Understanding and placing in context the first 8 strikes of the East Area Rapist is crucial to unraveling the crime spree, for a serial villain makes his mistakes early-on. Before his MO is fully developed, he reveals much about how he develops his style.
In the 4 months since the attacks began in the Summer (June) of 1976, the MO of the assailant, now dubbed the East Side or, more commonly, East Area Rapist, developed noticeably.
The EAR began in a blue collar town like Rancho Cordova, on Paseo Drive near Malaga Way, a main cross street. In terms of layout, the neighborhood offers nothing particularly significant. It is comprised of streets and cross streets. Only a few blocks away Paseo connects with Folsom Blvd, a major artery to and from Sacramento proper. Off Folsom Blvd., via the Watt Bridge, it connects to the areas of Del Dayo, Carmichael and Citrus Heights north of the American River.
Rancho and Del Dayo are the locations where the snarling East Area Rapist begins. Neither are connected. The only similarity in both locations is that the victims’ houses are near the main street in and out of the communities. For Rancho, Paseo Drive heads straight to nearby Folsom Boulevard. For Del Dayo, Marlborough Way is right over from American River Drive, the main road to Watt Avenue, one of the busiest thoroughfares in all eastern Sacramento.
At strike No. 2 in Del Dayo there is also little about the neighborhood that offers anything tactical. The strike occurred on July 17, 1976, just a month after the first, and it seems the rapist had not developed his stalking modus operandi yet. However, he seems to have known both communities. Therefore Del Dayo’s proximity to Rancho Cordova is significant. It actually reveals a clue. Del Dayo is only minutes away, far less than a mile as the crow flies, but the communities are divided by the American River, and are starkly different communities. Del Dayo is more upscale compared to Cordova’s blue collar atmosphere and attitudes. Both communities are only connected through bike paths, and these in turn connect only via Watt Avenue.
Today, there is a walking and biking bridge (Harold Richey Memorial Bridge) in place between the communities for the Jedediah Smith Trail. However, this did not exist back then. Yet EAR’s strikes almost seem as though these communities were connected. It seems EAR was already generally familiar with both areas because, very probably, he had grown up in the area and biked the trails before. The William B. Pond Park is quite popular and the Jedediah Smith Trail courses through it and has a number of points where the biker can access the levee walk and the Del Dayo communities. Along these bike trails it is only about 4 miles for a biker to and from Cordova and Del Dayo (up the trail to Watt Avenue and then down the trail again on the other side). If the location of No. 2 offered anything tactically significant, it was this bike trail along the river. Marlborough Way was off Jacob Street, which is the main point of entry from the bike trail into Del Dayo Estates. A biker could enter the communities along Jacob Street or in Sandbar Circle and cruise the communities. For escape by car, Marlborough Way is only one street over from American River Drive.
EAR may also have had limited transportation at this time, and could only scout areas within relatively easy bike access before returning with a car on the night of the attacks. Victims assessed EAR as being quite young. One of the first detectives on the case, Richard Shelby, also felt EAR was very young.
On August 29, 1976, a little over a month later, the EAR returns not only to Rancho Cordova but to the same neighborhood block and strikes a house only 2 homes from the first victim’s house.
On September 4, the EAR strikes far afield from these locations. Here, however, in Crestview we see the first overt use of a feature of topography in a tactical way. There is the huge Del Campo Park and 2 schools in juxtaposition to the neighborhood, another cul de sac, but most importantly a manmade canal behind the houses. This community could not be accessed from Del Dayo by bike.
On October 5, the EAR strikes afield again in Citrus Heights. He overtly used a field and orchard to access one of the homes that back it. There is no cul de sac. Here he is known to have come and gone in a car.
For Victim 6, EAR returned to Rancho Cordova, but it is not within the same neighborhood block. Rather he has tactically used the levee walk, an open field, and there is even a canal nearby. The attack occurred on October 9. Since the EAR had shown how he stalked weeks in advance, he was probably already stalking Victim 6 by the time he attacked Victim 4 in Crestview. The location of the canal along the levee in Rancho Cordova makes it practically certain that this canal inspired him to search out this topographical feature elsewhere. This will become significant.
For Victim 7 in Del Dayo, October 18, 1976, he returns to the same streets. Kipling is off Jacob Street and in sight of Marlborough Way. Along with the attacks on Paseo Drive and Malaga Way this tells us that EAR stalked a community in general at one time and selected viable victims. He then returned at different times to refine and strike. The house not only had a long and large open field behind it, this field was quickly accessible from the bike paths and levee walk (sequestered on one side by the huge greenbelt William B. Pond Recreational Area), from the river walk into Sandbar Circle. He returns the night of the attack with his car and parks in the field behind the house.
