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Golden State Killer suspect: Vietnam vet failed as a cop then went to work for grocery chain

Golden State Killer suspect: Vietnam vet failed as a cop then went to work for grocery chain
Police sketches over the years of the suspected Golden State Killer. (FBI)

Who is Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the 72-year-old former police officer charged with eight counts of murder and accused by authorities of being the Golden State Killer?

The decadelong trail of the notorious serial killer led officers from a task force of local and federal law enforcement agencies to DeAngelo's suburban ranch house outside Sacramento on Tuesday.

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Big parts of his biography remain unknown, including how he traveled around the state during his alleged reign of terror in the 1970s and '80s.

A federal law enforcement source said he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. That led to a short law enforcement career that ended in scandal, and then to a seemingly quiet life working for a supermarket chain.

Here is a rundown:

Booking photo of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr..
Booking photo of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr.. (Sacramento County Sheriff's Office)
What do we know about his early life?

A New York native, DeAngelo graduated from Folsom High School outside Sacramento in June 1964 and joined the Navy that September, according to an August 1973 article in the Exeter Sun. He did his naval training in San Diego.

He served 22 months in combat in Vietnam, including duty on the gun line off North Vietnam.

DeAngelo graduated with honors from Sierra College in Rocklin with an associate's degree in police science in 1970, according to a newspaper article dated that year. He received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Cal State Sacramento.

DeAngelo was married to Sharon M. Huddle, according to a 1973 announcement in the Auburn Journal.

He joined the police department in Exeter in California's Central Valley that same year, according to the Exeter Sun article.

"James DeAngelo Jr. believes that without law and order there can be no government and without a democratic government here can be no freedom," the article reads. "Law enforcement is his career, he says, and his job is serving the community."

He later joined the Auburn police force.

What do we know about his work as a police officer?

Sean Ragan, special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento office, said DeAngelo's stints as a police officer in Exeter, near Visalia, and Auburn, near Sacramento, matched those of some of the slayings he is accused of. "The time frame of the crimes supports that the suspect was a police officer when he committed some of these crimes," Ragan said.

The locations of his work are notable because the Golden State Killer struck in both the Sacramento and Visalia areas.

The Auburn Journal reported in a front-page article on Aug. 29, 1979, that DeAngelo had been dismissed from the Auburn police force for stealing a can of dog repellent and a hammer from a Sacramento drugstore.

What did he do after his law enforcement career?

This is where there are holes in his biography. Officials have not said how they determined that he was in the other various locations across California where and when the attacks occurred.

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Victoria Castro, a spokeswoman for Modesto-based Save Mart Supermarkets, said he worked for the chain for almost 30 years.

"Joe DeAngelo was a 27-year employee of the Roseville distribution center, having retired last year.," Castro said. "None of his actions in the workplace would have lead us to suspect any connection to crimes being attributed to him. We are working with the Sacramento County district attorney's office on their investigation."

How was he captured?

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said the task force had been conducting surveillance on DeAngelo and secretly retrieved his DNA from a discarded item, such as a soda can. The DNA matched specimens left by the killer at crime scenes. Authorities would not say how they initially came to see him as a suspect.

On Tuesday, when they were ready to act, authorities staked out DeAngelo's house.

"When he came out of his residence, we had a team in place that was able to take him into custody," Jones said. "He was very surprised by that."

He said investigators were scouring his house for physical evidence.

"There is a lot of material in his house," Jones said. "We're looking for mementos, things that might tie him back — whether it's a firearm, whether it's ammunition. Whatever it is, we're going to be looking for it."

Does he have a criminal record?

Jones said he knew of no recent criminal record for DeAngelo. "He has a couple of minor things in his past …. Nothing of the magnitude that would raise a red flag."

Sacramento County court records show a single criminal case against DeAngelo, a July 2012 charge for driving under the influence for which he was ordered to spend 48 hours in jail and three years on "informal" probation.

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