A new push to find an elusive serial killer who terrorized California
The Original Night Stalker is one of California’s most notorious serial killers – and one of the most elusive.
Still unidentified 40 years after he began his campaign of terror in Sacramento then moved south through Oakland, Santa Barbara and Orange counties, the Original Night Stalker is believed to be responsible for 12 slayings, 45 rapes and more than 120 residential burglaries between 1976 and 1986.
Now, there is a new focus to find the murderer.
Federal investigators on Wednesday announced they were offering a $50,000 reward to reinvigorate the search for California’s most prolific serial killer and rapist, known as the Original Night Stalker.
The FBI has created a Web page dedicated to the case where the public can view police sketches of the attacker and hear from witnesses and victims’ families. The agency will also post digital billboards with the killer’s sketch across the country to follow posts on social media.
A lot of people were moving in and out of the Sacramento area at the time of the rapes because there were two active military bases there, officials said.
“It was a time of innocence,” said Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert. “We didn’t lock our doors at night. We rode our bikes around. In June 1976, all that changed for this community. Our community was taken hostage.”
By 1978, the man had attacked victims in Oakland, Danville and Walnut Creek. The following year, he killed two in Goleta. Authorities linked him to the slayings of Cheri Domingo, 35, and Gregory Sanchez, 27, using DNA in 2011.
Sanchez was shot and bludgeoned. Domingo died of massive head injuries. Some of the grisly details matched those at other crime scenes associated with the Original Night Stalker: Sanchez and Domingo lived in an upscale neighborhood and were killed in bed. Domingo’s hands had been tied -- as had the hands of victims at other scenes.
Authorities said that the killer would sometimes place cups or plates on his bound victims’ backs so he’d have an audible clue if they broke free when he was in another room. At the time of the crimes he was described as being about 5-foot-9 with blond or auburn hair. He appeared to have military or law enforcement training.
Before he became known as the Original Night Stalker -- so named to distinguish him from Richard Ramirez, the serial killer dubbed the Night Stalker who terrorized the Los Angeles area in the mid-1980s -- the killer was called the East Area Rapist and was tied to no fewer than 52 sexual assaults in Sacramento County and the Bay Area.
In Ventura, Lyman Smith, an attorney days away from being appointed a judge, and his wife, Charlene, a court clerk, were bludgeoned to death with a fireplace log in their home.
Later that year, Keith Harrington, a medical student at UC Irvine, and his wife, Patrice, a pediatric nurse, were beaten to death with a blunt instrument in their home in Laguna Niguel.
Finally, in 1986, 18-year-old Jannelle Cruz was fatally bludgeoned in her family’s Irvine home. That was the last crime linked to him, officials said.
He is now probably between 60 and 75 years old.
“We believe he’s alive. There’s no reason to believe he’s not alive,” said Sgt. Paul Belli of the Sacramento County sheriff’s homicide bureau.
After committing his crimes, authorities say the man burglarized the homes of jewelry and old coins – some of which he might still have in his possession, Belli said.
MORE FROM THE ARCHIVES
11:24 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details and background information.
This article was originally published at 7:42 a.m.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.