Real Name: Unknown (at the time of broadcast)
Aliases: East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker
Wanted For: Murder, Rape
Missing Since: May 1986
Details: The Sacramento area was terrorized by a brazen serial rapist who was nicknamed the "East Area Rapist". The rapist was suspected of at least forty-four rapes in Northern California in the 70's. This unknown man first targeted women who lived alone, but eventually became more brazen and raped women who did NOT live alone. He bound and blindfolded his victims, then roamed their house as he taunted and threatened their lives, ultimately raping the woman and leaving. In some cases, he raided refrigerators and smoked cigarettes in their living rooms. When men were present, he often tied the man up in another room. The perpetrator would at times stack dishes on the people who were tied up, in order to serve as a deterrent to the bound people from trying to escape, and as audible warning to the attacker that the individuals were trying to or had escaped their bindings.
Lt. Richard Shelby and Carol Daly interviewed many of the rapists' victims. Daly believed that he committed a psychological rape along with a physical rape. Evidence found at two of the crime scenes indicated that the rapist spied on his victims before attacking. In some cases, he planned the crimes well in advance. In others, they were crimes of opportunity.
Daly held town hall meetings in order to let the public know about the crimes. Some people could not believe that a man would "let" their wife be raped. One man got up during a meeting and said that he would be ready if the rapist broke in. That man and his wife would later become victims. Daly believes that the rapist was in the audience at this particular meeting and followed them home.
The rapist eventually ventured down South to Southern California in 1979 and continued to terrorize Southern California residents until 1986. It was stated that he killed at least ten people in the Southern California area during this time period. However, at the time, the rapes and murders were not connected.
His first few Southern California victims were couples who were home together when they were attacked. None of them survived. Dr. Robert Offerman and his girlfriend Debra Manning were shot to death in Dr. Offerman's Santa Barbara home on December 30, 1979. A few months later March 13, 1980, Charlene and Lyman Smith were found murdered in their Ventura home; authorities believed that the Ventura and Santa Barbara murders were connected. The killer then headed further South to Laguna Niguel where he killed Keith Harrington and then raped and also murdered Keith's wife Patricia on August 19, 1980.
The next victim was a woman who was home alone named Manuela Witthuhn. Manuela was killed on February 27, 1981, while her husband was spared because he was in the hospital at the time. Then, back in Santa Barbara, between July 26 and 27, 1981, Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez were brutally murdered in Cheri's home.
Surprisingly, the killer stopped his murderous rampage for almost five years until May 4, 1986 when he came upon eighteen-year-old Janelle Cruz of Irvine, California. Janelle was unable to go with her family on a vacation to Mexico and thus left to tend to the house while the rest of her family was gone. The killer entered her home that night and sexually assaulted and murdered her. Janelle's rape and murder was the last suspected murder of the rapist. In the years following the rapes and murders, several surviving victims claimed that their attacker had called and taunted them over the phone.
In 1996, Orange County Sheriff's Department detectives linked six of the murders to one killer through DNA. In 2001, criminalist Paul Holes connected the East Area rapes to the spree of serial killings throughout California through DNA evidence.
Police have several theories as to why the suspect has not attacked anyone since 1986. He may have died or is too incapacitated to commit further crimes. He also may have moved to a different part of the country and committed further crimes there. Also, he may be in prison for an unrelated crime. As a result, new laws have been created to have DNA profiles taken from California prisoners. However, no matches have been made.
Police believe that the killer may be responsible for other murders, such as the 1975 murder of Claude Snelling and the February 2, 1978 murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore. Authorities believe that the killer has not been heard from since 1986 because he is either in prison for a different crime or dead in a different state. It is possible that if he is dead in another state the authorities in that state don't realize that this dead person is a serial rapist and killer who is wanted in California. The killer was described as a man who is 5'7" to 5'11" with blue or hazel eyes who would likely be his sixties if alive today in the mid-2000s.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the July 22, 2002 episode. This case was also profiled on Cold Case Files and On the Case with Paula Zahn during the investigation. The case was also referenced on an episode of Forensic Files II, which focused on the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg and the GEDMatch technology that helped solved the cases.
Results: Captured. DNA testing initially showed that the Offerman/Manning murders and Dominguez/Sanchez murders were committed by a killer separate from the Original Night Stalker. However, in 2011, advanced DNA testing confirmed that these four victims were also killed by EAR/ONS. In June of 2016, the FBI announced that there was enough evidence to connect the murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore to the EAR/ONS case. It was also announced that there is a $50,000 reward leading to the assailant's capture.
Finally, on April 25, 2018, it was announced that the perpetrator has been identified. Police arrested seventy-two-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo and charged him with the murders of the Maggiores and the Smiths. DNA testing linked him to the rapes and murders. DeAngelo was a police officer during the East Area Rapist crimes, but he was fired in 1979. He was living in nearby Auburn during the time of the rapes. Along with being identified as EAR/ONS, he has also been identified as the Visalia Ransacker.
Investigators uploaded the then-unidentified killer's DNA profile to a public genealogy website "GEDMatch". Through the website, they were able to locate a fourth cousin of the killer. They then mapped out a family tree, which helped them narrow down their search to DeAngelo. A DNA sample was taken from trash discarded by him, which was found to match the DNA from the crime scenes.
DeAngelo has since been charged with all twelve murders. He is currently facing preliminary hearings in Sacramento.
- The Original Night Stalker on Unsolved.com
- The Original Night Stalker on Wikipedia
- EAR/ONS website
- Stop the Original Night Stalker Facebook Page
- FBI Webpage on EAR/ONS
- An Analysis of the Crimes Committed by the EAR/ONS
- Family Offers $25,000 Reward
- Probe of Night Slayer Murders reaches dead end
- DNA Links N. Calif. Rapes to Southland Killings
- Clues sought in unsolved East Area rapist case
- 1981 Goleta slayings tied to killings in OC
- O.C. Evidence Supports New Look At Killing Spree
- 40 Years Later, FBI reopens Original Night Stalker case
- East Area Rapist arrested in decades-old case, source says
- After searching for more than 40 years, authorities say an ex-cop is the Golden State Killer
- Arrest in Golden State Killer Case: ‘The Answer Has Always Been in Sacramento'
- East Area Rapist, Golden State Killer: How investigators caught suspect
- To find alleged Golden State Killer, investigators first found his great-great-great-grandparents
- Brian and Katie Maggiore, Dr. Robert Offerman, Dr. Debra Manning, Lyman and Charlene Smith, Keith and Patty Harrington, Manuela Witthuhn, Cheri Domingo, and Janelle Cruz at Find a Grave