Crime and PunishmentJamie R. -- Monday, August 18, 2003 -- 07:48:13 PM
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DNA researchers have officially linked a pair of 1980 killings in Goleta California to the original Night Stalker. The original Night Stalker, not to be confused with the more infamous Richard Ramirez, was linked to the East Area Rapist, who first earned his moniker in 1976 for assaulting women in the East Sacramento metro region, primarily Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights.
I can vividly remember these attacks, even though I was a pre-teen when they started, because I had three pretty twenty-something aunts who lived in Sacramento at the time. When our family came to visit them in the late seventies, the East Area Rapist was frequently a topic of conversation, as my three aunts would go on and on about how worried they were about an attack and the steps they took to prevent one. As you can see from this timeline, the first three dozen of his approximately fifty known rapes took place in the Sacramento region, whereupon he moved to the Bay Area and became a suspect in another dozen attacks there. The attacks terrorized the city because of their frequency (about one rape a month) and because the police seemed completely unable to prevent them.
The connection between the East Area Rapist (EAR) and the original Night Stalker (ONS) wasn't made until a decade after the latter's last known attack in 1986. There were two problems in identifying the EAR and the ONS as the same man. The first was geographical: The EAR was only known to assault women in northern California, while the ONS worked in southern California in the Los Angeles metro area.
Investigators also had difficulty recognizing the two groups of crimes as being committed by the same man because the EAR almost never murdered the people he assaulted. In fact, he is a suspect in only one pair of killings in the Sacramento region in which it is assumed he chased down a couple in the street and shot them, presumably after they refused to follow one of his modus operandi, which was to force couples he confronted outside into their nearby home, tie them up, and then rape the woman. The ONS, on the other hand, never left survivors if he could help it. Contact with him was invariably lethal.
Some investigators have long suspected the four Goleta murders were connected to the EAR/ONS, but there was never any solid proof. There were some similarities, but Goleta, which is just north of Santa Barbara, was outside of his known haunts, and there were also a few differences in MO. However, with advances in DNA analysis, which allow for matches based on degraded DNA, investigators were able to finally connect the Goleta murders to the six murders in the greater LA region and to the series of four dozen rapes (and possibly two murders) in northern California.
Another interesting, but older, twist to this case is that before the man became the EAR, he might have been known for a series of break-ins in a small central California town called Visalia. In the mid-70s, during a period which ended just months before the EAR commenced his attacks in East Sacramento, a burglar known as the Visalia Ransacker broke into more than a hundred homes during an eighteen-month period.
What's odd about this crime spree is that the ransacker rarely took items of any value from the homes he entered. He usually just vandalized the homes. Near the end, however, he shot and killed a professor who awoke to find the perpetrator attempting to kidnap his daughter. After that, Visalia police went on high alert and began staking out neighborhoods, which led to a confrontation in which a chase ensued. The Visalia Ransacker was able to evade capture after he shoot at the pursuing police officer, shattering the cop's flashlight.
That was the last known crime by the Visalia Ransacker. Six months later, and more than a three-hour drive to the north, the attacks on women would begin in east Sacramento county.
If the Visalia Ransacker is the EAR/ONS, then he was a highly organized and effective perpetrator. He constantly moved around to different parts of California, and when the heat got too hot, he either left the region or adapted his tactics.
Sacramento is three-and-a-half hours from Visalia. After arriving in Sacramento, he began his attacks in east Sacramento county. But when police patrols in East Sacramento picked up considerably, he began attacking women first in south Sacramento, and eventually in Davis in Yolo County and Stockton in San Joaquin County. Davis is about a forty-minute drive from where the attacks began in east Sacramento county, while Stockton is about an hour's drive.
Finally, after more than 30 rapes (and possibly two murders), he left the Sacramento region altogether and headed more than an hour's drive west to the Bay Area, where he committed another dozen rapes in Contra Costa County.
