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Police: Golden State Killer is also Visalia Ransacker

Joseph James DeAngelo been called the Visalia Ransacker, the Original Nightstalker and the Golden State Killer by law enforcement. (Photo Sacramento PD)

VISALIA, Calif. -- A former Exeter police officer has been identified as the so-called Golden State Killer, accused of 51 rapes and 12 murders.

He may be behind an extensive series of crimes in Visalia that happened before the killings.

The arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, a former Exeter Police Officer, was announced Wednesday in Sacramento.

"Joseph James DeAngelo has been called a lot of things by law enforcement. He's been called the East Side Rapist, he's been called the Visalia Ransacker, the Original Night stalker and the Golden State Killer," said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. "Today it is our pleasure to call him defendant."

Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar said DeAngelo's name was never on the department's radar.

"This was news to us over the course of the last week," Salazar said, in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

DeAngelo was featured in Sun-Gazette Newspaper shortly after he was hired at Exeter Police.

He was highlighted for his service in the Navy in Vietnam.

He worked at Exeter Police from 1973-1976.

The Visalia Ransacker terrorized Tulare County from April 1974 to December 1975.

The Visalia Ransacker followed the same pattern as the other serial criminals.

"He would use a pry tool to gain entry, ransack the entire residence. He would take small, inexpensive items. He always had a planned escape route, and he use dishes as an alarm system to alert him," said Salazar.

The Ransacker is blamed for breaking into dozens of homes, and killing College of the Sequoias journalism professor Claude Snelling on Sept. 11, 1975.

Snelling stopped an intruder who was trying to kidnap his teenage daughter when he was shot and killed.

Forensic work helped link the bullets from that killing to a gun stolen from another home, also in Visalia.

Visalia Police believe the ransacker was behind 100 burglaries.

At one point, a police officer came face-to-face with the ransacker.

The ransacker fired a shot at the officer, who was hit with debris from his flashlight that was hit.

There were no more incidents after that.

Around that time, DeAngelo left the Exeter Police Department.

Exeter Police released statement, praising the persistence of investigators in the Golden State Killer case.

Visalia Police are now asking anyone who knew or associated with Joseph James DeAngelo in Tulare County in the 1970s to call (559) 713-4132.

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