The ritualistic offender is cunning, methodical, and usually invisible. He's Ted Bundy, Leonard Lake, Christopher Wilder. Unfortunately, he can also be your neighbor, coworker, or some anonymous employee behind a counter at your local mall. Neither his appearance nor his behavior provides a clue to his dark desires. -Roy Hazelwood, Dark Dreams
Between 1976 and 1986 the man known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, EAR/ONS, The Diamond Knot Killer, and, most recently, the Golden State Killer was responsible for roughly fifty rapes and perhaps a dozen murders in California. His stalking grounds were middle to upper middle class, single story homes in suburban neighborhoods. These neighborhoods featured green belt areas, bike trails, creek beds, and canals which allowed him to move about undetected and flee quickly. He terrorized the residents of Northern California with his nocturnal break-ins and assaults for years before emerging as a serial killer Southern California.
The East Area Rapist 1976-1979
The East Area Rapist (EAR) stalked his victims and their neighborhoods days or weeks ahead of the attacks. Prowlers and suspicious young men were reported in the areas of EAR crimes, along with burglaries and hang-up phone calls. His MO included breaking into homes prior to the attacks, leaving a window unlocked for easy access later, hiding ligatures, unloading homeowners' weapons, learning the home's layout, and learning about its occupants.
His preferred neighborhoods contained features that lent a tactical advantage to the criminal. These areas typically featured greenbelt areas such as parks or vacant fields, creek beds or concrete drainage canals, and running or hiking trails.
He attacked his victims inside their homes while they slept. Initially, he targeted only females who were home alone, but later began attacking couples. Wearing a ski mask or balaclava and gloves, he would wake them, threaten them with a knife or handgun, bind their wrists tightly, usually so tightly that they would not regain feeling in their hands for hours, and bind their feet. He often brought his own ligatures to the scene, typically shoelaces, but would also use items found in the homes to bind, gag, and blindfold his victims. Often this would be sections of towel that he would tear into long strips while the victim lay bound. If a male was present EAR would have the female tie him up first then he would tie the female himself. More than once, EAR made use of a complicated knot called a "diamond knot' or "knife lanyard knot", which seemed needlessly complex for simply binding a person. He would stack dishes onto the male's back and warn him that if he heard them fall he would kill everyone in the house. He would then take the female to a separate room to commit the rape.
EAR would typically lubricate himself with lotion or Vaseline before committing the rape. Often, he would remain in the home for hours, terrorizing the victim, repeating his sexual assault, and ransacking the house. He stole items such as driver's licenses, coin collections, and small pieces of jewelry, eschewing more valuable items. He would sometimes stop to eat food in the victim's kitchen. Empty beer cans were found at some scenes.
He frequently made his escape via stolen bicycle, which was typically found later a few blocks from the crime scene, presumably where he had left his vehicle. He was known to call his victims after the attacks, in at least one case, years later, to taunt and terrorize them.
August 29, 1976
The third known attack by the EAR, only a few houses away from his first known victim, did not go according to the rapist’s plans. Around 3am, a 12 year-old girl awakened to the tinkling of the wind chimes hung from her bedroom window curtain rod. When she looked toward the window she spotted the silhouette of a man prying the screen off and detected a strong smell of aftershave. This terrifying sight sent her instantly running to her mother’s bedroom. Mother and daughter together went to the 15 year-old daughter’s room to wake her. The older sister, unperturbed, told them to call the police before rolling over to go back to sleep.
The mother and 12 year-old girl returned to the younger girl’s room and saw the figure at the window once again, who turned and ran across the yard towards the back fence. Thinking the prowler had fled, the pair went to the kitchen to phone police. Before they managed to reach anyone on the phone they heard a crash from the 12 year-old’s room. In the next instant the man was in the kitchen with them. He wore a tight-fitting mask with a slit for the eyes, a light brown t-shirt, black gloves, and black, ankle-high boots. He was naked from the waist down. Around his waist he wore a wide, brown utility belt. In his right hand he held a 12-inch wooden club, in his left a gun.
“Freeze or I’ll kill you!” he hissed through clenched teeth.