Then he moved five hours to the south to Goleta (Santa Barbara), where his lethality increased. After two murders in Goleta, he traveled three hours to the south (Orange County) where he murdered another six people. A couple years later he traveled back to Goleta and committed three more murders, the last of which was an eighteen-year-old woman in 1986.
As far as we know, after that, he never killed again. We don't know if he died or was caught or just got old and quit.
One of the EAR's methods of attack was to subdue a couple at gunpoint while wearing a mask. He would then force the man to tie up the woman, and the EAR would then tie up the man.
After the couple was tied up, the EAR would sometimes place dishes on the man's back, and warn him that if heard the dishes fall, he would kill both of them. He would then take the woman to a separate room and rape her, often multiple times over a period of hours.
In northern California, the EAR left nearly all his victims alive. The one possible exception was a couple who may have tried to flee after he confronted them in the street.
Why, after moving to southern California, he decided to kill all his victims is a mystery. But the only couple who survived contact with him south of San Luis Obispo managed to escape before he began his attack.
The bill would ban taking pictures or taping children in situations in which “a reasonable parent or guardian would not expect his child to be the subject of such reproduction.”
Lauren James Weir, an attorney for the New Jersey Press Association, said that would have a “chilling effect” on free speech.
“The bill also imposes a duty on a newspaper to verify the age of every person who is photographed or recorded, whether that person is the focus of the image or a person in the background,” she said.
Oh, I'm certain that'll never be problematic.
No, I think he liked to control and rape women. It was a sexual compulsion, not a homicidal compulsion, that drove his acts.
One consistent feature about this guy was that he was careful not to get caught. He would do anything not to get caught. Many criminals are either too stupid or too in the grip of their compulsion to control themselves, and so they eventually do get caught. Not this fellow. He wrote no letters to the editor (like the Zodiac), kept his mask on during his rapes, and tried to disguise his voice. He used different types of guns and flashlights during his attacks. I believe that the one couple in Sacramento he was suspected of murdering (the Maggiores) were gunned down because it was one of the few examples he confronted his victims unmasked in the street, probably because Ms Maggiore was such a beautiful young woman that he decided to take a chance he normally wouldn't do.
So I believe that after he moved south, he didn't want a connection made between his acts in the north of state and what he would do in Goleta and Orange County. So he changed his MO. He not only began killing the hostages who could identify his crimes and describe to the police how he committed them, he began removing all of the potential evidence that might connect him to the series of rapes in northern California. He began removing the ligatures he used to bound his victims. He didn't use a gun if he could help it. Instead, he would bludgeon his victims to death, but only after covering them with a blanket so that their blood wouldn't get on his clothes. He would then remove from the home whatever instrument he used to bludgeon his victims. In one case, it was a fireplace log.
The only thing he left behind was his DNA in the woman's body, which wasn't as problematic back then because the science of DNA was still in its infancy for the criminal justice system.
The man was capable of murdering from the beginning. He had most likely murdered in both Visalia (Professor Snelling) and Sacramento (the Maggiore couple), but in both cases it was probably a response to getting caught. Snelling surprised him in the middle of the night as he was trying to kidnap the man's daughter. The Maggiores were most likely gunned down because he confronted them on the street, unmasked, and thus they could ID him.
So I think the simplest explanation for why he began murdering his victims was because he didn't want to get caught, and one good way to do that was to make sure no one could ID his MO and make the obvious connection between them. Remember, it would be more than a decade after his final known crime that the EAR and the ONS would be id'ed as the same man, so he was very successful in his aim.
That's one of the possibilities, but I don't think he was a cop. He may have been in the military, perhaps in the Air Force, or worked as a civilian contractor for the military. He might have been an MP.
His first set of crimes in Sacramento took place very close to the now-defunct Mather Air Force Base, and Goleta, where he began his southern crime spree, is right next to the Santa Barbara airport and less than an hour's drive from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
But it may be a coincidence. That's the problem with catching this guy. For all the crimes he committed, he didn't leave a lot of clues. Here's a profile of the man.
