The Strange Case of J.M. Lacey

Due to a number of events, a story became very significant late in the case of the East Area Rapist. It contained what could be a valuable lead to his identity. It is the story of a man in his late 20s/early 30s entering the American River Hospital in Carmichael seeking treatment for an injured shoulder. He presented false ID. When the staff became suspicious he fled.

Sac Sheriff detectives backworked this case decades after-the-fact in a dedicated effort  to finally unveil the identity of the real life Michael Myers. This suspicious man came to the hospital in late May 1977, only a couple of days after the EAR’s attack on Victim 22 in South Sacramento– his only south Sac strike. Here the bloodhound had followed EAR’s trail to a cyclone gate in the fence that protected a small, narrow canal. Apparently EAR had jumped the fence. But there was very little room for landing on the other side. The lip of the canal was right next to the foot of the cyclone fence. They postulated that EAR had missed the landing and slid into the canal, injuring his shoulder. DSC06153-50%

What evidence?

On the spot evidence? Not to my knowledge. It is accumulative causes and effects hard to ignore.

When the Sac Sheriffs released parts of their intriguing investigation of the forgotten case of the Cordova Cat an impressive amount of data suggest a concrete link at many levels between him and EAR and even the man at the hospital. This Cat Burglar was active in Rancho Cordova and Carmichael/Citrus Heights in 1972-1973, laying down a pattern which the East Area Rapist, striking in the same areas, would follow between 1976-1978. Having exhausted all leads to expose the EAR based on the evidence and clues of his crime spree, uncovering the existence of the earlier Cat seemed a boon answered. If this was EAR then he could have left clues behind in this early crime spree that would lead to him.

Detectives backworked the old burglary reports. They discovered that in 1973 a neighbor in the area where the Cat had struck (Thornwood area of Carmichael) had lost his wallet– at least so he thought.  But knowing the Cat’s (and later EAR’s) propensity to prowl quietly and take things without any real major burglary, detectives thought it was possible that the Carmichael resident had his wallet stolen and simply didn’t know it at the time. By a strange twist of fate,  it was his ID that this suspicious man at American River Hospital presented in May 1978.

It was not illogical to put the pieces together and see the connection– EAR and the Cat were one and the same and after his attack on Victim 22 on May 28, 1978, he injured his shoulder and had to go to the hospital a couple of days later, there presenting some old ID he had stolen quietly 4 years before. This made following the leads of the case of the Cordova Cat vital.

In developing this old Cordova Cat crime spree, the Sarda Way Incident (Rancho Cordova) was uncovered, an attempted home invasion rape and possible murder of September 14, 1973– the late period of the Cat. An identikit of this perp had been done and included in the report. He looked very similar to the Ripon Court Shooter of February 16, 1977– and the Shooter was heavily suspected of being EAR. This seemed beyond coincidence. Then there is the prowler on Locust Avenue in January 1978 who followed an almost identical MO as the Sarda Way perp– ringing the bell of the house and then going in the backyard to prowl when the woman, home alone, hadn’t answered. In comparing the cases, it was obvious the perp was described as dressed similarly to the Sarda Way perp of 1973 as well. Moreover, this prowling occurred only a week before EAR’s attack on two sisters on College View Way right around the corner. Too many coincidences to be just that.

Sarda Way Suspect-adjusted  EAR-Composite5

The Sarda Way perp and the identikit identified as the Ripon Court Shooter.

Then we all of us were stunned in April 2018 to learn that Joseph James DeAngelo, an Auburn cop based up in the foothills, was arrested for being the infamous Original Night Stalker of southern California. ONS and EAR were also believed to be the same perp, the deadlier incarnation merely the later extension of his earlier violent rape period. There was DNA linking the ONS to 2 EAR attacks in Contra Costa County, but nothing linking him to the Sacramento attacks where EAR began in 1976.

There was always some suspicion there was more than one perp involved in Sacramento initially. But no one could prove it. When DeAngelo was charged with the murders, the case of the EAR was considered closed and the arguments seemed pointless, though all of us remained surprised that a fulltime cop could have pulled off the massive amount of prowling which EAR was believed to have done. (An incredible amount of prowling was revealed by sheriff canvassing of the neighborhoods. This revealed visual sightings of a prowler over several nights for days or even weeks in advance. Footprints confirming a trespasser. Dogs barking for nights in advance, indicating an unwelcome shape was moving through yards, and then hang-up phone calls, illegal entries, attempted break-ins.) The theory of EAR having been the suspicious man at American River Hospital was forgotten. EAR hadn’t been the Sarda Way perp, so it would seem, because DeAngelo’s features are captured in a formal police photo of the period (1973), and he most definitely had short hair. All a coincidence, unchancy coincidences.DeAngelo-cop-formal2

Ironically, the day after the solution buzzed over the airwaves I received an email from a researcher who basically said “I guess this case isn’t relevant anymore.” She was referring to a link she had attached. It was a Doe Network case she had come across. It was the strange case of J.M. Lacey.

J.M. Lacey

His body had been found in 2002 at Grant Park, close to Los Huecos trail in the Lakeside area of the park in the unincorporated area east of San Jose, California. It was deteriorated, of course. No one knows how long it had been there– Maybe 5 years.  From the effects in the clothes he had been quite a dandy for his time– his pants had the name stenciled on the inside waist.  From the skeletal remains, at some point in his life this mysterious J.M. Lacey had had a bad shoulder injury. Forensic facial reconstruction gave us a face that surprisingly looked like an aged version of the Sarda Way perp.

No one has ever discovered who this J.M. Lacey was. His name obviously wasn’t J.M. acey. He remains a dead Doe in an unlikely place, wearing heavy clothes (two pairs of pants), sweater, and a knit cap, and of the right age bracket and resemblance to be the Sarda Way perp, and a shoulder injury to match the suspicious man who came into the American River Hospital a couple of days after EAR’s strike on Victim 22.

Is this the man?

More importantly, was there another East Area Rapist? Did DeAngelo dovetail on the EAR’s MO in order to give himself an alibi? DeAngelo will certainly be tried for the murders, on solid evidence. But there still remains many inconsistencies in the case of EAR which points to a guy with a different eye color, lots of access to old cars, and some motive for halting activities in the Summer of 1977.

The trial will likely have to address the inconsistencies in the reports of the EAR’s Sacramento rapes. They will have to collate a coincidence between DeAngelo’s free time and the times EAR struck. Not only this, they will have to show that if he was the original EAR he had the free time to commit the massive amount of prowling attributed to EAR.

In another post we will begin detailing these dates and the those factors which must be addressed to firmly establish whether there was only one EAR.

* * *
Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

2 thoughts on “The Strange Case of J.M. Lacey

  1. The “JOB” on the cigarette rolling case is the brand name. JOB rolling papers are still used for privately rolled ‘cigarettes’ of all types. It was originally “J diamond shape B’ for the creator of the rolling paper, Jean Bardou. This was in the 1830’s in France. People started calling the brand JOB and Messr. Bardou filed for a patent for “Papier JOB”.


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