Terror in the Night – Part 1
I have always found crime to be fascinating. Following real-world criminal cases has been my hobby for several years now, in particular following those cases involving serial killers. From the “Son of Sam,” to Ted Bundy, or the unsolved “Zodiac murders,” each spate of serial murders has captivated me. I love the endless speculation around “the unsolved,” as a student of criminology I can’t help but want to try and solve these cases myself. Yet serial killings are gory by nature, it is not something that everyone can handle. Yet, I’ve become desensitized to it all, instead of seeing brutal murder I merely see the facts, details and statistics. I view these heinous crimes through the lens of an amateur criminologist, I separate my emotions from the cases and seek out the cold hard facts. I will watch even the most gruesome documentaries, read graphics books, or horrible articles and not flinch at all. It has become second nature to me, I fear not these crimes, nor the criminals that perpetrate them. Instead I look to understand the crimes, the criminals, and perhaps one day solve a case-gone-cold.
That is not to say I feel no sympathy for the victims and their families. I can’t begin to imagine the pain these people go through and hope that in all cases they see justice served. But one case in particular in which I read an article while in bed trying to get some sleep, my favorite hobby had the opposite effect. A cold case involving one of the most prolific criminals in the history of American Jurisprudence. I laid awake for hours after putting down IPhone in fear and the slightest noise outside my bedroom window would make me instill a greater level of fear despite subconsciously knowing there was nothing outside.
He was known as the East Area Rapist and later the Original Night Stalker as time passed and he went uncaught, which sadly gave him time to escalate as many serial offenders do if they are not caught. He would break into homes and prepare them for when he would return and bound both the female target and her partner if present before committing the sexual assault. Through DNA analysis he was linked to approximately fifty rapes in the Sacramento Area and ten horrific homicides across various locations in Southern California.
The most amazing aspect of this case is to me is that a proper suspect has never been developed. Beyond the unknown offender profile developed by the F.B.I, there is little information into who the assailant is or was. It’s been more than twenty years since this offender was last heard from but memories and victims remain. I firmly believe that anything is possible and therefore there must be somebody or something out there that holds the answer to this terrible mystery, even after all this time.
In the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova on a warm summers night a young woman that happened to be home asleep in her bed became the first victim of a masked intruder who would go on to attack numerous other women in the county and its surrounding areas. She awoke from her sleep to find a masked man standing at the end of her bed blinding her with a flash light whilst brandishing a knife. The man never spoke a word, he simply communicated his evil intentions through whispering to his victims. He proceeded to bind his victim before committing the sexual assault using items he took from her closet before he commenced the sexual assault.
The victim was bound so tight that the blood circulation in her body was cut off through the use of a special type of diamond-knot that would later become the offenders signature used to link him to a vast array of other offenses. He would linger in the house even after the sexual assault was complete and the victim would not freed until law enforcement arrived the next morning. This offender would also help himself to other items around the house by rummaging through the victims belongings.
When law enforcement took the victims statement, she reported that she felt she was being watched as a suspicious vehicle was appearing in the neighborhood on a regular basis and every time she would look to take note of the driver he would conceal his appearance. She also reported that she had been receiving mysterious phone calls where upon answering the call the person on the other end of the line would say nothing and simply end the call after a brief moment or two. However she believed that she was just being paranoid and had nothing to worry about. Even on the night of the attack she received one of these mysterious calls and checked all the doors in the house just to be sure they were locked.
Police later discovered that the attacker had entered through a side window as they checked out the crime scene. The only piece of evidence they could really utilize at the time however was that the suspect was caucasian because when he entered the bedroom where the victim was sleeping she caught a glimpse of his bare legs through the blinding flashlight. She also noted he was approximately 5’9 and that his mask fit tightly while having no nose or mouth holes. Sadly that description would continue while his crimes escalated and perfected his craft.
