The Golden State Killer
The man known as the Golden State Killer and the East Area Rapist committed at least 13 murders, about 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries across California in the 1970s and ’80s. The man believed to be the culprit was arrested in April 2018 after investigators linked crime scene DNA samples to 72-year-old former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo through the use of a genealogy website.
The Daily Beast was the first to report on the killer’s alleged identity, just a few months after the publication of the late Michelle McNamara’s meticulously reported and beautifully written book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark investigating the case. The book was finished by journalist Billy Jensen, researcher Paul Haynes, and McNamara’s husband, the comedian and actor Patton Oswalt, after McNamara’s sudden death.
Over the decades it took to track down the alleged killer, his victims received several taunting phone calls. The last one came in 2001, when a victim of the East Area Rapist picked up the phone and heard an anonymous man say: “Remember when we played?” Jail records showed that DeAngelo fit the FBI’s physical profile of the killer, standing at 5-foot-11 and between the ages of 60 and 75 years old. Police had also believed the suspect to be a military veteran, and DeAngelo had served in Vietnam. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones also said DeAngelo “was committing crimes while he was employed as a police officer” from 1973 to 1979 in Exeter, California.
DeAngelo will face trial on all murder counts at the same time. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
“This community was terrorized by these rampant crimes,” said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward. “In their tenacity, in their violent nature, and in the frequency with which they were occurring.”
The Cleveland Strangler
Anthony Sowell, also known as the Cleveland Strangler, raped and killed at least 11 black women on Cleveland’s East Side between 2007 and 2009 in what has been called the “most heinous” crime spree in the city’s history. He was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to death after police reportedly found the womens’ bodies in and around his home.
At the time of the murders, Sowell was a registered sex offender and had served 15 years in prison for raping, beating, and choking a pregnant woman. Police had visited his home but allegedly failed to notice the stench of the bodies that neighbors had previously complained about. Sowell was also the subject of sexual-assault complaints before the bodies were discovered.
After Sowell’s conviction, the city paid out a $1 million settlement to the families of six women murdered by Sowell and a separate settlement in June to surviving victims, for an undisclosed amount, over its purported mishandling of the complaints against Sowell, reported The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
After repeatedly assuring residents of Toronto’s Gay Village that there was no loose serial killer in the area, Canadian police discovered that Bruce “The Gardener” McArthur had for years been stalking and murdering men before dismembering them and hiding their remains in flower pots while working as a landscaper.
In January, 67-year-old McArthur, a regular at the neighborhood’s bars, pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder. His victims had all frequented gay clubs in the area and were killed between 2010 and 2017.
McArthur, a former mall Santa Claus, killed Selim Esen, 44; Andrew Kinsman, 49; Majeed Kayhan, 58; Dean Lisowick, 47; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40; Abdulbasir Faizi, 42; and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37. LGBTQ activists have criticized police for allegedly not taking the case seriously until the disappearance of Kinsman, a white man, which ignited “public interest in the cases of the missing South Asian and Middle Eastern men.”
The Toronto Star’s editorial board this year scrutinized police for taking so long to zero in on McArthur as a suspect. “Why did the police seemingly not take the concerns of the LGBTQ community more seriously?” the board asked. “The Church-Wellesley community had long feared there was a serial killer in their midst and the police denied it. Would police have taken more and swifter action if McArthur’s victims had not been gay or people of color, homeless or addicted to drugs?”
The Grim Sleeper
In 2016, Lonnie Franklin Jr.—also known as the Grim Sleeper—was convicted and sentenced to death in the murders of nine women and one teenage girl. Franklin was caught through a combination of ballistics evidence from the .25 caliber gun he used, DNA from the crimes, and the controversial use of a DNA probe into the state’s felon database. Franklin began killing in the 1980s and was for years considered the “longest-operating serial killer west of the Mississippi.”
Police had linked the crime to Lonnie’s son Franklin, whose DNA was in their database after an arrest for felony weapons possession, and managed to obtain samples of Lonnie’s DNA by reportedly following him to a birthday party at a Los Angeles restaurant, where an officer pretending to be a busboy collected his plate, cup, and pizza crust.
During his arrest in 2010, detectives found that he kept photographic trophies of his victims among nearly 1,000 photos of women and teenage girls—many of them nude, presumably dead or unconscious, and bleeding. It is still not yet clear how many people Franklin may have killed, but he will most likely die in prison, since California is no longer carrying out death sentences.
Before he was arrested in 2016 for keeping a woman chained up in a metal storage container on his property, Todd Kohlhepp was known in South Carolina as a strange but award-winning real estate agent who watched pornography at work, made macabre jokes, and openly discussed his history as a sex offender, according to The Post and Courier.
In 2001, 30-year-old Kohlhepp completed a 15-year prison sentence for raping a 14-year-old at gunpoint in Arizona. In 1987, a judge, according to the newspaper, called him bright but “emotionally dangerous.” Once released, Kohlhepp moved to South Carolina, where he killed four people at a motorcycle shop in 2003. In 2016, he killed three more people.
Two months after 30-year-old Kala Brown went missing in 2016, investigators found her chained by her neck in a 30-by-15-foot storage container owned by Kohlhepp. Brown told police that she had worked for Kohlhepp, who shot and killed her boyfriend before holding her captive. After his arrest, Kohlhepp confessed to the then-still-unsolved bike shop murders and pointed to shallow graves on his land where some of his other victims were buried.
Kohlhepp has pleaded guilty to committing seven murders in 13 years and is now serving seven consecutive life sentences. In 2017, Kohlhepp wrote a letter to The Spartanburg Herald-Journal claiming he had more undiscovered victims, but those claims have not been corroborated.
Samuel Little, whom the FBI has called the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, had been serving multiple consecutive life sentences for slayings in California and Texas when he confessed to committing another 90 murders between 1970 and 2005. In order to track down the victims of 79-year-old Little’s alleged crimes before he dies, authorities asked him to draw portraits of the unidentified women he claims to have murdered. Thirty portraits, which contained detailed likenesses of dozens of women he says he strangled, were released in October.
Little has said he largely targeted prostitutes or women addicted to drugs, and agencies in various states were able to confirm at least 50 of the deaths, NBC News reported. Other purported victims have reportedly been more difficult to identify because they were never reported missing and their bodies were never found.
“For many years, Samuel Little believed he would not be caught because he thought no one was accounting for his victims,” said federal Crime Analyst Christie Palazzolo in October. “Even though he is already in prison, the FBI believes it is important to seek justice for each victim—to close every case possible.”