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Documents outline how detectives caught up with the Golden State Killer suspect

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The four-decade hunt for the Golden State Killer reached a turning point in April when detectives lifted the DNA of their suspect from his car door as he shopped inside Hobby Lobby, court documents released Friday show.

The secret collection occurred in April in a public parking lot in Roseville, just outside Sacramento. By then, authorities already considered Joseph DeAngelo a suspect.

But authorities said in the court records that the definitive link came when the DNA taken from the car matched that of semen recovered at the scene of one of the Golden State Killer’s rape cases.

Judge Michael Sweet released the documents Friday after rejecting objections from DeAngelo’s defense team as well as prosecutors. An attorney representing the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets had filed a motion to have the warrants unsealed for the public record.

The documents — about 46 pages — give the public’s first glimpse into the case detectives built against DeAngelo, a former police officer accused of terrorizing communities across California in the 1970s and ’80s. During that time, he is believed to have been behind at least 12 killings, dozens of rapes and more than 100 burglaries. The names and other identifying information for at least 75 surviving victims, witnesses and detectives included in the warrant were redacted, along with details of previously suspected rapes.

Sweet ruled that a list of the evidence seized from DeAngelo’s home, computer and his phone will remain sealed.

Media lawyer Duffy Carolan said she was generally pleased with the ruling. The Sacramento County district attorney’s office emphasized that it did not ask for the records to be sealed and that 95 percent of the material being redacted was at the request of DeAngelo’s public defenders.

Sweet said in a verbal order that he was striving to protect DeAngelo’s right to a fair trial. He quoted Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

Half a dozen of the Golden State Killer’s victims who have been attending the Sacramento court hearings were present for Friday’s decision but asked not to be identified.

One woman had no opinion on the release of the arrest records, saying, “I don’t care, as long as it doesn’t hurt the case”

Another woman, who said she was raped by the Golden State Killer, said she is attending DeAngelo’s court appearances “to drill holes in the back of his head”

Under state law, her rapist no longer can be charged, but she still wants the unresolved crime to be a presence in the courtroom.

Although it has received intense media scrutiny, attorneys say the search warrants gloss over the novel — and some say controversial — investigative strategy detectives used to find a suspect when they compared genetic information in DNA from one of their crime scenes to a public genealogy database.

Court records show investigators used a semen sample from the slayings of Lyman and Charlene Smith to identify DeAngelo’s relative.

“Subsequent investigation into family lineage led to identifying Joseph James DeAngelo Jr,”the document read.

On April 18 investigators grabbed a DNA sample from the driver’s side car door handle they observed DeAngelo driving, while the car was in the parking lot of the Hobby Lobby store in Roseville. Two days later, they obtained another DNA sample from a tissue in DeAngelo’s trash can outside of his home. DeAngelo was arrested April 24.

The search warrant also shows that without the DNA, police detectives had little else to go on. They sought photographs of DeAngelo as a younger man to present to witnesses and crime victims now for possible photo lineups to identify their assailant.

DeAngelo is charged with the shooting deaths of two people in Sacramento and 10 more counts of murder in three other counties, the culmination of a four-decade manhunt for a serial burglar and rapist who often hit multiple homes in a night, stole mementos from his victims or taunted them later with phone threats.

Whole communities were stricken with fear as the crime wave grew on both sides of the state and in the Central Valley starting in the early 1970s. Families bought guard dogs and guns, installed extra deadbolts on their front doors and secured their rear windows and sliding doors. Authorities say DeAngelo’s crimes covered territories in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties, where several women were raped and fatally beaten between 1979 and 1986.

One couple was found bludgeoned to death with a fireplace log in Ventura. Another was found tied up and shot to death in Santa Barbara County.

Investigators also think DeAngelo was responsible for a crime wave in Visalia that involved dozens of home burglaries, assaults and one killing. Authorities say he may have begun his criminal activity as a cat burglar in Rancho Cordova in the early 1970s.

DeAngelo worked as a police officer for small towns in California until 1979, when he was fired in Auburn for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent. He then worked for decades as a truck mechanic, living in a suburb north of Sacramento and communities that had been terrified by sexual assaults and killings now attributed to the Golden State Killer.

After his arrest, prosecutors from Sacramento, Ventura, Orange and Santa Barbara counties met to discuss where and how to put DeAngelo on trial for the slayings because the crimes cover multiple jurisdictions. No decision has been made.
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