Carol Daly, who retired as Sacramento County undersheriff in 2001, was one of the original investigators on the East Area Rapist case in the 1970s. Still living in Sacramento, she got word Tuesday night from Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones that a man named Joseph James DeAngelo was in custody. She spoke to The Sacramento Bee Wednesday morning before leaving to attend a press conference about the case. The following is a condensed and edited version of the interview.
What was your reaction to this news? This has to be a monumental day for you.
My gosh. When Sheriff Jones called me yesterday on the phone, I was on the way home from baby-sitting a granddaughter. The last thing I had on my mind was the East Area Rapist. The last thing I was expecting was a phone call from the sheriff saying, "We just arrested (a suspect in) the East Area Rapist (case)." So my first comment was "You're kidding me." I know it's not anything he would probably joke about, but it was just so hard to believe.
Once I processed it, I wasn't prepared for the emotions that I had that just welled up. Forty years of living with this. My first thought is: "Thousands of nightmares and thousands of sleepless nights for people are gone." I've talked to five of the victims this morning after we found out. One of the women I talked to said, "I can sleep tonight." I thought, "What a powerful statement."
How did this case affect you?
It was very difficult knowing what all of the victims went through, and having talked to the majority of them, and then having them stay in contact with me over the years, I know that it has been a nightmare their whole lives. So to bring an end to all of that, I just don't know if I can even put words to it. I am just overwhelmed with gratitude and with joy and with a peace I haven't had for years.
There was not a night I went to bed before I closed my eyes that I didn't think about what those victims went through when they opened their eyes and saw the rapist in their home. It affects everybody — the victims and their families. They're anxious to call their children to let them know that there's a conclusion to it. This is a very heinous, horrible person.
Was this suspect ever on your radar?
No. Never. He was never on our radar at all and never came to our attention, as far as I know, based on what I've heard.
Can you describe what it was like in the Sacramento region in the 1970s when these crimes were being committed?
The whole community was up in arms. When the word got out that we had a serial rapist, then the rumors started. We were doing the big community meetings where people were asking questions, and we were doing safety classes telling people how to be safe in their homes and what they should do. Locks were sold out. There were over 6,000 gun sales at that time. Guns were flying off the racks.
At that time, they didn't have sophisticated alarm systems. They didn't have the night lighting that we have now. They didn't have cellphones. I typed my reports on an old typewriter. We didn't even have electric typewriters yet. Things came to us by teletype. You couldn't just go on the computer and pull up some name and figure out where they were. We were kind of working in the Dark Ages.
But everybody in law enforcement banded together and worked extremely hard at that time and did everything possible. When I look back, I have no regrets that there was something that we could have done that we did not do. I have looked at the material that I have saved over the years. I have looked at it and looked at it, and I have talked with other investigators, and there isn't anything we missed. We tried everything possible.
Is there any one story about this case that really shook you to your core?
There is one, but I can't share the victims' names with you. It was the couple that was at a public meeting. The husband stood up and said that he didn't believe that a rape could actually happen if there were a husband in the home. Several months later, they were victims. We know the rapist was in that town hall meeting and that he had probably followed them home.
But all of the rapes were horrendous. Some of the rape victims were very young. One was 12. Some were up in their 30s. There were a wide range of ages. Those victims that have come forward, just the bravery to be able to face the camera and talk about their ordeal ... I'm just so thankful that the media never gave up either, and they just saw fit after all of these years to do great big stories and bring it all out and into focus again.
One of the things I have been trying to tell anybody in the public is this case was never forgotten. We have had cold-case investigators on this case ever since I left the investigation and went back to homicide. People have never stopped investigating it.
What was your reaction to the news that the suspect still lived in Sacramento, near the neighborhoods he allegedly victimized?
At the public forum that we had three weeks ago, I said, "The answer is here in Sacramento. I know the answer is here in Sacramento." I believed there was somebody that could give us the name. I don't know how it all came about, but several of the investigators felt — my husband himself felt — he was living in the community, just quietly.
Ted, my husband, was a sergeant at the time and was in the field when a lot of these cases were going down. I didn't have any opinion as to whether (the East Area Rapist) was alive or dead. I had hopes, but my hopes were really fading. I figured by January of next year, if we didn't have anything, we would probably never catch him.
I'm thrilled beyond measure (for) the peace for me and for the victims and for all of the families and the community. The younger people, they don't remember the fear in the community when everything was happening. But you talk to anybody in their 50s and 60s, they have never forgotten the East Area Rapist and what he did.