By Macy Jenkins

STOCKTON (CBS13) – Two couples in Stockton breathed a sigh of relief after learning that Joseph DeAngelo, known as the East Area Rapist, is behind bars.

“It was a day I had wished for over 40 years,” said Gay Hardwick. “I especially prayed that I would see him brought to justice in my lifetime.”

Gay and her husband Bob Hardwick recount the horrific night in March 1978. The young couple had just gone to sleep in their Stockton home after a Friday night out on the town.

“We were awakened around 11:30 at night by a bright light and a mean voice,” Gay recalled. “He put a gun to my husband’s head and said if I didn’t tie him up and tie him up tightly that he would kill him.”

After Hardwick tied up her husband, the attacker tied her up, took her to another room and raped her.

“There was no doubt in my mind that our lives were hanging by a thread,” Hardwick said. “And we, of course, connected that this might possibly be the same criminal from Sacramento, now in our Stockton home.”

It’s one of two identical attacks Stockton Police Department has been investigating since 1977. Detectives created a special task force in the late ’70s to gather details about the suspect.

“His two brutal crimes left many in our community fearful and our police department on high alert,” said Eric Jones, Stockton Police Chief. “The method of operations, or MOs, were the same or are consistent with the criminal behavior of the East Area Rapist.”

Jones says both cases remain open but he hopes DeAngelo’s arrest is the final piece of the puzzle the department needs to finally bring them to a close.

“It appears at this time, there is no physical evidence located that would link the arrested suspect to our two cases,” Jones said.

Determined to get a fresh start, the Hardwicks moved to a new home and married the year after their attack.

“I loved her then as much as I love her today,” Bob told CBS13.

And four decades after that terrible night, Gay said she looks forward to facing her attacker in court.

“I hope I can stand up and tell him that he didn’t destroy my life and like many others who survived him, went on to have a good life,” she said.

The Hardwicks leave for their first trip to Paris together on Thursday, celebrating 39 years of marriage.

“I’m going to leave feeling a lot more freedom than I’ve felt in 40 years,” Gay said.

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