The Original Night Stalker, also known as the East Area Rapist or the Golden State Killer, is a serial murderer and rapist who terrorized California from Sacramento to Orange County between 1976 and 1986. He was one of the most active serial rapists and murderers in California’s history. During the 10-year span, he committed about 45 rapes, 12 homicides, and 120 burglaries. Forty years later, the FBI still maintains an open file, but the perpetrator has never been caught.
Crimes of the Stalker
The stalker initially began burglarizing and raping in the East Sacramento area in 1976. It was at that time that he acquired the name East Area Rapist. In 1978, his crimes escalated. One evening, Katie and Brian Maggiore were out walking their dog in the neighborhood, when they encountered the perpetrator. Some kind of altercation occurred between Brian and the assailant, and the assailant pulled out a gun. The couple attempted to run for their lives, but the stalker chased them and shot them dead. After his criminal spree around the Sacramento region, the East Area Rapist began operating along the coastal regions of the East Bay Area. He commenced his crime spree in Southern California during 1979. Between 1982 and 1985 there were no crimes linked to the Original Night Stalker. Then in 1986, he committed his last known murder in Irvine, Orange County, California.
The Night Stalker vs. The Original Night Stalker
In 1984, another heinous serial killer and rapist emerged in California. Police called him “Night Stalker” and apprehended him in 1985. His name was Richard Ramirez. Night Stalker died in prison in 2013 while awaiting his death sentence. The East Area Rapist acquired a new name, the “Original” Night Stalker, to differentiate from the “Night Stalker.” The crimes of Richard Ramirez differed from those of the Original Night Stalker in many ways. Also, DNA evidence ruled Ramirez out as the perpetrator of the Original Night Stalker’s crimes. Ramirez’s picture had been posted on the news, and he was subsequently caught and nearly killed by a mob before police could catch him. A sketch of the Original Night Stalker was also posted on the news before he began killing his victims. It was of no use.
In 1976, the Original Night Stalker’s crimes began in Northern California. The perpetrator would meticulously case houses, break in days or even weeks before the crime and ready the house for his rape. In many cases, he loosened window screens, so his passage into the house would be easy and quiet. In at least one case, he found the household gun and emptied the clip. Then he would then break into the house at a later date, parking his car away from the residence, so no one could report his vehicle.
His modus operandi was to enter the house quietly and then shine a flashlight in his victim’s face, yelling at her to wake up. The Original Night Stalker would then tie her up using a specific diamond knot. He would rape her and often stay in the house for hours, stealing small keepsakes and even eating in some residences. The women he attacked described his behavior as torturous. His attacks were both physically violent and psychological in nature.
When it was posted on the news that predator was attacking women alone, he changed his methods. Instead of just targeting single women, he began attacking couples in their homes. He would tie up the woman and the man. Then he would tell the man that if the man tried to stop the rape, he would kill the woman. The California stalker carried a gun. However, he did not commit any murders during this time of which police are aware.
Details of the Crimes
Police profilers said that the Original Night Stalker must have been intelligent and aware of police procedure. Although the offender wore a mask and gloves, he was known to be white because women saw the bare skin of his legs. He would steal bicycles and use them to leave the scene of the crime so his car was not connected to them. After the rapes, the perpetrator sometimes called his victims to make horrible threats, but he never stayed on the line long enough to get a trace. The following recording is a chilling example of how this serial rapist/murderer psychologically tortured his victims during and sometimes after his attacks.
1977 Recording of Suspected East Area Rapist
East Area Rapist calls his victim to terrorize her further after his attack.
At least two witnesses believe they saw the man leaving a neighborhood or entering it at one time or another, so police were able to make a sketch of him. The sketch was released and the crimes stopped for some time. However, they began again in neighboring areas within months. It was not until 2001 that police proved with DNA that the Northern California crimes and the Southern California crimes were committed by the same man.
The murders were extremely violent, particularly for the women. The Original Night Stalker often bludgeoned his victims to death with blunt objects. In one case, he used a fireplace log to beat a couple to death. As before, the perpetrator stalked his victims and surveilled their homes. It is quite possible that, like with the BTK killer, several people got lucky when his planning went awry in some way. The murders stopped in California as suddenly as they started. Police tried to find a link to him elsewhere in the country, but thus far, nothing has turned up.
Some assume that the stalker must be dead or in prison. It is almost guaranteed that he is not in prison in California. He may have been killed when entering someone’s house, but police followed that hypothesis as well and found nothing. Given the typical starting age of serial killers and the stalker’s profile, it is assumed that he was in his twenties or early thirties when he was committing his rapes. That would make him 60-75 by now. Sadly, the case gets colder all the time. If he is dead, we may never know who he was. If he is alive, he may never pay for his crimes.
FBI Investigation, 2016
The 40 year anniversary of the East Area Rapist’s crime spree was in 2016. The FBI reaffirmed their commitment to finding the killer if he is still alive, and they are offering a $50,000 reward. There is more information on the FBI website.
Description of the East Area Rapist
The perpetrator of these crimes is described as being a white male, about 5’10”, blue or green eyes, with a shoe size of 9. His voice is higher than a typical male voice. He may have also had a tattoo of a bulldog on his forearm. For more information, go to the FBI website noted above or go to ear-ons.com. If you have any information, contact 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
This article was updated by HM staff on April 17, 2017.