Local Elections

'She protects us': New ad touts break in East Area Rapist case

Anne Marie Schubert is riding the momentum of the big break in the East Area Rapist case in a new campaign ad hitting local airwaves this week.

The 30-second spot produced by her campaign touts the Sacramento County district attorney as a “groundbreaking DNA expert who led the investigation that solved the Golden State Killer/East Area Rapist case,” before segueing into a brief montage of breaking news footage from KCRA-TV and ABC’s Good Morning America featuring Schubert’s dramatic April 25 announcement: “We found the needle in the haystack and it was right here in Sacramento.”

The ad is running on Sacramento television stations and on cable outlets. A slightly edited version is airing on ABC affiliate KXTV-TV, said Schubert campaign manager David Gilliard.

Gilliard on Tuesday said the campaign had a TV ad highlighting Schubert’s extensive DNA experience in the can, but re-shot and pushed up the spot in the days after investigators broke the case.

“We had to change plans really quick and it worked out well for the campaign,” Gilliard said.

Authorities last week arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo of Citrus Heights on suspicion of committing 12 murders and more than 50 rapes in a years-long reign of terror in the 1970s and 1980s. The crimes went unsolved for decades, remain among California’s most notorious, and inspired a best-selling book by the late writer Michelle McNamara that infused renewed interest in the case.

DeAngelo faces two counts of murder in the February 1978 shooting deaths of Rancho Cordova couple Katie and Brian Maggiore, with special circumstances for the slaying’s multiple victims. He also faces two charges of murder with special circumstance of burglary and rape in the 1980 killings of Charlene and Lymon Smith in Ventura.

Charges tied to DeAngelo in at least two other counties await. DeAngelo is being held without bail in Sacramento County Jail. He returns to court May 14.

The new TV ad, with its tagline, “She protects us,” capitalizes on DeAngelo’s arrest but also emphasizes Schubert’s experience and expertise, said UC Davis political sociologist Mindy Romero, founder and director of the university’s California Civic Engagement Project, who viewed the brief televised spot.

The commercial includes a brief shot of DeAngelo’s home and newspaper headlines reporting the East Area Rapist’s attacks, but absent were crime scene or other fearful images.

The commercial raises Schubert’s profile without exploiting the crimes’ victims, Romero said.

“The tone is pretty calm – I would have to give her credit for that. The emphasis is on expertise. It’s less about fear and the more unspeakable acts,” Romero said. “She’s looking strong and capable. She looks like an expert.”

The spot also likely speaks to the new flood of money that poured into the incumbent’s campaign in April.

Schubert’s campaign raised more than $223,000 during a month-long flurry, according to campaign contribution documents – much of it from traditional backers in law enforcement. They include powerful prisons union California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which donated $75,000 to her re-election effort last month.

But others have stepped in with five-digit donations of their own including $10,000 from grocery workers’ union United Food & Commercial Workers and a $50,000 check from retiree Michael Tsuchida.

The big break in the case was a sudden boost to Schubert, locked in an unusually tough campaign with reform-minded deputy prosecutor Noah Phillips for a second term as district attorney. Election Day is June 5.

“Right now, (Schubert) is under pressure. Given the political and community pressure she’s seen, she needs these victories,” Romero said. “From a campaign perspective, any manager would want to use this as an opportunity to tout her experience.”

Schubert’s office has been the site and she has been the focus of nearly daily protests in the six weeks since 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot and killed March 18 by Sacramento police after a brief pursuit when officers reportedly mistook Clark’s cellular phone for a weapon.

The local Black Lives Matter chapter planned to begin a sixth week of demonstrations outside the District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday, met by a tall chain-link fence to block what had been doorstep protests outside the building. Schubert has said the fencing was installed to safeguard DA’s staffers when they leave the building.

Clark has become the latest national symbol of police use of deadly force against African Americans and Schubert has come under heavy criticism for not pursuing criminal charges against the two officers – now back on duty - who fired the fatal shots. Schubert has appealed for patience, saying her office continues to wait for Sacramento police and county coroner’s findings.

But Phillips and Schubert’s critics say Clark’s shooting by police amplifies their calls for police accountability and new standards on how the DA’s Office prosecutes officer-involved shootings. Both issues are key planks of Phillips’ campaign.

DeAngelo, a retiree and former police officer, lived undetected for years, raising a family in a quiet Citrus Heights neighborhood and holding down a job as a warehouseman at a Save Mart distribution center in Roseville, as investigators toiled over the case.

That changed with a DNA hit that Schubert’s office later revealed was culled from an “open source” genealogy website and traced to DeAngelo.

The Citrus Heights man was wheeled by deputies into a Sacramento County Jail courtroom Friday for his Sacramento Superior Court arraignment before family and friends of his alleged victims, and a flood of nearly 100 reporters and photographers who crowded into the hearing.

Schubert sat in the front row.

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