Forty years ago, children rode their bikes unsupervised through suburban bedroom communities bracketed by Air Force bases east of Sacramento, California. Families rarely locked their doors at night.
“It was a time of innocence. And then in June of 1976, that all changed,” Sacramento County District attorney Anne Marie Schubert recalled about growing up in the area.
“A community was taken hostage.”
The tranquility was shattered by an elusive, violent attacker who authorities say committed at least 45 rapes in the region along with at least 12 homicides and dozens of burglaries in California over the next decade.
He was initially dubbed the East Area Rapist after beginning his crimes in northern California.
He later became known as the Original Night Stalker for a series of slayings in Southern California before investigators realized he was one and the same person.
Now called the Golden State Killer, he has been linked through DNA and other evidence to scores of crimes.
“This serial offender was probably one of the most prolific, certainly in California and possibly within the United States,” said Sacramento County sheriff’s homicide Sgt Paul Belli.
A generation of investigators has grown old and retired since the hunt began.
Four decades of frustration later, the FBI this week announced a €44,500 reward and a national media campaign to track down the killer who would now be 60 to 75 years old.
Authorities decided to publicise the case in advance of tomorrow — the 40th anniversary of his first known assault in Sacramento County. Belli said investigators are looking for clues concerning other crimes in California and elsewhere that he may have committed.
A telephone recording released by the FBI through its website provides a chilling verbal glimpse of the killer: “I’m gonna kill you. Gonna kill you. Gonna kill you,” he breathes to one of his rape victims in a message she recorded after the attack.
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, then rape the woman while threatening to kill them both if the dishes tumbled.
He often took souvenirs, notably coins and jewellery, from his victims, who ranged in age from 13 to 41.
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