In what we hope to be the satisfying coda that all involved feared might never come, Fox 40 Sacramento reports that an arrest has been made in the case of the East Area Rapist, also known as the Golden State Killer, “the most prolific unsolved serial killing case probably in modern history,” according to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. The Daily Beast reports via the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office that the suspect is 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, an ex-police officer who was fired from the Auburn Police Department after he was caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellant in a Sacramento drug store in 1979. He’s been charged with two counts of murder, but may have been responsible for a dozen murders and nearly 50 rapes across California in the 1970s and ‘80s.
This might seem like an odd choice of a story to report on a pop-culture website, were it not for the involvement of a familiar figure to A.V. Club readers: Comedian Patton Oswalt, who faithfully shepherded I’ll Be Gone In The Dark—the book about the GSK left unfinished by his late wife Michelle McNamara after her sudden death in 2016—through to completion. McNamara’s troubling, beautifully written manuscript was published earlier this year, supplemented with material from researcher Paul Haynes and journalist Billy Jensen as well as an afterword by Oswalt. Oswalt is also set to executive produce an HBO docudrama based on McNamara’s book, publicity that all served to put pressure on local police and the FBI to solve the decades-old cases. As we put it in our story about the HBO series earlier this month: “perhaps by the time I’ll Be Gone In The Dark makes it to HBO there will be an end to the story—even if Michelle McNamara isn’t around to tell it.”
Just last night, Haynes, Jensen, and Oswalt were in Chicago for a hometown stop of the I’ll Be Gone In The Dark book tour (McNamara was born in suburban Oak Park). The event, which was attended by McNamara’s family, was also the first night of filming of the I’ll Be Gone In The Dark HBO series, as Oswalt confirmed on Twitter. “Ended with me saying, ‘He’s running out of time.’ And now all of this. Surreal,” he wrote.
The news broke early this morning, prompting Oswalt to share on Instagram: “I think you got him, Michelle.”
A press conference about the arrest is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m PT today.
UPDATE, 2:50 p.m. CT: At a press conference in Sacramento, Sacramento D.A. Anne Marie Schubert, who was a teenager in Sacramento during the killer’s initial wave of sexual assaults, says that thanks to DNA, saying that “we found the needle in the haystack, and it was right here in Sacramento.” The Sacramento sheriff adds that DeAngelo was arrested yesterday afternoon after “discarded DNA” was collected during surveillance and found to be a match by the Sacramento crime lab. Asked to elaborate on the DNA collection process by a reporter, they declined, but they did say that McNamara’s book did not contribute directly to the arrest aside from raising public interest in the case.
Remarkably for this early in the process, officials sound confident that DeAngelo is their perpetrator, saying that all their cases are tied by modus operandi and/or DNA, and that there are charges yet to be filed against DeAngelo. Orange County DA Tony Rackaucaks makes this definitive-sounding statement: “James DeAngelo has been called a lot of things by law enforcement. He’s been called the East Side Rapist. The Visalia Ransacker. The Original Night Stalker. The Golden State Killer. Today it’s our pleasure to call him defendant.” DeAngelo is being held in Sacramento County Main Jail without bail.