The man whom investigators believe is the Golden State Killer was charged with first-degree murder Monday in what is thought to be the first death in a string of slayings that stretched over a decade across California. Joseph DeAngelo, 72, of the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights is accused of killing a College of the Sequoia professor, Claude Snelling, who was shot Sept. 11, 1975, as he thwarted the 2 a.m. PT kidnapping of his 16-year-old daughter. That murder was attributed to a man originally dubbed the Visalia Ransacker, who would break into homes and collect keepsake items, leaving behind valuables, and often made himself a meal before sneaking out into the night. More than 85 burglaries in Tulare County, California, where Visalia is the county seat, were linked to the Visalia Ransacker; the last was at Snelling’s house. “As abruptly as they started, soon after in the winter of 1975, they abruptly ended here in Visalia,” said Tim Ward, Tulare County district attorney. “Now, we know they tragically continued elsewhere in the state.”
Authorities are saying the Golden State Killer and the Visalia Ransacker are the same person — so is the East Area Rapist, linked to 38 attacks in the Sacramento and Stockton areas, and the Original Night Stalker, who committed his crimes in Southern California. Visalia is about 170 miles northwest of Los Angeles and 200 miles southeast of Sacramento. DeAngelo previously was charged with killing 12 people between 1975 to 1986. Snelling’s death is the 13th officially linked to the suspect.
DeAngelo also is suspected of raping another 45 victims but can’t be tried in those cases nor in the suspected burglaries because the statute of limitations has expired, officials said.