Sketches and accounts taken from eyewitnesses of a perp in perpetration are, based on the context, considered of higher value than those descriptions of a “suspicious” person seen in the general vicinity of a crime before-the-fact.
Although there are plenty of the latter kind of sketches and descriptions concerning the crime spree of the East Area Rapist, there are a few of him in perpetration. These will be considered here in light of this series of posts entertaining the clues there was more than one East Area Rapist initially.
The actions of EAR were usually so identical in the house of each victim that along with a physical description the investigators were relatively certain there was a single perp in most of the cases. But the crime spree of EAR is broad and deep. It lasted several years and it covered enormous territory. There is ample reason to suspect that more than one crime event and/or incident in the thick dossier of EAR was erroneously attributed to him because of a similar MO.
This is not without precedence. The recent solution to the Gypsy Hill Murders around San Mateo (1976) revealed there were two unconnected perps with similar MOs– excessive slashing. Ironically, it was a murder in Reno that bore a starkly different MO that helped identify the “Slasher.” Despite the radically different MO, DNA in the Reno case matched the perp in the San Mateo area. Circumstances had caused him to drastically change his MO in Reno, but he had smoked a cigarette and thus left DNA that matched in two of the San Mateo rape/murder cases. Nevertheless, one of the Gypsy Hill Murders was committed by another perp who used a similar MO as the one commonly used by the “Slasher.” DNA was able to distinguish him, and he too was arrested. Until that time all the Gypsy Hill Murders were considered connected, and there was no connection considered in the Reno case because it was distant and very different. The wonders of DNA!
Unfortunately, we have no DNA in the Sacramento EAR cases– about 30 cases bearing a similar MO but no easy scientific way to dissect if there is more than one perp. We have at best the radically different but consistently different description of the amount and color of hair on the perps’ arms and legs– light and sparse on one and thick and dark on the other.
On a few occasions, there is the description of longer head hair– collar length. It does with the perp that has the light hair on arms and legs. This last trait alone matches the accused J.J. DeAngelo. Yet he was a police officer with a short haircut. As such we must proceed on the assumption he used a wig, at least in a couple of cases. This article will delve into the paradoxes involved in trying to collate the evidence.
The Ripon Court Shooter. He was seen in perpetration, February 17, 1978. He was a particularly violent swine who shot a youth (Rod Miller) for chasing him across the street from their backyard. The girl of the family fit as a type EAR liked to rape. The sketches below were based on this perp from the eyewitnesses– Rod and his father Ray.
The problem with using the Ripon Court Shooter to I.D. EAR is that he was only suspected of having been EAR. He was a prowler lurking in the backyard. No more until he shot young Rod in order to escape.
If this was J.J. DeAngelo obviously he had to be wearing a wig. And the identikit of the Ripon Court Shooter does appear a bit like DeAngelo. He was a photographic chameleon. A slightly different angle and he looked like another person. He did not have a hooked nose, but can appear to have one in some photos.
I would like it to be as easy as that. I would like to move on and simply believe DeAngelo wore a wig. However, more things come into play here.
Not long before the arrest and charging of J.J. DeAngelo the SSD dug up an old 1973 case in Rancho Cordova. This incident happened 3 years before EAR had started his crime spree. The perp was aggressive and violent. The sketch taken here from the victim revealed a remarkably similar perpetrator to Ripon Court. It is highly unlikely this perp could have been DeAngelo who was a police officer now about 4 hours away in Exeter, California, near Visalia.
Please see The Sarda Way Incident
The similarity and to an extent the MO is striking. Such a prowler was also afoot within the week before the EAR attack Nos.29/30 on College View Way. When did DeAngelo have time to do door-to-door daytime prowling? And wearing a wig in daytime might look obvious.
This isn’t enough to declare the Ripon Court Shooter was another perp, the same jacket job who was afoot in 1973. DeAngelo was around the East Area yet at a relative distance in Auburn in the foothills during the Ripon Court Shooting. For DeAngelo to be the Ripon Court Shooter, once again, he must have been wearing a wig. Therefore the Sarda Way perp was somebody else– a violent and uncouth home invader that looked similar.
However, it is also not that easy. A perp believed to be EAR was described in perpetration at Victim 17, and she saw his dark blond hair sticking out under the brim of his ski mask. This matches the shoulder length or collar length hair often reported in a canvass of victim neighborhoods before-the-fact. This matches the collar-length hair on the Ripon Court identikit. She also saw the light colored and sparse hairs on his legs. DeAngelo had such sparse leg hair.
If this is DeAngelo, why wear a wig in perpetration? In prowling a neighborhood, it is logical. It effectively disguises his strict haircut (not common for the 1970s unless in the military or a cop) and it makes him look younger. But he doesn’t intend to be seen in perpetration. Wearing it as a disguise under a disguise (ski mask) presupposes he believes he will be seen. Why would he start doing that here?
It is a fact that EAR’s face was seen in perpetration for the first time with Victim 15 in March 1977. As a cop, DeAngelo might have known that a sketch was done of what the victim had seen. It shows a man with no hair sticking out under his ski mask. The perp appears to have short hair. Did he fear that if he made a mistake again, he might be seen?
The attack on Victim 17 (April 1977) was only a month after the attack where EAR’s face had finally been seen. Did he wear the wig even under his concealing ski mask just in case he made a mistake and was seen again?
How then to explain why he already wore a wig in February before his face had been seen in March by Victim 15? There is, as it is obvious, no consistent way to explain the reports of collar length hair as merely a wig to use as a disguise. If DeAngelo is the perp at these crime scenes he wore it off and on for a variety of reasons.
The circumstances of the Maggiore Double murders on February 2, 1978, were so at odds with the MO of EAR that the case was not connected for over 20 years. EAR and hence now DeAngelo is considered a viable culprit in the murders. The sketch here of a “suspicious” man seen retreating down Las Casas Way is that of a short-haired man with a police haircut. It can be argued it is a likeness of DeAngelo. The murder of the couple was never considered premeditated. So if this was done by EAR, we must assume he was only prowling. Obviously, if the sketch purporting to represent DeAngelo/EAR is the murderer then he wore no wig here.
So just when did DeAngelo wear a wig? If he ever did, it was in February 1977 for prowling the Ripon Court area, but not at Victim 15 in March 1977, and then for his attack on Victim 17 in April 1977. So, basically, off and on over a two month period.
The similar MO of the Sarda Way perp and the Ripon Court perp, plus their similar appearance, must be coincidence.
So what is easiest to bring continuity here? Well, just chuck the Ripon Court perp. There’s no skin off the nose in doing so. He’s somebody else. There were a lot of nutcases on the loose in the 1970s. Then how to explain that EAR was seen in perpetration only two months later and he had collar-length dark blond hair? If DeAngelo, a wig is involved. But its use is not consistent nor often. Or this is a case that is very convoluted.
In just this short series we have touched on the clues and evidence which suggest more than one EAR. It is often hard to sort out which is DeAngelo, the accused. One has to opt for explanations rather than deducing them.
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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.