a listing of local law enforcement agencies who have investigated a crime believed to have been committed by the Golden State Killer:

AgencySex AssaultsHomicides
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department24Two
Sacramento Police DepartmentFourOne assault with a deadly weapon
Contra Costa Sheriff’s DepartmentFiveNone
Concord Police DepartmentTwoNone
David Police DepartmentThreeNone
Fremont Police DepartmentOneNone
Modesto Police DepartmentTwoNone
San Jose Police DepartmentTwoNone
Stockton Police DepartmentTwoNone
Walnut Creek Police DepartmentTwoNone
Irvine Police DepartmentNoneTwo
Orange County Sheriff’s DepartmentNoneTwo
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s DepartmentNoneFour, two attempted
Ventura Police DepartmentNoneTwo

A family member of a couple who were victims of a California serial killer decades ago said the arrest of a suspect has brought closure.

Bruce Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were killed in 1980 in Orange County, told reporters Wednesday that it’s time for victims’ families to grieve and “bring closure to the anguish that we all suffered for the last 40 odd years.”

He cheered the work of law enforcement, who said they arrested Joseph James DeAngelo on Wednesday after DNA helped solve the case.

Neighbors say a man who authorities suspect of being a serial killer in the 1970s and ’80s was prone to angry, profanity-filled outbursts if he couldn’t find his keys or something else set him off.

Natalia Bedes-Correnti said Wednesday that  DeAngelo never yelled at people but would be on “his driveway yelling and screaming, looking for his keys.”

Kevin Tapia, now 36, said when he was a teenager, DeAngelo falsely accused him of throwing things over their shared fence, prompting a heated exchange between DeAngelo and Tapia’s father.

Tapia says DeAngelo was a “weird guy” and kept to himself.