The attacker began breaking into homes prior to his offense to prepare them for his eventual return. Police would find window screens removed, guns unloaded and phone lines cut by the offender before returning during the night. Detectives also theorized that the rapist would surveil his victims before hand in order to gain insight into their movements in order to further ensure the success of his attacks. The crimes intensified to the degree where the presence of a man or other individuals in the house did not deter this attacker. One might suggest that the presence of multiple individuals at the scene would only further the thrill that this offender gained from the experience.
The Crimes Continue
Over the course of the first months of these attacks the East Area Rapist claimed eight victims in the various suburbs surrounding California’s capital. However the seventh and eight victims were both claimed on the same day which prompted law enforcement to finally inform the general public as to what had been going on in their local community. It did not take long for an intense level of panic to grip local communities such as Rancho Cordova, Carmichael and Citrus Heights. Police began warning the local population to ensure that their homes were secure before going to bed each night and urged women not to spend nights alone wherever possible.
Community meetings were held in order inform the community meetings in order to dispel the extensive speculation and rampant rumors that were being generated by the attacks thus far. Up until now the attacks had been somewhat of an urban legend due to the police enforced news blackout. The gossip included bizarre claims such as the attacker cutting off ears, fingers and even the nipples from his victims breasts. However the police had been reluctant to address these rumors previously due to a lack of evidence in each case leaving them with nothing to really relay to the public.
The paranoia amongst the local population was also accompanied by intense anger towards law enforcement stemming from the widespread disbelief that an individual could commit such actions and leave almost no trail. In particular a man stood up at one of the town meetings stood up and claimed that he did not believe these attacks could not be happening the way they were being reported and proclaimed he would be prepared for the rapist had he broke into his house. However within in a month after that specific meeting, that man and his wife became victims of the East Area Rapist.
Many came to wonder if the rapist had been present during the meeting since many serial offenders before him, seemed to follow the media coverage of his crimes and altered his behavior accordingly. When it was disclosed that the all of his previous victims had been alone or had been home without the presence of an adult male to combat the offender, the offender modified his MO. In the Spring of 1977, the offender claimed his first couple in the Orangevale area. The offender woke the female and forced her to wake her partner before bounding them with his signature diamond-knot.
Apart from the sexual assault, the rapist lingered in the house for hours. He would consume food stored in the house while chewing loudly enough to ensure that his victims would hear it. Throughout the night he would return to wear the female victim was lying to further terrorize them and remind them that they were still his hostage. Upon his eventual departure from the scene the victims were left still bound inside their own home under the threat that if he heard any noise from the victims in an attempted to escape then everyone in the house would be killed.
When the authorities arrived the next morning they were shocked to realize that a male had been home while the offender had struck. A canvas of the area also turned up very little just like in all of the previous East Area Rapist cases. However a witness did come forward stating that after being woken her dog bark at approximately 6AM and upon checking what her dog was barking at she took note of a dark colored car leaving the area and reported that it also had a heavy exhaust but failed to see the driver.
However a Police bloodhound picked up the scent of the attacker and managed to follow it three blocks before it lost the scent. This attack however gave credence to the speculation that the offender was a member of the local law enforcement as another neighbor reported noticing what they thought was a police officer near the victims home weeks prior. When questioned about such an encounter, the victim said she had never spoken to a police officer.
As more of the neighbors were questioned, the police were told by a neighbor that their house had been burglarized approximately two months prior. Despite reporting the incident to the authorities, nobody turned up to investigate the incident further. While another neighbor reported chasing a prowler around the same time out of her backyard and over some fences before losing him. All of the neighbors gave the same description of the suspect: 5’9 or 5’10, Athletic Build and between the ages of 25 and 30 years of age. There was no doubt in the minds of the detectives, this was the East Area Rapist.
