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Golden State Killer: Eight years of terror, decades of unanswered questions about serial slayings

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Sketches of Golden State Killer
(Los Angeles Times)

For eight years, the Golden State Killer terrorized cities from Sacramento to Laguna Niguel in a series of brazen slayings and sexual assaults.

The attacker was also dubbed the East Area Rapist, and authorities say he is responsible for 12 killings, 45 rapes and more than 120 residential burglaries between 1976 and 1986.

The crimes went unsolved for four decades.

But now, authorities say they have made an arrest.

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Here is a breakdown of the killings:

Feb. 2, 1978: The first two victims were husband and wife Brian and Kate Maggiore, who were walking their dog in their Rancho Cordova neighborhood. At some point during their walk, they encountered a man wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. All three ended up in a neighbor’s backyard where the suspect gunned down the Maggiores as they tried to flee.

Dec. 30, 1979: The third and fourth killings came the following year in Goleta. Authorities said that the suspect entered the home of Dr. Robert Offerman through a sliding glass door and found him and clinical psychologist Alexandria Manning sleeping in bed. He tied the couple up and shot them both.

March 13, 1980: The fifth and sixth victims were killed Ventura. Authorities say that the suspect tied up Lyman Smith, 43, and his wife, Charlene Smith, 33, and raped her. He tied them up using a drapery cord and secured it with a diamond knot – his signature knot. He then bludgeoned them to death with a fireplace log.

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Aug. 19, 1980: Keith Harrington, 24, a medical student at UC Irvine, was beaten to death along with his wife, Patrice Harrington, 27, a pediatric nurse, in their Laguna Niguel home.

Feb. 5, 1981: Manuela Witthuhn, 28, was bludgeoned to death in her Irvine home. Her father discovered her after he went to check on her when her employers told him she hadn’t shown up for work.

July 27, 1981: The next victims were Cheri Domingo, 35, and Gregory Sanchez, 27, in Goleta. Domingo, 35, a corporate manager, and Sanchez, a Burroughs Corp. employee, were killed in Domingo’s home. It was about a half-mile from where Offerman had been killed in 1979. Sanchez had been shot and bludgeoned in bed. Domingo had been tied up and died of massive head injuries.

May 4, 1986: Authorities say a suspect raped and killed 18-year-old Janelle Cruz in her home.

Because the attacks spanned the state, it took a while for investigators to link the cases.

In 2011, DNA tests matched evidence linking some Southern California and Northern California cases to the same assailant.

In 2016, the FBI announced a reward in the case and created a Web page dedicated to it where the public can view police sketches of the attacker and hear from witnesses and victims’ families.

“He is cunning,” Orange County Det. Larry Pool told The Times in 2011. “He has a degree of tactical soundness to the way he operates. He is able to adjust tactically to improve his effectiveness as a killer.”

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To read this article in Spanish, click here


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