(CN) – Investigators in a rural California county on Monday tacked on another murder charge against the 72-year-old former police officer dubbed the Golden State Killer, now accused of 13 murders in five counties.
Officials believe Joseph James DeAngelo killed 45-year-old Claude Snelling during a home invasion in the city of Visalia in 1975. DeAngelo, who was working as a police officer at a nearby Central Valley town at the time of the killing, now faces murder counts in Tulare, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Orange counties.
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward says investigators nabbed DeAngelo through “good old fashioned” police tactics and credited DeAngelo’s arrest this past April in Sacramento County with helping to end the 43-year-old Visalia cold case. Ward claims DeAngelo is the only suspect and that he killed Snelling with a gun stolen during a separate burglary.
“To think that the crimes that now we see from the charges filed across the state, may have originated in our quaint quiet wonderful little town is quite startling,” Ward told reporters. “But with this filing, we have officially linked the Visalia Ransacker to be the same individual known as the East Area Rapist and tragically the Golden State Killer.”
Sacramento County officers arrested DeAngelo in April, saying they had ended a decades-long manhunt by recovering DeAngelo’s “discarded” DNA while conducting surveillance of his suburban home. Investigators say they found the “needle in a haystack” by matching the suspect’s decades-old crime scene DNA to data uploaded to a Florida-based genealogy company called GEDmatch.
According to police, DeAngelo broke into hundreds of homes and brutally raped dozens of women during his statewide crime spree.
The case has been featured in documentaries, podcasts and the best-selling book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer,” by Michelle McNamara.
Snelling, a former journalism professor, died while protecting his 16-year-old daughter. Police claim DeAngelo was wearing a ski mask when he fatally shot Snelling twice and that he likely staked out the home prior to breaking in.
Snelling’s daughter Elizabeth Hupp said her father died a hero.
“I heard a yell and saw my dad charge out the back door,” Hupp told the Visalia Times Delta. “[The kidnapper] threw me down and shot my dad twice. Then he pointed the gun at me.”
While DNA evidence played a critical role in DeAngelo’s April arrest, Tulare officials attributed Monday’s breakthrough to “good old fashioned” police work.
“The science and the DNA played less of a role here as did good old fashioned tenacious dedicated police work,” Ward said.
The Vietnam War veteran is currently awaiting trial in Sacramento and is next due in court in September. DeAngelo is suspected of numerous other Tulare County crimes during the 1970s including attempted murder of a peace officer, but charges can’t be filed in those cases because the statute of limitations has expired.