Original Night Stalker
|The Original Night Stalker|
Police sketch of the suspect
|Other names||The East Area Rapist
The Diamond Knot Killer
The Golden State Killer
|Victims||10–13 (murder victims)
50+ (rape victims)
Span of killings
|December 30, 1979 – May 4, 1986|
The Original Night Stalker is the name given to an unidentified serial killer and rapist who murdered at least ten people in Southern California from 1979 through 1986. The crimes initially centered on East Sacramento where at least fifty women were sexually assaulted between June 18, 1976, and July 5, 1979. The perpetrator was dubbed The East Area Rapist. In 2001, the Northern California rapes were linked by DNA to murders in Southern California.
California law enforcement authorities estimate fifty rapes in Sacramento County and Contra Costa County were committed by the Original Night Stalker. DNA evidence links him to ten murders in Goleta, Ventura, Dana Point, and Irvine, California. investigators suspect at least three other murders were committed by the Original Night Stalker.
Method of operation
The Sacramento East Area Rapist is believed to have begun as a burglar, only later committing rapes. His modus operandi was to stalk middle class neighborhoods at night looking for women who lived in single-story homes. He was spotted on a number of occasions, but would immediately bolt out of the area. On one occasion, a youth who closely pursued him was shot and seriously wounded. Most victims had seen or heard a prowler on their property before the attacks, and many had suffered break-ins. Police believed the offender had a pattern of using reconnaissance on the houses of victims before the day of the crime.
The criminal initially sought out women who were alone, but later began to target couples. Typically he entered a house at night, woke the occupants, and threatened them with a handgun. All victims were bound with ligatures that the criminal brought to the crime scene. The female victim was made to tie up her male companion with bootlaces before being tied up herself. The perpetrator was believed to use a bicycle to travel to and from the attacks. A masked bicycle rider chased by a policeman in the early hours of the morning is believed to have been the rapist. The suspect left the bike and made off when spotted. During the subsequent foot-chase across back yards, he vaulted a series of fences and shook off the pursuit.
Murders in Southern California (Goleta, Ventura, Dana Point, and Irvine, California) were not initially thought to be connected. One Sacramento detective strongly believed the East Area Rapist was responsible for the Goleta attacks, but at first the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department attributed them to a local career criminal who had himself subsequently been murdered. Investigating the crimes that did not occur in Goleta caused local police to follow false leads related to men who had been close to the female victims. One suspect, later acknowledged to be innocent, was charged with two murders. Linking all of the cases together was achieved almost entirely by DNA testing, which was not done until many years later.
- On October 1, 1979, an intruder broke in and tied up a Goleta couple. The attacker alarmed them by chanting "I'm going to kill them" to himself. When he left the room, the man and then the woman made attempts to escape during which the woman screamed. Realizing the alarm had been raised, the intruder fled. A neighbor, who was an FBI agent, responded to the noise and pursued the perpetrator, who abandoned the bike he was on and fled on foot through local back yards. The attacker also abandoned a knife at this point. The attack was later linked physically to the Offerman-Manning murders (see below) by shoeprints and the same roll of twine being used to bind the victims.
- On December 30, 1979, Dr. Robert Offerman, 44, and Debra Alexandra Manning, 35, were found shot dead in bed at Offerman's condominium on Avendida Pequena in Goleta. The bindings on Offerman were untied, indicating he had apparently lunged at the attacker. Neighbors heard the gunshots but failed to respond to them, attributing them to innocuous causes. The killer brought a white German Shepherd Dog (with a missing toe) with him and fed it leftover Christmas turkey from the victims' home. The killer also broke into the adjoining residence, to the west of the crime scene, which was vacant at the time, and stole a bicycle. The bicycle was later found abandoned on a street to the north of the crime scene.
- On March 13, 1980, Charlene Smith, 33, and Lyman Smith, 43, who was about to be appointed a Judge, were found murdered in their home in Ventura. A log from the fireplace was used to bludgeon both the victims to death. Their wrists and ankles had been bound with a drapery cord. An unusual Chinese knot, known as the diamond knot, was used on their wrists.
- On August 19, 1980, Keith Harrington, 24, and Patrice Harrington, 27, were found bludgeoned to death in their home on Cockleshell Drive in the Niguel Shores gated community in Dana Point. Although there was evidence that the Harringtons were bound at the wrist and ankles, no ligatures, or murder weapon, were found at the scene. The Harringtons had been married for three months at the time of their deaths. Patrice was a nurse in Irvine, while Keith was a medical student at the University of California, Irvine. Keith Harrington's brother later spent $2 million supporting California Proposition 69 (2004).
