An arrest has been made in the decades-long search for the Golden State Killer, a suspected serial killer and rapist in the 1970s and ’80s, a police source tells PEOPLE.
At a Thursday press conference, police identified the suspect as Joseph James DeAngelo, 72. A police source previously told PEOPLE the suspect was formerly in law enforcement and had been living Citrus Heights, a Sacramento suburb, the source says.
The source tells PEOPLE the suspect was caught through “sophisticated” DNA analysis. According to the source, the suspect was not on the radar of police until recently.
DeAngelo is charged with capital murder in four killings, though police believe he committed many more: The Feb. 2, 1978 slayings of Brian and Katie Maggiore, and the March 1980 slayings of Lyman and Charlene Smith.
Over a 10-year-period — from 1976 to 1986 — the Golden State Killer was linked by DNA and method to 12 murders, 45 sexual assaults and more than 120 burglaries from Sacramento to southern California’s Orange County.
His victims ranged in age from 13 to 41 and included women at home alone or with their children or husbands.
In the wake of reports about the possible arrest, Jane Carson Sandler, who survived a sexual assault by the killer, tells PEOPLE, “I am speechless. Almost sick to my stomach because I am so excited. It is a dream come true.”
Michelle Cruz, whose sister Janelle Cruz was killed in 1986, tells PEOPLE, “I don’t even know what to think. I am so excited.”
The attacks began in Sacramento in 1976 with the June 18 rape of a woman in the Rancho Cordova-Carmichael neighborhood.
• For more on the Golden State Killer, watch People Magazine Investigates: Golden State Killer Caught, airing Friday, April 27 at 10 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 8 p.m. on Investigation Discovery
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The attacker wore a ski mask and would pry open windows and doors of homes of single women or couples. Once inside, he would enter the bedroom and shine a flashlight into his victims’ eyes.
In 2016, Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert described to PEOPLE the suspect’s distinctive, meticulous method:
“He wore a mask and he was very good at what he did. He would pick out more affluent communities. There were claims he would target homes that were up for sale. Oftentimes it was a husband and wife at home. He would come prepared. He would have shoelaces and a mask.
“He would bring the shoelaces with him and then he would tie up the husband and put him on his stomach, and put teacups or plates on his back and take the woman off and rape her. He did that with the man because he could then hear the guy if he moved. It was very distinctive.”
In 2016, authorities began publicizing the search nationally in advance of the 40th anniversary of his first attack.
“The answer is out there somewhere,” Schubert told PEOPLE in 2016. “It is a case that needs to be solved because these women and these families deserve the answers and the person if alive needs to be brought to justice. It has been 40 years of this.”