Ex-cop charged in 'Golden State Killer' case due in court

SACRAMENTO, April 27 (Reuters) - An ex-policeman was due in a Sacramento, California, courtroom on Friday to face the first murder charges filed in connection with a string of rapes and killings attributed to the "Golden State Killer" during the 1970s and 1980s.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who was arrested earlier this week at his home in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights, is scheduled for an arraignment on two counts of murder stemming from the 1978 shooting death of a married couple.

DeAngelo has so far been charged with eight counts of murder blamed on the Golden State Killer, in crimes that sprawled from Sacramento all the way to Southern California, including two in Sacramento County, two in Ventura County and four in Orange County.

He is suspected in a dozen slayings as well as 45 rapes and more than 120 burglaries in 10 California counties, a decade-long crime spree considered one of the most prolific in state history.

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Investigators finally cracked the case, which has long haunted victims' families and law enforcement, by comparing DNA found at the crime scenes to genetic information on commercial genealogy websites that consumers use to explore their ancestry.

Detectives followed the family trees of close matches, seeking people who might be the killer. The process produced a promising lead a week ago, when the DNA of a relative pointed to DeAngelo based on his age and the fact that he lived near where the attacks occurred, according to a Sacramento prosecutor.

More on the case

DeAngelo was identified about two months after the case gained renewed attention in the recently published bestselling book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” by journalist Michelle McNamara, who died in April 2016.

In addition to being known as the Golden State Killer the unknown suspect was also dubbed the “East Area Rapist” and the “Original Night Stalker,” at various times.

DeAngelo was a police officer in two small California communities - Exeter and Auburn - during the 1970s. He was fired from the Auburn force in 1979 after being accused of shoplifting a hammer and dog repellant from a store.

Authorities had long speculated the killer had some military or law enforcement training because of his proficiency with firearms and ability to elude capture for so long.

Jones acknowledged that some of the earlier crimes were committed while DeAngelo was a police officer. But authorities said his name never surfaced as a suspect prior to the latest break in the case, which they said came from a “discarded DNA sample” obtained by investigators. (Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)