Terror in the Night – My thoughts
Who was the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker? That question has baffled detectives across the state of California since the debut of the suspect in the late 1970’s where he began preying upon the women of Sacramento County. Now thirty years later the case remains unsolved. Now not only do we wonder who he is, but where is he now? Since his assault of Janelle Cruz in 1986, Investigators have been unable to link the offender to an assault. Despite a crusade lead by Detective’s Larry Pool and Larry Crompton to bring closure to this case through continued DNA testing and measures to maintain levels of awareness about this case, there has never been another assault linked conclusively to the same perpetrator. Naturally this leads us to wonder if he is still alive or locked away in a prison somewhere for a lesser charge.
If the latter is true then we may be faced with the terrifying reality that this offender may be due for release back into society and be free to continue his horrific deeds. He would be able to claim the lives of more innocent people. Detective Pool has spent much of his time testing the DNA of many California prisoners in an attempt to unmask the phantom suspect. However those efforts are so far yet to provide the answers sought.
Another possibility speculated in a profile of the offender by the FBI is that the offender is dead by either his own hand or as a result of his crimes. Given the lax nature of gun laws in the United States it is possible that the offender was killed whilst attempting to carry out another offense. Although the profile emphasizes that there is only a small possibility that this is true, I do believe investigators in the counties surrounding the various crime scenes to examine cases of attempted burglaries that resulted in the death of a lone male suspect and finally identify the suspect.
My opinion however, differs from that of most investigators. I freely admit that I hold no qualification in any relevant field and I am in no way affiliated with any law enforcement agency. I am simply offering the conclusions I have reached upon watching countless documentaries and news reports on the case along with reading numerous articles. While I do believe it is possible this offender is dead or in prison, I believe the reality is far more terrifying and that is the suspect is out free amongst society and free to strike again at any moment of his choosing.
Some way wonder if that were the case, Why haven’t we been able to link him to another crime since 1986?. I would simply counter that speculation by referring them to solved cases such as that of BTK, The Green River Killer or even an unsolved case like the Colonial Parkway Murders. The one thing all of these cases have in common is that the offender ceased committing their crimes at some point during the series and disappeared without a trace. I am aware to meet the criteria that of a serial murderer that the crimes must undergo a “cooling off” period between each offense but these offenders stopped committing their crimes completely.
But like these offenders, perhaps the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker underwent a change of circumstances in his personal life that prevented him from carrying out these offenses. Maybe he found another way to satisfy his grizzly urges. But that provides little protection from the frightening truth. The suspect could be somebody’s neighbor, friend, boyfriend, or even husband by now. He could have children or even grandchildren.
All we know is that the suspect was between 5’8 and 5’11 in height, caucasian with an athletic build. The suspect in the Goleta murders also had neatly kept blonde hair in shorter length. After fifty rapes and ten murders that is all the various agencies were able to determine. Despite the various composite sketches of the suspect, credibility of each of them has been doubted over the years as confusion over whether anyone ever actually managed to see his face still continues to this day.
The methods he used to prepare for his offenses such as prowling and breaking into the home prior to striking often suggested he had form of tactical training. The assaults were carried out in almost a stealth like fashion serving as a testament to his ability to remain unidentified during his reign of terror. One may wonder where he received this training and of course he may have done so through simply reading on his own. Of course that is a most plausible solution but I have always suspected that the truth was far more sinister.
After looking into the behavior of the offender and his MO, I have become a big proponent of the already popular theory that the offender was either a member of the local law enforcement agencies or even a member of the armed forces. Could a man entrusted by a community to protect it from such heinous individuals actually be the one committing such acts?. Given the modus operandi of the offender it is highly possible but we may never know.
It was not just the tactical precision in which these crimes were committed that made me wonder about this well-documented theory but also other aspects of the offenders behavior also. During the earlier days of the rapist’s reign of terror, the Sacramento County Police held town meetings to inform the public of the dangers currently lurking within their community. It was at such gatherings that a man who was in disbelief over the actions of the offender made such notions clear by voicing his thoughts to the entire audience.
However the reality of the East Area Rapist would become clear to him soon after the meeting. Approximately one month after he made his disbelief known to those present, The man and his wife became victims of the ghost haunting their community. Now this just may have been an astronomical coincidence, but could the rapist have been present at the meeting? Many have speculated that the rapist attended the meeting to see if the police had any solid information on him and target potential victims, however I feel as if the truth was much worse!
