Man in the Window

Mapping the Golden State Killer

The evolution of a violent path

After eluding police for more than four decades, Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. in 2020 pleaded guilty to 13 murders and admitted to crimes against 74 other people, including rape and assault. Prosecutors claim DeAngelo's crimes began in the early 1970s with home break-ins, before he moved to rape and eventually murder, terrorizing half the state.

Take a look through the map to see where dozens of the Golden State Killer's alleged crimes took place.

Sexual assault
Dog killed or attacked

A trail of violence

Joseph DeAngelo is recognized as one of America’s most prolific serial killers. During the 1970s and '80s, the Golden State Killer went on a seemingly unstoppable crime rampage, spanning at least 11 counties in California.

The Visalia Ransacker

Joe DeAngelo joined the Exeter police force in 1973. In 1974, Visalia police began tracking a prolific fetish burglar. The burglar sneaked into homes and ransacked bedrooms, tossing women's underwear and stealing small tokens.

In 1975, the Ransacker attempted to abduct a girl and killed her father during his escape. He ransacked an additional 40 homes until stopping in early 1976. That spring, DeAngelo left Exeter to return to the Sacramento area.

The East Area Rapist

In mid-1976, a serial rapist began to strike regularly in the subdivisions surrounding Mather Air Force Base, the same community where Joe DeAngelo grew up and frequented. The attacks were almost always near greenways, canals or bicycle trails that afforded him an escape.

He began to attack animals, couples and even families, tying up men and children and raping the women.

As public fear and the police presence grew, the rapist moved into neighboring communities. DeAngelo at the time was a police officer in Auburn, 20 miles to the north.

The East Area Rapist II

But after a Rancho Cordova couple were slain while walking their dog, the rapist moved to new prowling grounds.

He followed freeways south to Stockton and Modesto.

He traveled west of Sacramento to Davis.

He attacked small bedroom communities in Contra Costa County.

In June 1979, a Danville couple surprised their assailant, causing him to jump up and flee. Later that month, Joe DeAngelo was apprehended while shoplifting and fired from his police job.

The Goleta Creek Killer

In October 1979, a Goleta couple escaped from a masked man who attacked them in their home. Three months later, another couple in the same neighborhood was found slain in their bedroom. In the hours before the double homicide there was a wave of crime: a stolen bicycle, burglaries at seven homes, sightings of a prowler and an attack on a dog.

In mid-1981, near the same Goleta creek, another man and woman were bludgeoned to death.

The Original Night stalker

In the 19 months between those four slayings, Orange and Ventura County police searched for the killer of two other couples, and the rape and murder of a woman in her home. The crimes appeared to stop for five years.

Then in 1986, a teenage girl was raped and killed, making her the 13th victim of a serial killer investigators say was DeAngelo. Southern California detectives would not begin to tie together the cases until 1996, when DNA found on the bodies showed a common killer.

Almost fifty years later, the panty raids in Visalia, shooting of Claude Snelling, rapes and double murder in Sacramento, homicides in Santa Barbara and beyond, finally came together into a single case. DeAngelo was arrested in 2018 after crime scene DNA was traced to him, and in 2020 agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence in prison.