So young, between 18-26. I wonder if he started with killing or torturing animals or engaged in cat burglary where he'd get off on being in a house with people who were sleeping, when he was a young teen. He wouldn't have gotten into the military with a juvenile offender record, correct? But I wonder if the man had parents who suspected something was not right about their son. I wonder why upper and upper-middle class.
This stuff, though gruesome, is fascinating because it's hard to imagine how a man could evade authorities for so long and get away with these acts when the communities were on so high alert.
The Maggiores, I'm not so sure that would have been him. Two men? Shot in the street? So atypical for him.
I suspect that if the EAR/ONS was also the Visalia Ransacker, then that was the exploratory stage of his criminal career. And doesn't that seem like something a dysfunctional juvenile would do? Enter a lot of homes, tear shit up, steal small items of little value (don't want the folks to notice the loot), and gradually embolden himself until, near the end of his spree, he tries to graduate to the next level by kidnapping a young female, shooting and killing her father after he wakes up and tries to intervene. But because he is young and this is all new to him, he immediately panics, flees the home, and leaves the young woman alive. A few weeks later, he bumps into cops staking out a neighborhood from inside a home garage. He flees and gets away after exchanging gunfire with one of the cops. He's never heard again in Visalia after that.
A few months later (after high school graduation?), he moves north to Sacramento and begins his attacks in the summer of 1976. He already has a lot of experience breaking into homes, so that part of the crime is fairly easy for him. He's even killed a man and successfully evaded the cops. So he might have been embolden enough to start doing what I think he was interrupted doing in the case of Snelling's daughter: Rape a woman.
After the EAR made headlines in Sacramento, the cops down in Visalia thought the perp's timing and method similar enough that they paid a visit to Sacramento. But apparently no solid connection between the Visalia Ransacker and the East Area Rapist was found, and so the Visalia lead never came to anything.
I agree this kind of criminal is not the sort to work in a team, but I also think some of the immediate eyewitness accounts can be discounted. If you look outside your window and see three people (two men and one woman) running and immediately hear gunshots, it could have been a confusing scene. And one of the composite sketches of the suspects looks similar to the male victim. So who knows?
There is support for the Maggiore connection. While it wasn't the EAR's typical method, he was known to confront people outside their home and, at gunpoint, force them into the house where he then tied them up. Usually, though, he was both masked and much closer to the victim's house than the Maggiores were to their home the night they were shot.
Second, the shooting of the Maggiores was at ground-zero in the EAR's favorite haunt in Rancho Cordova. You could literally walk in any direction from where the Maggiores were shot and within fifteen minutes be at half-a-dozen homes where the EAR had earlier struck. So he knew that area very well. It was a middle-class suburb, too. Not exactly the kind of place where couples walking their dogs were usually gunned down.
Third, a shoelace was found at the scene that led detectives to believe the EAR was responsible. I don't know why a shoelace would do that; I'm just reporting the facts.
Fourth, we now know from the ONS connection (and possibly through the Visalia Ransacker connection), that the EAR had no trouble confronting couples with a gun and shooting them. At the time, though, he wasn't known as a serial killer, but rather as a serial rapist who primarily targeted women who were alone in their homes. That assumption, along with a potential second suspect, probably encouraged detectives to initially believe others were involved in the shooting.
Fifth, this was a very adaptable criminal who changed and then rechanged his MO. Perhaps that night he decided to try something different, and when it didn't work -- he wasn't able to rape the woman, and if one of the composite sketches is accurate, then he was nearly ID'ed -- adapted once again back to home invasions.
I was thinking even younger than the Visalia Ransacker. But that could be when he escalated to noticeable crime. Previous to that I wonder what he was like as a pre-teen and younger teen. Age 12-14 era.
I read the Maggiores were walking their dog. I wonder if that had something to do with that. Did the dog try to bite or even just start to bark? I saw that, about the shoelace.
I also read that one victim was told by her boyfriend he heard noises outside her window but she said it was the washing machine.
If I was living in the midst of that, I'd be on alert for any noise along with my buddies Smith & Wesson, for sure.