- On February 6, 1981, Manuela Witthuhn, 28, was murdered in her home in Irvine. Again, while the body showed signs of being tied before being bludgeoned, no ligatures, or murder weapon, were found at the scene. The victim was married, but her husband was recuperating from an illness in the hospital; thus she was alone at the time of the attack. A lamp and crystal curio were removed from her house, presumably by the killer. Also, detectives remarked that Mrs. Witthuhn's television was found in the backyard, which was possibly the killer's attempt to make it appear as a botched robbery.
- On July 26/27, 1981, Cheri Domingo, 35, and Gregory Sanchez, 27, were bludgeoned to death in the Domingo home on Toltec Way in Goleta, several blocks south of the Offerman-Manning crime scene, with a tool taken from a small shed in the backyard. Sanchez was also shot, but not tied up. Police thought Sanchez may have realized he was dealing with the man responsible for the murder of Offerman and Manning, and made a desperate attempt to tackle the killer rather than be tied up. As in the Offerman-Manning case, no neighbors responded to the sound of the gunshot. The killer's dog was also present at this crime scene.
- On May 4, 1986, Janelle Lisa Cruz, 18, was found bludgeoned to death in her Irvine home. Her family was on vacation in Mexico at the time of the attack. A pipe wrench was reported missing by Cruz' stepfather and was thought to be the probable murder weapon.
The Visalia Ransacker was the name given to the perpetrator of a bizarre burglary spree with several similarities to the later East Area Rapist break-ins in Sacramento. However, it is not certain that the Visalia and Sacramento crimes were committed by the same man. On September 11, 1975, Claude Snelling, a journalism professor at the College of the Sequoias, was shot dead while foiling an attempt to kidnap his daughter from the family home in the middle of the night. On December 12, 1975, a police officer on a night stakeout at a residence where traces of a prowler had been found attempted to arrest a masked man breaking into the residence. After the officer fired a warning shot, the suspect feigned surrender and fired back at the officer, temporarily blinding him. Other police officers were quickly on the scene but the prowler escaped by doubling back through the pursuit before a cordon was established. The burglary spree ceased in Visalia after the incident; the East Area Rapist began attacking victims in Sacramento County at about the same time.
Brian and Katie Maggiore
On the night of February 2, 1978, a young Sacramento couple, Brian and Katie Maggiore, were walking their dog in the Rancho Cordova area, close to where several East Area Rapist attacks had taken place. A confrontation in the street caused the couple to flee, but they were chased down and shot dead. Some investigators suspected the couple had been murdered by the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker due to the location, and the fact that bootlaces were found at the scene.
Detectives connect the crimes
Even prior to 2001's connection of the Original Night Stalker to the East Area Rapist, some law enforcement officials, particularly several from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, sought to link the Goleta cases separately to the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker. These postulated links were considered primarily due to similarity in modus operandi. One of the already linked Original Night Stalker double murders did take place in Ventura, California, 40 miles east of Goleta, while the remaining murders took place in Orange County, California, an additional 90 miles to the southeast. In 2000, an official from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office claimed that DNA found at a Goleta crime scene did not match that found in the linked Original Night Stalker crimes. However, not all of the seminal fluid or hair samples from the Goleta crimes have been preserved. Nevertheless, in 2011, DNA evidence proved that the Domingo-Sanchez murders (and the presence of the killer's dog at the Offerman-Manning murders) were committed by the Original Night Stalker.
Throughout the course of the investigation into the Original Night Stalker murders, the following persons were suspected of committing the crimes, only to be determined to not be the culprit:
- Brett Glasby – From Goleta, California, who was killed in Mexico in 1982. Glasby's death, prior to the murder of Janelle Cruz, eliminates him as a suspect.
- Paul "Cornfed" Schneider – A high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. Schneider is a career criminal who was living in Orange County, California, when the murders of the Harringtons, Manuela Witthuhn, and Janelle Cruz occurred. In the late 1990s, while serving time at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, Schneider provided a DNA sample to authorities. This sample cleared him as the Original Night Stalker.
- Joe Alsip – A business partner of the victim Lyman Smith. Alsip was a friend of the Smiths and visited their home on High Point Drive in Ventura the day before the murders. Alsip's pastor claimed that he had confessed to him, during a family counseling session, but this confession was considered dubious by the Ventura County District Attorney's Office. Nevertheless, Alsip was arraigned for the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith in 1982. After the preliminary hearing, however, all charges against him were dropped.
It would not be until 1996 when DNA testing came on-line that the murders would be linked.
In November 2002, journalist Colleen Cason wrote a newspaper series about the Original Night Stalker murders for the Ventura County Star. According to Cason's articles, Detective Larry Pool of the Orange County Sheriff's Department visited California's Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in an attempt to locate the Original Night Stalker. Detective Pool suspected that the Original Night Stalker had been captured and sentenced to death for some other violent crime. Nevertheless, none of the genetic samples collected from Death Row inmates at San Quentin matched the DNA of the Original Night Stalker.