Putting this assault and the behavior of the offender together, I believe it is highly likely that the offender was not at the meeting as a member of the audience but the law enforcement representatives. I highly doubt he spoke at the meeting or was a lead investigator by any measure but perhaps he was a deputy or something along those lines simply standing around observing the room. Then as the meeting concluded he may have followed the man who spoke home in a squad car that would be less likely to arouse suspicion.
A patrol cop would also hold access to information regarding the patrols conducted by the task force dedicated to catching the phantom-like predator. He may have been given access to the routes and areas that the patrol would focus upon then use such information to find gaps in the strategies used. Then he could be free to strike almost at will and right under the nose of law enforcement. What could be even more terrifying is that after committing the sexual assault and fleeing the crime scene, the offender could have been one of the responding patrol officers.
Victims may never have known who the rapist was even if they had heard him speak. Nobody has ever appeared to have ever communicated with the suspect in a normal speaking manner has the all that was ever reported was that the rapist conveyed all of his messages through a hissing-like whisper. Therefore he could have arrived in response to a 911 call after the assault was complete and nobody may have been able to recognize they were dealing with the same individual who had just fled their property. That is just the frightening possibility in it’s worst case scenario.
Personally I do not believe to that to be true but given the mysterious nature of this offender and how much he enjoyed toying with his victims, anything is possible. All I am stating is that I believe the offender had some form of connection to the local law enforcement agencies. A military connection can also not be ruled out given the mobility of the offender as his crimes cover nearly the entire state of California.
The signature diamond knot is known for having usage amongst sailors and other water related activities so perhaps it would be a worthwhile task for investigators to run the established DNA profile of the offender through military databases and through any database featuring profiles of law enforcement officers. I recognize the controversial nature of such a measure but after all these years the victims and their surviving relatives deserve closure by any justifiable means.
I hold the highest levels of respect for those who serve their country and understand their concerns over the invasion of their privacy. However if one were made aware of the reasoning of such a measure, they would surely be willing to allow testing to be undertaken. I realize I am only conveying a theory with limited evidence to support it but the behavior of the suspect and the complex knot he employed.
While I was writing this final piece on this case a reader contacted me offering another theory I felt also had merit. Investigators often noted that houses where the offender struck were either undergoing renovations of some kind or were in the process of being sold. Suggesting that the offender was some kind of tradesman or construction worker also holds legitimacy in that victims often suggested the offender knew the layout of the home and the investigators often find that the crime scene had been prepared ahead of the eventual assault.
Perhaps the offender simply broke into the homes before his return later in the night, or perhaps he studied the layout of the home as he worked on the property and prepared the scene. As one could imagine the sales of security related equipment increased substantially during the East Area Rapist’s horrifying crime spree. The suspect could have been a tradesman who came to install such equipment and in doing so took the time to survey the property. However the only real link I can find to support this theory is that when Cherry Domingo and Greg Sanchez were murdered. The investigators learned that during the previous afternoon the agent showing the property to perspective buyers noticed a gentleman come in and scope out the interior of the house. What the agent didn’t notice however was that the gentleman was likely responsible for the removal of a window screen that was the likely the point of entry of the murderer.
As a point of pure speculation while researching this case I considered the reason the offender made such an effort to conceal his normal speaking voice is that at least some of the victims may have had an earlier encounter with the offender and may have been able to identify him. This would fit perfectly with someone who had some reason to have visited the house previously and interacted with his victims or even a prominent law enforcement officer.
Again this is all still pure my own speculation and the possibilities are endless. The Diamond Knot which became part of his signature has many applications, from dealing with animals to being tied by sailors. The stacking of the dishes on the male victims may stem from child abuse or simply something he discovered on his own when looking for away to restrain the male victim.
Personally I feel as if the theory of the offender having some kind of involvement with law enforcement or the military as having the highest likelihood of being the actual outcome. Many attacks were located in area’s with military installations in nearby suburbs which would provide an offender with a safe haven to escape into. Today the offender could be working in a more senior role amongst the armed forces or law enforcement or even retired such work.
All we can do now is sit back and wonder if the offender is even still alive, we don’t know and we may never know. Larry Pool and Larry Crompton still maintain interest in this case and if anyone who reads this may and feels they have evidence to contribute can still make a difference by contacting the law enforcement agencies in Sacramento County or Orange County. Although the statute of limitations has expired on the rapes meaning the offender can no longer be prosecuted, there is no such statute for the murders.
Hopefully one day someone can finally unmask this cunning and sadistic predator and finally give closure to his many victims and their families. As I conclude I would like to acknowledge those who provided me with the information to write this series of articles: Larry Crompton and his book Sudden Terror, A&E Television’s Cold Case Files Episode #46, THS and MSNBC Investigates documentaries on this case.
One day this man will be found…