That was the final known victim, 18-year-old Janelle Cruz, who was murdered in Irvine in 1986 by the killer then known as the Original Night Stalker. The killer had never struck in Irvine before, and it had been nearly five years since his last known attack, so she wouldn't have been on her guard like the women in Sacramento were during the late seventies when the East Area Rapist was on the prowl.
Janelle Cruz's boyfriend lucked out by leaving the house when he did, since the ONS had shown no reluctance to attack and kill couples.
I'm always saddened reading these things. I hope, as in the case with the BTK killer, that they get lucky and catch this guy, even though he obviously has either long ago given up crime or been involuntarily retired by death or imprisonment.
As my link shows, the killer did in fact previously murder in Irvine, but it was more than five years before he attacked Cruz, so she can be forgiven for not being on her guard.
That is true. Thanks for pointing out that timeline. Of course she wouldn't be on her guard. That's very sad. It must be terrible to know your child met such a terrifying end. I don't know how people cope. It is sad that they have not gotten to see the killer brought to justice. I can't help but wonder if he's dead. Could it be remotely possible someone shot a person they thought was burglarizing their home and it was him, but the authorities had now way of knowing it? Seems strange that a man that driven to do these things would suddenly stop. I highly doubt he committed suicide out of any kind of remorse, which I don't think he felt or feels.
Yes, but two things suggest not.
First, there is the nearly five-year gap between his last two killings: July 1981 in Goleta and May 1986 in Irvine.
If you look at the timeline for the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, this guy was a raping and killing machine. (The same is true for the burglar called the Visalia Ransacker.) So why did he stop for five years?
I don't think it's because he got caught. From July 1976 to July 1981, the EAR/ONS rarely paused for more than a couple of months before attacking again. He committed nearly sixty separate rapes and murders or attempted rapes and murders in that period. That's an average of one a month. (The Visalia Ransacker was also a frequent offender, never stopping more than two or three months over a nearly two-year period before burgling again.)
This suggests he was never caught and convicted during the five-year period between 1976 and 1981 (and if you buy that he was also the Visalia Ransacker, then you can extend that period back to 1974). I also doubt that he was caught soon afterwards. If he had been convicted of some jailable offense during that time, he most likely would have been identified because everyone was looking hard in the targeted areas at anyone who was an armed burglar or peeping tom.
Was he imprisoned between 1981 and 1986 for some crime that didn't connect him to the EAR/ONS? It's possible, but it would have to have been a serious crime to keep him in prison for nearly five years. So, again, I doubt it. The more likely explanation is that he went into a quiet period after a frenetic five-year period of raping and killing.
The second reason I don't believe he was killed is because he reportedly called one of his victims in 1991, five years after his last killing. That would mean he was still alive a decade after the end of his five-year crime run, and five years after his last known and isolated murder. He would have to be well into his thirties at the time of that phone call, and he had already shown that he could go several years without raping and killing.
So my best guess would be that he was never caught or killed. To me, the more likely explanation is that something happened in his private life (marriage?) which sent him into a quiet period that was interrupted in 1986 by only one more rape and murder for God knows what reason.
Imagine finding out you were married to such a person.
That's another possibility. He did move around a lot. Perhaps he moved out of California.
But even if he did move out of California and continued to commit assaults elsewhere, he must have slowed down. Otherwise, he would have been quickly noticed and, if not pegged as the original Night Stalker, then given another name.
The one consistent feature about this guy was that he attacked young middle class women in their homes. He didn't target prostitutes. He didn't attack the vulnerable elderly. He didn't attack women out in the woods or at shopping malls. When you are the kind of criminal who attacks, and frequently kills, middle class women in their homes, often when they are with their husbands and boyfriends, that's kind of hard not to notice.
Here's a pretty good account of the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker. It runs about forty minutes through five different Youtube videos. I think it does an excellent job of describing the fear that ran through Sacramento during the late seventies after police informed the public that a serial rapist was on the loose.