The intruder ordered the mother to hang up the phone and demanded to know who else was in the house. When he moved closer to the pair the mother grabbed for the attacker’s gun. He responded with a flurry of blows to her head with his club. He forced them into the living room and sat them on the couch, telling them, “Don’t worry, all I want is your money. You won’t be hurt if you cooperate.”
When he pulled the mother’s arms behind her back and attempted to tie them, she again fought back. Struggling with the EAR, absorbing blows from the club to her head, she managed to fight her away across the room and out the front door with her youngest daughter, both screaming for help as they ran towards the safety of the next door neighbor’s.
Having heard the commotion from her bedroom, the 15 year-old escaped through her window and also made it safely to the neighbor’s house.
A woman across the street peered outside when she heard the mother and daughter screaming as they made their escape. Once the two were inside the neighbor’s house, she saw a masked man emerge from some bushes and walk casually down the street and away from the scene. She took him to be wearing white shorts, when in fact he was still naked from the waist down, his tanned legs contrasting with the paleness of his upper legs and buttocks.
When interviewed, the mother described her attacker as a white male, slim, light-complected with tanned legs without much hair on them, 18-30 years-old, around 5’ 9”, 165 pounds. She felt that he wasn’t particularly strong and that, in a fair fight, she could have taken him.
A Community on Edge
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the East Area Rapist’s attacks did not come to such a happy ending. By November, 1976, the public was becoming aware of the predator in their midst. Police had asked the media not to report on the rapes, citing the risk of panicking the public and the possibility of compromising stakeouts aimed at catching the perpetrator. However, rumors had been circulating through the community: rapes every hour, he raped nine in Carmichael alone, he tore down doors and windows. At a Del Dayo Parents meeting intended to address crime prevention in general the subject of the serial rapist came up, forcing law enforcement officials to publicly address it for the first time. This would be the first of a series of local town hall meetings to address the topic of the East Area Rapist. At one of these meetings, a man stood up and berated the police and other men in the audience who couldn’t protect their women. He proclaimed that in his native Italy this type of thing would have been taken care of swiftly and decisively. Seven months later this man found himself bound and helpless in his own home as the East Area Rapist assaulted his wife.
Meanwhile, public anxiety grew. Citizens began patrolling their neighborhoods with CB radios, men trained their wives and girlfriends in firearm use, and sales of deadbolts and other home security devices increased sharply.
In response to public pressure, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department created a task force whose sole aim was apprehending the East Area Rapist. In addition to detectives following leads, the task force employed “X-Ray Units”, deputies in street clothes assigned to patrol the streets, backyards, and other areas the EAR was known to prowl.
Despite these efforts, the East Area Rapist continued his series of assaults undaunted. His script varied little: the hissing through clenched teeth, the binding with shoelaces, the ruse that he was only there for food and money, which quickly changed to repeated death threats once the victims were bound, the assailant lubricating himself with lotion, the forced masturbation with numbed, bound hands, the ransacking, the eating, and most of all, the terror. It was a bizarre, but consistent set of behaviors.
First Couple Attacked
April 2, 1977
Perhaps he felt the need to up the ante for his own sense of excitement, or maybe he was responding to the Sacramento Bee’s story from a few weeks prior which stated “he has never attacked while there was a man in the home”, but on April 2, 1977 the EAR attacked a couple in their home for the first time. Besides the added element of a male present in the house, the EAR did not change his MO much. He woke the female with a flashlight in her face, whispering at her through clenched teeth “Do you see the gun in my hand? “Don’t move. Turn over onto your stomach. I have a .45 with 14 shots and two clips.” He tossed the woman some shoelaces and had her tie up the man, then he tied her himself. He left the bedroom to wander the house, ransacking cabinets and drawers. At one point he returned with a cup and saucer which he placed on the man’s back, telling him if he heard it rattle he would kill him. This would become an oft-utilized technique in the EAR’s repertoire.
