Alleged Golden State Killer Joe DeAngelo
Sacramento County Sheriff's Office
August 13, 2018 11:39 PM

Alleged Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo was charged Monday with first-degree murder in the 1975 slaying of a community college professor, PEOPLE confirms.

Claude Snelling, a journalism professor and public information officer at the College of the Sequoias, was fatally shot in September 1975 while allegedly attempting to stop the kidnapping of his 16-year-old daughter in Visalia, California.

The charge also includes a special allegation that a firearm was used in the crime.

DeAngelo, 72, has already been charged in 12 killings linked to the Golden State Killer, who has also been known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker.

The former police officer and retired mechanic is also accused of 45 sexual assaults and more than 120 burglaries across California — one of the longest and most vicious crime sprees in U.S. history.

“It is one step on the road to justice for our area,” Tulare County Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos tells PEOPLE.

Joe DeAngelo's home
Justin Sullivan/Getty

At a Monday press conference, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward said that it wasn’t DNA evidence that linked DeAngelo to Snelling’s murder but “good old tenacious police work.”

Snelling, Ward said, “died trying to save his daughter from an intruder in the early morning hours. He saved his daughter, became a hero to her that night and the community.”

Police say Snelling was fast asleep when he awoke to a sound in his backyard. He got up to investigate and encountered a man near his carport attempting to abduct his 16-year-old daughter. He confronted the man who pulled out a handgun and shot him.

Masks found during his spree
FBI

Police later discovered that the gun used to kill Snelling was stolen from a residence a month earlier, in August of 1975. Police had linked that burglary to the so-called Visalia Ransacker, a prolific burglar police believed was responsible for over 100 residential burglaries from April 1974 to December 1975.

The Ransacker broke into homes in the evening hours by prying open doors and windows. He didn’t take valuables. He preferred costume jewelry, collectibles and keepsakes, Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said at the press conference.

Salazar said police found the bicycle Snelling’s killer used in a nearby yard a block away. It had been stolen two days before the murder.

Salazar said they believe the Visalia Ransacker also shot at a police officer three months later, on December 10, when he was confronted entering the backyard of a residence. As the officer confronted him, the Ransacker pulled out a handgun and fired at the officer hitting his flashlight.

Police said DeAngelo was a police officer in nearby Exeter from May 1973 to August 1976 at the time of the Ransacker spree and Snelling murder.

Wanted Poster
FBI

A few months after the Visalia crimes ended, the East Area Rapist began his terror spree in Sacramento, sexually assaulting more than 40 women and girls. 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.

“He wore a mask and he was very good at what he did. He would pick out more affluent communities,” Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert previously told PEOPLE. “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,” she said. “He did that with the man because he could then hear the guy if he moved. It was very distinctive.”

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The East Area Rapist eventually began assaulting couples and women in Southern California where he killed 10 people, including 18-year-old Janelle Cruz. Cruz, his last known victim, was brutally murdered in her family’s Irvine home in 1986.

DeAngelo was finally caught last April after law enforcement compared the murderer’s DNA — found at one of the crime scenes — to the genetic profiles publicly available via a genealogical website.

The crime scene DNA sample matched that of one of DeAngelo’s relatives.

He has not entered a plea yet in any of the murder charges. His public defender could not be reached for comment.

His remains in custody and his next court date is September 5.

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