Crime - Sacto 911

Cops search for East Area Rapist 'trophies' as they comb through suspect's home

They were looking for a woman's 1965 Lycoming College class ring as they went through the three-bedroom home on Canyon Oak Drive, combing for Noritake-brand china plates and cups.

They may have hunted for a 1977 Foothill High School class ring or women's ID cards or earrings, anything that can tie Joseph James DeAngelo to a series of 51 rapes, 12 murders and a host of other crimes from 1974 through 1986 believed to have been committed by the notorious East Area Rapist.

DeAngelo, who was arrested Tuesday outside his Citrus Heights home, was in court Friday afternoon for arraignment on two murder charges stemming from the 1978 Rancho Cordova slayings of Brian and Katie Maggiore.

While he was there, FBI agents and Sacramento sheriff's investigators were wrapping up their search of his house, hoping to find "trophies" or souvenirs that the East Area Rapist is known to have taken from many of his victims over the years.

"We're looking for anything that links him to any of those crimes, whether they are trophies, whether they are weapons or ammunition that was used, anything that gives an indication or insight or link to any of these crimes," Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said Friday.

Jones said that in "normal" serial killer crimes, a criminal may take items and save them to relive the experience of his actions, but that he does not yet know what items may have been recovered.

DeAngelo has not made a confession, the sheriff said, and his responses in interviews with detectives have largely been "self-reflection mutterings" with his face down toward the table.

"He's not talking, he's not taking visits, he's fairly isolating himself," Jones said. "Of course, he's under observation and we're doing everything we can do to keep him safe."

When he was arrested, his only comment to officers was, "I have a roast in the oven," Jones said.

"That's an interesting response," Jones said. "I mean, mine might have been, 'Hey, I didn’t do anything,' not, 'Hey, I have a roast in the oven.'"

DeAngelo, 72, is suspected of so many crimes across California from so long ago that many of the detectives that were seeking him for years have retired or moved on to new jobs.

But there remains the DNA the East Area Rapist left behind at six Southern California homicides, and it was used to link him to the crimes.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office said Thursday that the DNA matched that of a relative who had uploaded their own DNA to a website and that investigators used that information to search out the family tree of the relative until they got to DeAngelo.

Schubert's office would not identify the site, but an investigator in Contra Costa County on Friday confirmed it was GEDmatch.com, a small Florida-based genealogy website.

Authorities surreptitiously obtained two DNA samples from DeAngelo last week from items he discarded and arrested him after both samples matched the crime scene DNA from decades ago, authorities said.

No DNA is believed to remain from the Maggiore murders in a Rancho Cordova backyard thought to be the first slayings by the East Area Rapist.

Retired Sacramento sheriff's Detective Ray Biondi said Friday that there may be enough evidence from that crime scene to tie DeAngelo to it.

"Where Brian ran around the blind side of this backyard and was shot, there was a shoelace found on the ground, a new shoelace right out of the package and a loop on it," Biondi, 81, said. "That was one of the things he did, he used a shoelace for binding (victims)."

Biondi said he feared for years that the suspect in the case was dead or in prison undetected, and that he was ecstatic when he heard this week that an arrest had been made.

"Oh, God, I thought a lot about this case over the years ...," said Biondi, who has solved some of the Sacramento area's most notorious cases, including the "Thrill Killer," "Vampire Slayer" and "I-5 strangler."

"I've worked other serial killer cases, but not a serial, serial murderer," he said. "This guy's a multiple serial murderer."

Other murders in the case may be solved by nearly 40-year-old DNA evidence salvaged from crime scenes in Orange and Ventura counties, the same samples used to track DeAngelo down.

Dr. C. Peter Speth, the former assistant medical examiner in Ventura County, said he still remembers the shocking scene at the home of Charlene and Lyman Smith, who were found bound and bludgeoned in their bed.

"It was one of the most horrible scenes that I've encountered in my 35 years," Speth said. "It is something that has left a terrible mark in my memory, going to the scene and seeing them battered to death by a log in their bed with the blood spattered on the wall. I'll never forget it."

Speth said the fact that DNA from that case remains is only because he has a habit of assembling two DNA kits at each scene. The first, used by the crime lab, has since been used up or discarded, he said, but he had stashed the second in a freezer just in case.

"I was so relieved when I heard that they found the killer and he was still alive and will have to go to court," Speth said. "I was so relieved for the families."

Former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness worked angles of the East Area Rapist case while he was in the department as a detective and supervisor. He said that years after the crimes stopped in 1986, the department would get regular plausible tips about a suspect that investigators checked out with surveillance and obtaining DNA from trash.

"Every one of them just seemed so plausible, some of them from retired detectives," said McGinness, now a KFBK radio host.

McGinness said he thought for years that the East Area Rapist had died. Now that a suspect has been found, he said he believes DeAngelo may have thought he was safe from detection and could have kept his "trophies."

"He wanted to relive that experience, and he'd still have that mementos," he said. "I don’t have any of those older papers and treasures from a younger life. But a guy like that might possibly have all that.

"Just my hunch, this guy would save it. He'd save it."

Barbara Harvey contributed to this report.

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