Ripon Court Shooting
February 16, 1977
Around 10:30pm 18 year-old Rodney Miller was entering his house through the garage when he and his father, Raymond, heard a noise in the backyard. The pair went outside to investigate and spotted the shadowy figure of a prowler lurking in the darkness. Suddenly, the prowler bolted out of the Miller’s yard and across the street. The athletic 18 year-old was close behind. The prowler vaulted over a fence and into a neighbor’s yard. Rodney followed suit. As soon as he reached the top of the fence and threw one leg over he heard the click of a gun being cocked. The prowler was waiting crouched behind the fence, a gun in his left hand aimed upwards, to ambush his pursuer. A shot exploded the suburban quiet and the boy fell back over the fence to the ground, shot in the midsection. As his father ran up to drag his son to safety a second shot rang out, but that bullet hit no one. Rodney Miller survived the shooting with a perforated intestine, bladder, and rectum. The shooter, likely the EAR, was described as around 20 years-old, 5’ 10”, and 170 pounds. He was wearing a blue watch cap on a head of straight blond hair, blue sweatshirt, dark pants, and white tennis shoes.
Brian and Katie Maggiore
February 2, 1978
Around 9 pm on February 2, 1978, Brian and Katie Maggiore took their miniature poodle for a walk in their Rancho Cordova neighborhood, an area in the vicinity of several East Area Rapist crimes. At some point the young couple encountered a ski-masked prowler armed with a gun. The Maggiores were chased into a nearby backyard where Brian was shot point blank in the chest. Katie managed to run as far as a gate leading to the front of the house before the attacker shot her in the head. The masked killer climbed the gate and made his escape.
This incident is the subject of some controversy as to whether it was actually an EAR/ONS crime. Two young men were reportedly seen in the area, as related by multiple witnesses, and leading to some confusion: both were described as white males in their early 20's, both roughly the same description except one sported a neatly trimmed mustache. A neighbor who heard the gunshots observed from his nearby garage a figure who could only have been the killer as he climbed the gate to escape the scene. He described him as around 6' and wearing pointy-toed cowboy boots. A young boy watched the actual pursuit and murder of the Maggiores as it happened from an upstairs window in his home. Immediately after the shootings, a woman saw a young man in his 20's wearing a World War II era bomber jacket with a 320th Bomb Group patch walk rapidly down her street, sticking close to shrubbery and attempting to hide his face with his jacket collar, and who pressed himself tightly against a tree when a car drove past.
Whether there actually were two separate young men in their early 20's linked to this case or a single suspect who has possibly benefited from witness confusion, as of June 2016 law enforcement appears convinced that the Maggiores were gunned down by the EAR/ONS. The strongest evidence publicly known which links these murders to the EAR are a set of shoelaces knotted in a loop consistent with his manner of tying knots found at the scene and the fact that the murders occurred in an area known to be a hot spot for EAR attacks.
The EAR Travels South
By August, 1978 Sacramento law enforcement had an inkling that their East Area Rapist was ready to leave the area and would likely be creeping his way southward. The city of Concord in Contra Costa County seemed a likely candidate: EAR had already been down I-80, attacking in Davis. Further down that interstate lies Concord, populated by the sort of middle class neighborhoods EAR preferred. Representatives from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department held a meeting at the Concord Police Department with area law enforcement to give them a heads up and brief them on their problematic rapist, his distinctive MO, and their frustrated attempts to catch him. Their prognostication proved correct. In October the EAR struck again - in Concord. Notably, at this first attack in Contra Costa County he stole roughly 4,000 dollars worth of items from the home, including dishes, utensils, and appliances. It was as if he was furnishing his own place and intended to stay in the area a while.
Another Attack Thwarted
July 5, 1979
It was going on 4am when the man was awakened by a rustling sound coming from the direction of the bedroom vanity. He was shocked fully awake when he saw, reflected in the vanity mirror, the figure of a man pulling a mask over his head. After three years of terrifying assaults in the area, he and his wife were fully aware of the East Area Rapist and had prudently created a plan in case they ever found themselves in just this situation.
In an instant he leapt out of bed, shouted to his wife to get out of the house, and confronted the startled attacker while blocking his exit from the room, allowing his wife a safe exit.
“WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?”, he roared.
