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A Tissue And A Swab From A Car Door Handle Is How Investigators Got The Golden State Killer Suspect

Newly released documents show how investigators identified Joseph James DeAngelo as the suspected serial killer and rapist who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.

Posted on June 1, 2018, at 7:25 p.m. ET

Paul Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP

Court documents released Friday show DNA evidence collected from a piece of tissue and a car door handle linked the suspected Golden State Killer to a decades-old killing and rape rampage.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet unsealed parts of the arrest and search warrants for Joseph James DeAngelo, the man suspected of killing a dozen people and committing at least 51 rapes and more than 120 burglaries across the state between 1974 and 1986.

A list of items seized from DeAngelo's Citrus Heights home, however, was not released and portions of the documents that deal with the rapes were redacted.

DeAngelo, 72, faces 12 counts of murder in Sacramento, Ventura, Orange, and Santa Barbara counties. He has not been charged in any of the rapes because the statute of limitations for those crimes expired.

Sweet said releasing details about the sexual assaults could result in the "dissemination of inaccurate or inadmissible information," and prejudice the jury.

"No right ranks higher than the right of the accused to a fair trial," Sweet said. "These overriding interests support sealing portions of this record."

DeAngelo, an ex-cop and Navy veteran, was arrested April 24 after investigators linked him to DNA from the crime scenes using a genealogical website, ending the decades-long search for the prolific killer.

The portions of the documents that were released include summaries of the attacks and information about how investigators ultimately connected DeAngelo to the crimes, though only one line in the affidavits mentions how investigators used a relative's information on a genealogical site to locate DeAngelo.

"Subsequent investigation into the family lineage led to identifying Joseph James DeAngelo ... as a potential suspect," the documents state.

Investigators conducted surveillance on DeAngelo for several days before his arrest, collecting two DNA samples that matched DNA retrieved from the scene of the double homicide of Lyman and Charlene Smith in Ventura County in March 1980.

The first sample came from DeAngelo's car door handle using a swab while the vehicle was parked at the Hobby Lobby store in Roseville on April 18, according to the documents.

The second was collected from a piece of tissue investigators took from the trash can outside DeAngelo's house April 23.

The release of the documents came after multiple media outlets filed a motion to unseal the warrants and supporting affidavits, along with lists of property seized from DeAngelo's Citrus Heights home during the investigation.

"The press, the public, and the victims deserve an open proceeding and to have a better understanding of how this case came to be charged," media attorney Duffy Carolan said Tuesday during a hearing on the motion.

DeAngelo's defense attorneys argued that unsealing all of the documents could taint the jury pool and witnesses' memories. Prosecutors said they were seeking to redact only personal identifying information of the victims, witnesses, law enforcement, and DeAngelo himself.

The three parties spent hours in a closed session in the court debating what should be removed from the warrants before they were released to the public.

DeAngelo is due back in court July 12.

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