SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – He’s been called one of the most prolific criminals in our state’s history, striking first in Sacramento. And he’s never been captured. The FBI and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department detectives released new sketches and upped the reward to $50,000.
CBS13 is looking at the crime spree that shocked so many.
Chances are–you’ve heard of the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. But do you know about the rapist and killer is known as the “original night stalker”? He terrorized Sacramento and beyond in the late 1970’s and 80’s. And to this day, he has yet to be found.”
“The top here — all the way to the bottom — these are all E.A.R.,” said Sgt. Paul Belli, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau supervisor.
There’s more than one binder or box of evidence inside the Sacramento County Sheriffs cold case unit that’s labelled with the acronym E.A.R. because the “East Area rapist” has far more than one victim.
“He had quite a few strikes — sometimes twice a month,” said Belli.
It began in June of 1976 on Paseo Drive in a Rancho Cordova neighborhood. A man between the ages of 19 to his early 20s snuck into a woman’s home in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted her.
One month later, he would go across the American River and strike again, this time raping a teenage girl in a Carmichael neighborhood. Sadly he had only just begun. The following month he would go back to the area of his reported attack. This time his victim escaped.
But six days later in Carmichael the predator would strike again. Four more rapes occurred in October of 1976 in Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Carmichael, and again in Rancho Cordova.
The manhunt was on, and police sketch artists put pencil to paper.
“There are number of composites out there that are different but many of them have a lot of the same features,” said.
Again, it was a white male 19 to early 20s. He wore blue athletic shoes, would oftentimes wear a mask, and would always carry a gun, knife or both. His method of operation was the same: getting in through an unlocked door or window, or jimmying a lock open. To wake-up his victims, he would shine a flashlight in their eyes as he stood at the foot of their bed. His target was women who lived alone at first.
“There was a point in his series where he actually switched to attacking couples,” said.
He always used brand-new shoe strings and would order his female victim to tie-up her partner.
“Then, putting the man face-down he would stack dishes on his back and take his victim to another room, threatening to kill her if he heard those dishes rattle,” said.
Even more chilling is an answering machine message he allegedly left for one of his victims the day after he sexually assaulted her, whispering, “I will kill you.”
Cold case detectives believe this is the voice of the east area rapist.
How close was he ever to getting caught?
“There were several times in the series where he was close. Unfortunately, officers were giving chase but were unable to catch him,” said Belli.
He proved to be so elusive, in part, because the areas in which he struck had something in common: They were in open spaces with trails and fields to make a quick getaway.
“In the Rancho Cordova area you have waterways, you have various ditches that lead out to the parkway, they run behind homes…things of that nature,” said Belli. “He certainly likes that type of an area.”
And, using the words from this Sacramento Bee headline, he would “toy with investigators” and his victims. In fact, detectives believe this guy would actually attend some of the emergency town hall meetings held during his crime spree, looking for the next person to attack.
In one of those meetings held at Mira Loma High School one man stood up and was especially vocal, questioning why this rapist hadn’t been captured. A few weeks later, that man was tied-up and his wife was sexually assaulted. Police believe the suspect was the East Area rapist who was about to become a cold-blooded killer.
In February 1978 near a well-kept neighborhood in Rancho Cordova, husband and wife Brian and Katie Maggiorri saw a suspicious person on their property.
“Brian and Katie Maggiorri stumbled upon him and they were both shot in the backyard of a home,” said Belli.
He would rape nine more victims in the months that followed. He would strike in concord and Fremont, leaving behind the telltale signs of his attacks.
“In going over his method of operation, the things that he did during the incident, we’re satisfied that he is the east area rapist,” said Belli.
Investigators believe he sexually assaulted close to 50 women in the Bay Area and Sacramento from June of 1976 to July of 1979.
“It’s interesting to me that it isn’t as publicized, I think, as I would expect it to be,” said Belli.
It got more publicity when this serial rapist made his next move.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t realize the East Area rapist went on to essentially rape and murder many people throughout the state of California,” he said.
He killed 10 people first in Santa Barbara County, then Orange County. DNA evidence from those murders proved it was the same suspect who had raped so many women.
“So that they now know that all of those cases are linked,” he said.
If he’s still alive, the East Area rapist would be in his 60s. If you know anything about these crimes, investigators want to hear from you. In fact, they asked us to pass along a special message to any victims from decades ago: Come in and review your initial statement in hopes that there is something there to re-ignite this case and lead to the person responsible.