The would-be assailant merely took a step back and stared at the man, who, at 6’ 2” and 220 pounds, towered over the much smaller EAR. His wife presumably safe, the man shouted once more at the intruder.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE NOW AND YOU CAN LEAVE!”
Not knowing whether the intruder was armed or not, the man followed his wife downstairs and outside, where she was already shouting for help.
A neighbor who heard the shouts for help phoned the Sheriff’s Department. A search of the area yielded nothing. No one had seen the EAR leave. A bloodhound tracked the intruder’s scent from the living room to the back yard, through a gate to a nearby cross street, and then to a greenbelt area where the dog lost the scent. From the dog’s excited reactions its handler felt the scent was perhaps only minutes old.
After this near catastrophe, the East Area Rapist seemingly disappeared from Contra Costa County.
"Gonna kill 'em"
October 1, 1979
5425 Queen Ann Lane
Three months after his close call in Danville, the EAR reemerged over 300 miles south in Goleta.
Someone was kicking the bed and hissing at the young couple to "wake up! wake up!"
They opened their eyes and were blinded by the glare of a flashlight in their faces.
“Don’t move motherfuckers or I’ll kill you,” the intruder whispered through clenched teeth.
He ordered the pair to roll over onto their stomachs and tossed some shoelaces to the woman, ordering her to tie her boyfriend. He tied the woman himself and then retied the man. He bound both of them so tightly their hands went numb.
“Where’s the money? Don’t look at me, motherfucker.”
"In my purse. In the kitchen," she said.
He leaned over them and whispered, "I'll kill you motherfuckers." He repeated this sentiment several times as he ransacked the couple's bedroom. By the dim light in the room they could make out the curled ends of dark hair just above his collar. He stood maybe five feet, ten inches and had a holster strapped to his belt on the right side.
They could hear him wandering the house, opening and closing drawers and cabinets. Then he was back, saying he couldn't find the purse. Again, she told him where it was.
He untied the woman's ankles, dragged her off the bed and forced her to the living room where he made her lie on the floor. He retied her and ordered her to roll over on her back. He put a pair of tennis shorts over her head to blindfold her. Through the fabric she could see the beam of the flashlight as he played it over her naked body.
"Now I'm going to kill you. Cut your throat," he whispered to her before wandering back to the kitchen.
That was when the fear truly gripped her, the absolute knowledge that she was going to be killed as she lay helpless on her living room floor. She could hear him in the kitchen now muttering over and over, "Gonna kill 'em, gonna kill 'em, gonna kill 'em, gonna kill 'em, gonna kill 'em..."
She rolled over and managed to make it to her feet. Wrists and ankles bound, blindfolded, she hopped towards the front door. She made it to the door and frantically worked the knob with her numb hand until she finally opened it. The bindings on her ankles had worked themselves loose, so she was able to run outside and scream for help. Blindfolded and in a panic, she slammed into the side of the house. Then she felt the attacker grab her and press a knife against her throat saying, "I told you to be quiet." He dragged her back inside and returned her to the same spot on the living room floor, where he retied her ankles.
In the meantime, her boyfriend had heard her screams and terror gripped him. He knew she was being murdered. He rolled off the bed and managed to open the sliding glass door. Once outside, he hopped furiously towards the backyard fence, slamming into it as hard as he could to try and break it down. Failing this, his only option was to hide. He dropped behind some bushes, but soon saw the beam of a flashlight searching the yard. He rolled behind an orange tree. His heart felt like it was going to explode in his chest, his body trembled. When the EAR gave up the search and went back inside he made it back to his feet and began calling towards the neighbor’s house for help.
The woman had managed to free her ankles once again and made it back outside to the front of the house where she called out for help to a passing car.
A neighbor of the victims who happened to be an off-duty FBI agent heard the screams and went out to investigate. As he arrived at the victims’ driveway a man on a bicycle flew past him wearing a blue and gray Pendleton shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. The agent jumped in his car to follow the cyclist, chasing him a few blocks before the EAR ditched the bike, scrambled over a fence and disappeared.
After this night, the EAR would not allow another victim to escape him again.
Composite of Ripon Court shooter
Ligatures used by the EAR
July 5, 1979 Danville suspect