The Attacker adds a new Signature – 4/15/77
Almost two weeks after the rapist attacked his first couple, the suspect added a new signature to his already twisted MO. The offender broke into a home in the Crestview area of Sacramento and after tying up both of the victims, he stacked a number of dishes on the male victims back and told him that if he heard a rattle in the dishes he would kill his partner. While his partner was being sexually assaulted in another room, the male tried to loosen the bindings in order to give himself some relief from the extreme pressure the rapist had applied in binding him.
Upon hearing the rattle of the dishes, the rapist returned to the room and placed a gun to the victims head whilst providing one final warning that if he heard another rattle of the dishes he would not only kill his partner, but him as well. This providing police with evidence that the offender was not only becoming smarter in his offenses but he was also escalating in the level of violence committed in his crimes.
The Rapist Vanishes – 5/17/77
It was the dawning hours of the 17th of May when the East Area Rapist assaulted a couple in the Del Dayo area of Carmichael, California. This time however, he raised the level of fear in the community exponentially. During the assault, through his trademark clenched teeth whispering, he told the victims to let law enforcement know he could have killed two people that night and that if he didn’t hear that in the press the next day that he would kill two people the following night.
The man lingered in the house for hours, cooking food while conveying the usual taunts and threats of murder if he heard a single noise. After entering through the sliding door at the back of the house, the MO of the event given to police upon their arrival mirrored that of the twenty previous victims to almost every detail. The well documented 5’9 approximation, athletic build, caucasian appearance and occasional stutter in his voice were reported once again.
A week later he struck again, only this time he told his victims that his threat to kill his next two victims if he heard absolutely anything about this latest attack from the media. However by this stage the police patrols in the Sacramento area organized by the task force that had been established to catch this menacing offender. These patrols garnered much media attention and helped in generating various rewards for information leading to an arrest.
However, the best break in the case may have come after the police were finally able to piece together the numerous witness accounts, the Sacramento police were able to release a composite sketch of the suspect. Coupled with the exhaustive police patrols, this was believed to not only have force the suspect out of the local area but the reason for his disappearance all together for the entire summer period.
A Summer of Speculation – Summer 1977
Not a single attack over the period was attributed to the suspect and of course the speculation as to what had happened began. Did someone kill him during an attack? As one could imagine the fear the rapist put into the community lead to huge jump in the demand for security equipment. Gun sales jumped almost thirty percent in some areas and some began to question whether or not the rapist had been killed during a burglary and nobody had made the connection.
It was also suggested by elements of the population and media members that the rapist was a member of law enforcement and that the investigators had been reluctant to make an arrest and allowed him to continue his attacks. This theory was reported in a number of news outlets and gained credibility due to the MO of the perpetrator. The precision of his break-ins, the binding of the victims and how it was widely believed he was stalking the victims before his eventual assault. But this speculation played into the police holding town meetings in order to dispel such gossip.
However the public’s fear and anger aided the rapist in his crime spree. While responding to one of the assaults in Rancho Cordova, a witness reported that she saw a man wearing ski-mask and going around the side of the house across the street but failed to report the sighting as she knew the rapist was in the community. This was arguably the best chance yet the police had to apprehend the suspect but due to the fear instilled in the public, it was lost.
Leads on potential suspects continued to flood authorities but one by one they were eliminated by police. Women would report suspicious vehicles watching their homes but in cases where the police managed to track down the owner of the car, it turned up as a dead end. Reports of prowling had continually occurred since the beginning of the rapist’s crime spree, fueling the paranoia throughout the community.
All the police managed to surmise this far was that the rapist would stalk his victims for a period of times to establish their movements. He would break into homes and prepare to the crime scene and in one case he unloaded a gun in the bedroom of his eventual victims. In many of the cases police would find window screens removed and theorized the rapist would also use this time to study the layout of the house.
Many of the detectives involved in the case grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress they were able to give the communities affected. However this was also the reason for the lack of initial disclosure about the case as the officers investigating the case had no solid information to convey to the public. But as summer progressed, nobody was able to forget about the man who had come to be known as the East Area Rapist.
To be continued…