In April 2018, 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo was identified as the suspected Golden State Killer – the serial rapist and killer who terrorised California in the 1970s and 1980s, killing at least 12 people and sexually assaulting 51 others.
But decades before his prolific crime spree began, DeAngelo watched two men rape his younger sister, an incident which some say may have led DeAngelo to develop a preoccupation with rape.
DeAngelo was playing with his sister Constance in an abandoned warehouse on an Air Force base in Germany when two airmen walked in and raped her in front of him, Jesse Ryland, one of Constance’s sons told Buzzfeed News.
“That’s pretty crazy for a kid to see his sister be violated… maybe that was the start of Joe going wacko,” said Ryland, 35.
It’s not just DeAngelo’s family that believes the incident may have sparked a fantasy with rape. Ann Wolbert Burgess, a psychiatric nursing professor who has examined serial killers’ backgrounds for the FBI said serial criminals commonly develop a preoccupation with their crime at an early age.
In this instance, it’s possible that DeAngelo, a former police officer, became preoccupied with rape after witnessing the sexual assault, Burgess added.
“Of course that would be significant and could have set the nucleus of the fantasy,” she said. “What probably happened was that it was something that he kept on his mind.”
Police hunted the Golden State Killer for four decades with little luck until they linked DNA from an old crime scene to DeAngelo using GEDmatch, a genealogy website.