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After Decades, Calif. Authorities Arrest Suspected 'Golden State Killer'

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A man who terrorized neighborhoods throughout California during a raping and killing spree in the '70s and '80s may now be in custody. Capital Public Radio's Bob Moffitt reports that DNA is a key part of this case.

BOB MOFFITT, BYLINE: It's been more than 30 years since the last crime was attributed to the man known both as the East Area Rapist and Golden State Killer. Tuesday, Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies arrested Joseph James DeAngelo at his home in Citrus Heights. Sheriff Scott Jones says the county crime lab narrowed the field of dozens of possible suspects down to one after DNA entered the system that had some similarities to evidence collected at crime scenes.

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SCOTT JONES: A lot of DNA cases are we get a DNA sample, we upload it in the database, boom, we have a match. That was not the case here. The DNA, like I said, kind of put us on the right road. And, I know I'm being a little circumspect, but it really just said, look east instead of the other three directions. So it narrowed down the field.

MOFFITT: Jones says the source of the DNA link will come out soon enough. Investigators believe DeAngelo raped or assaulted more than 30 women in Sacramento and killed two people before moving on to the East Bay. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley was a college student then and a volunteer at one of the first rape crisis centers in California.

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NANCY O'MALLEY: And over the course of the year in 1977 to 1978, the East Area Rapist struck nine times in Contra Costa County.

MOFFITT: Investigators believe DeAngelo then went south. Bruce Harrington's brother, Keith, and sister-in-law, Patti (ph), were killed in 1980.

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BRUCE HARRINGTON: To the entire reservoir of victims out there, my sadness is with you. For the 51 ladies who were brutally raped in those in those crime scenes, sleep better tonight. He isn't coming through the window. He's now in jail, and he's history.

MOFFITT: Bruce Harrington led the effort to make DNA evidence admissible in California courts. The Sacramento and Ventura County district attorneys have filed murder charges. Other counties are also expected to. DeAngelo was a police officer in the towns of Auburn and Exeter in the 1970s. Sheriff Jones says DeAngelo will also be investigated for any connection to the Visalia Ransacker cases of the early '70s during which one man was shot and killed while preventing his daughter from being kidnapped, and more than a hundred homes were burglarized and vandalized. For NPR News, I'm Bob Moffitt in Sacramento. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.