A man who haunted Southern California for a solid decade from 1976 to 1986 is now reportedly within police custody, according to the FBI on Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, a press conference on the suspected Golden State Killer's arrest took place — on National DNA Day, no less. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said, "It is fitting that today is National DNA Day."
According to authorities, the Golden State Killer — known also as East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker — committed at least 12 homicides and 45 rapes but was never caught. Police say they arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo on two counts of murder in the early hours of April 25 thanks, in part, to DNA evidence. "The answer has always been in Sacramento," Schubert said, "The magnitude of this case demanded that it be solved."
During the press conference, officials said the arrest was the result of multiple organizations cooperating across county lines, DNA, and media attention. But much of the public became aware of the case thanks to late true-crime author Michelle McNamara's book. Titled I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, McNamara's tome is widely credited with keeping the case in the spotlight.
But the timing of the arrest made by the Sacramento police did not go unnoticed either. On Twitter, social media users picked up on the significance of April 25 and commented at the remarkable coincidence. One Twitter user wrote, "[The Sacramento police] caught the 'Golden State Killer' with DNA on National DNA Day. LOVE to see it." Another Twitter user enthused, "Golden State Killer arrested on National DNA Day due to DNA testing is so f***ing amazing."
During the press conference, Bruce Harrington spoke about the importance of using DNA forensic technology in tracking murderers and absolving innocent people who may have been ensnared in the investigation. According to the Associated Press, Harrington's brother and sister-in-law were killed in 1980 by the "Original Night Stalker," according to the LA Times, one of the Garden State Killer's many nicknames. On Wednesday, with the revelation that the Golden State Killer suspect had been arrested, Harrington said it was time to "bring closure to the anguish that we all suffered for the last 40 odd years."
He started off by acknowledging the people killed and raped by the Golden State Killer. "To the entire of reservoir of victims out there, my sadness is with you. For the 51 ladies who were brutally raped in his crime scenes, sleep better tonight. He is not coming through the window. He is in jail and he's history," Harrington said.
"Today is also a reaffirmation of the power and the public safety that is associated with forensic DNA technology. I began my quest in the mid-90s when the DNA came of force into the world of forensic science. My brother and his wife were killed in . So, it was 15 years until we finally heard that was a DNA sample taken from our crime scene," Harrington said at the Wednesday press conference.
Harrington called attention to a state-level act that he said locals needed to support in order strengthen DNA forensic studies. The bill is called the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018, which calls to expand DNA studies to improve forensic science. He said that states like Virginia and other East Coast areas were "light years" ahead of California at the time in terms of using DNA for investigations.
Although DNA is simply a "three-legged stool," Harrington said, it has the power to expedite old and new cases as well as prove the innocence of those "wrongly accused" and "wrongly convicted." He emphasized the role of DNA in "exonerating those who have been wrongly committed" to prison and implored state politicians to support initiatives that bolster DNA studies.
For social media users, Harrington's pithy but critical speech reaffirmed the importance of DNA in forensic science on, coincidentally enough, National DNA Day. It also moved them. One Twitter user said that Harrington "spoke truth" about DNA's significance while another said Harrington's words were "powerful."