After criminologists matched serological evidence found at the southern California murder scenes, a psychological profile of the Original Night Stalker was compiled. According to Leslie D'Ambrosia, who was the primary author of the profile, it's likely that the Original Night Stalker would possess the following characteristics:
- White male
- Emotional age of 26 to 30 at the time the crimes were committed
- Likely began as a voyeur in his late teens or early twenties
- Lived and/or worked near Ventura, California, in 1980
- Had some means of income, but did not work in the early morning hours
- Drove a well-maintained car
- Dressed well and would not stand out in upscale neighborhoods
- Would appear harmless
- Intelligent and articulate
- Neat and well-organized in his personal life
- Possibly unmarried and did not enter into long-term relationships
- Would have been described by those who knew him as arrogant, domineering, manipulative, and a chronic liar
- Had some knowledge of police investigative methods and evidence-gathering techniques
- Was a skilled and experienced cat burglar and may have begun that way
- Was in good physical condition
- Had a criminal record as a teenager that was expunged
- Engaged in sex with prostitutes
- Peeped into the windows of many potential victims who were not attacked
- Engaged in deviant paraphilic behavior and brutal sex in his personal life
- Sexually functional and capable of ejaculation with consenting and non-consenting partners
- Self-assured and confident in his abilities
- Hated women for real or perceived wrongs
- Would continue committing violent crimes until incapacitated by prison, death, or some other intervention
- If married, probably has a submissive spouse who tolerated his sexually deviant behavior
In addition to describing the characteristics of the Original Night Stalker, the profile also speculates about the fate of the killer. According to the profile, the Original Night Stalker could have been incarcerated following Janelle Cruz's murder or killed in the commission of a similar crime. (However, the last known contact with the Original Night Stalker was in 1991 when he made a taunting phone call to one of his victims.) As to the latter point, the profile indicates that law enforcement agencies should look into attempted "hot prowl burglaries" in the late 1980s that resulted in the death of a lone male offender. The profile also indicates that there is a slight chance the Original Night Stalker committed suicide; furthermore, it is speculated that it is unlikely that he is confined in a mental institution.
The profile reveals that following the original homicides in this series, teletypes were broadcast to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. These teletypes requested information on similar home invasion attacks involving sexual assault, murder, bludgeoning, multiple victims, and/or bondage. As of 2011, no similar crimes have been reported in the United States. The profile propounds the possibility, however, that the Original Night Stalker could have continued committing his crimes in another country where records were not consulted for linkage purposes.
As a psychological profile is based on a probabilistic analysis, its accuracy cannot be assessed before the offender has been apprehended.
The Original Night Stalker/East Area Rapist case was the motivating factor in the passage of legislation leading to the establishment of California's DNA database, which authorizes the collection of the DNA of all the accused and convicted felons in California. California's DNA data retrieval and storage program is considered by researchers to be second only to Virginia's in size and effectiveness in solving cold cases. While the California DNA database motivated by this case has solved numerous previously unsolved cold cases across the country, the original case remains unsolved.
- Delroy Easton Grant, a serial rapist who operated in London during the 1990s and 2000s, sometimes referred to by the British media as the "Night Stalker"
- Richard Ramirez, a serial killer based in Los Angeles, whose murder spree in California in the mid-1980s led to him being known as the "Night Stalker"
- Hallissy, Erin; Goodyear, Charlie (April 4, 2001). "DNA Links '70s 'East Area Rapist' to Serial Killings". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Cold Case Files, "The Original Nightstalker" - (Episode #46), A&E Network, most recent broadcast March 20, 2009
- Crompton, Larry (August 2, 2010). Sudden Terror. ISBN 1452052417.
- "EAR/BK MASTER TIMELINE" (PDF).
- May 06, 2011 Los Angeles Times
- Los Angeles Magazine, Feb 27, 2013 In the Footsteps of a Killer
- Wayne Wilson, "Link to East Area Rapist Probed in Couples’ Slaying," Sacramento Bee, February 26, 1980, p. B1; Wayne Wilson, "Police Debate Tie Between East Area Rapist, Killings," Sacramento Bee, March 13, 1980.
- Dawn Hobbs, "Serial Link Explored in Old Murders: Goleta, Orange County Cases Similar," Santa Barbara News-Press, October 3, 2000.
- 30-year-old slayings of Goleta couple linked to serial killer
- Website devoted to East Area Rapist-Original Night Stalker's capture
- Arts & Entertainment Channel's COLD CASE FILES program #46 about Original Night Stalker
- A website devoted to this and related cases debuted in 2006 and features maps and documents related to the cases
- A Los Angeles magazine article describing the case in detail (includes numerous photos and maps)
- Discussion Board about the East Area Rapist-Original Night Stalker-Golden State Killer