SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Defendant Joe DeAngelo was handcuffed to his wheelchair in court Friday, making his hands difficult to see.

He does have a unique feature on one of his hands never reported by any surviving victims of the East Area Rapist.

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He is missing part of his ring finger. It’s an old wartime injury.

When DeAngelo joined the Navy he was sent to Vietnam where he served on a ship that came under attack. Tasked with damage control, DeAngelo was shoring up a hole when he sliced part of his ring finger off.

The battle scar became one of DeAngelo’s distinguishing features when he came home from the war, first working as a police officer.

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But for all the years investigators collected witness descriptions of the East Area Rapist, they never got a report of an attacker missing a fingertip.

The East Area Rapist always made sure he always wore gloves.

Investigators say it’s one indicator how meticulous the serial killer was in covering his tracks.

In this first court appearance as the defendant accused in the case, Joe DeAngelo’s hands were bound to his wheelchair, his ring finger tucked under an armrest.

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If only those hands had been seen by a single victim. Would the arrest of the East Area Rapist, have been so long in the making?