With Victim 8, also October 18, 1976, EAR returned to Rancho Cordova. Since there is some question of the location, which was pointed out on that case page, the analysis here will deal only with the most probable location on Los Palos. Again, a cement-lined manmade canal is behind the homes. The EAR’s actions indicate he had not parked near Los Palos to stalk the neighborhood, for he takes the victim’s car, as he had done in the case of Victim #4, but instead of parking it far away, as in the case of Victim #4, he parks it along the next residential street (El Segundo) over from Los Palos. Despite being one street over, El Segundo runs much further away to Las Casas Way near a curve in the canal. The other direction terminates at Paseo Drive, one block down from Malaga Way where he began with Victim 1. This was the first time that EAR was confounded in his attack. It seems he needs to urgently go. He makes a huge mistake as a result. He takes the victim’s car, but in this case we know he was in a hurry. He parks it in a location that will become significant later, for it is in the area of Malaga Way where he simply walked down the street “butt naked” and disappeared one night. This may have been over the fence to the homes on Del Rey Court, and from there down Las Casas Way, or it could have been up to El Caprice.
At Victim #3 the EAR had a strong smell of after shave. This too will prove significant. And, once again, this is where he simply walked down the street and melded into the darkness, to some location within easy reach of El Segundo.
None of the neighborhoods had public lighting except the neighborhood of Victim 8, if the alternate location of Dawes and Malaga is correct. That home is right at the border of the unincorporated area, and there is a street light across the street at the corner. If the attack occurred at the most probable location on Los Palos, then none of the streets had public lighting where EAR struck.
The EAR is clearly not a big male. He must average around 5 foot 9 inches tall. He was lean. He had a small penis. Except for Attack #7 he wore hiking or waffle stomper boots. He wore a size 9 to 9.5 shoe. At Attack #8 he wore desert boots. He wore black leather looking shoes at Attack #6, though it is not clarified if these were like military high tops. Attack #7 is the only one in which he wore tennis shoes. During the summer his masks all seemed to be nylon balaclavas or perhaps even homemade masks. By Attack #8, he wore wool.
It is unlikely that he prowled neighborhoods with boots. He would rather, logically, have needed tennis shoes for silence, ease of running and climbing and jumping fences. When previously prowling the neighborhoods he may have worn tennis shoes. However, he clearly wore cumbersome hiking books on some of the nights of the attacks. At Attack #3 he wore what were brown ankle high shoes, which could be desert boots. He certainly wore tennis shoes the night of Attack #7.
The first 4 strikes of the EAR were roughly on the weekend— the 1st being on Friday, the 2nd on Saturday, the 3rd on Sunday, the 4th on Saturday. However, since the first was early in the early a.m. on Friday, EAR had been prepared Thursday night. The 5th is noticeably away from the weekend on Tuesday morning. This strike was so far the most afield from where he began. Number 6, back in Rancho Cordova, was on the weekend again, on Saturday. For No. 7 it was Monday morning on October 18, early a.m. and then, of course, that night when EAR struck again at Dawes & Los Palos (No. 8). For the first victim on that long October 18 the EAR had to be prepared Sunday night.
There is no reason to jump to conclusions and say this indicated EAR was off work weekends for the most part. He stalked for so much time in advance that the night he struck really doesn’t indicate his work schedule.
Aside from Victim #1 having the subjective feeling that a young man in a “older” mid-sized blue car had stalked her, there is no car definitely linked with the EAR until Victim 5. It was what appeared to be a green Chevy Vega. In the case of Victim 4, EAR stole the victim’s car and parked it a mile away. He either had a car that night and had parked it a mile away and stalked this distance through the schools and Del Campo Park or he had access to a home in that area. At the Victim 7 attack he drove a car with 84 inch tires, indicating it was an American model but not a small car like a Vega.
EAR obviously had access to more than one model of car.
However, there is no real evidence that EAR primarily stalked a neighborhood by car, as that method would not tell him where canals are and doesn’t really afford him a clear view of the homes. A car can’t be used on levee walks, bike paths, jogging trails, fields, and canals. He may have driven the neighborhoods a couple of times, but his in-depth stalking soon came to depend on the tactical proximity of the aforesaid topographical features. These he would have jogged and biked during the day, then entering the neighborhoods, especially around Del Dayo, he would merely be one of many such bikers and joggers. At night he would far more carefully prowl along here, then enter backyards and homes.
Descriptions of the EAR remain consistent in height and lean body shape. However, there are a few peculiarities that reflect his reliance and use of bicycles. One victim said EAR had no hair on his legs. Another said it was dark. All this would indicate a man who bikes or swims for more than just stalking his victims. In both sports, bikers and swimmers shave their legs. Of course, EAR may have done this as a cover for a while when stalking and then let it grow back, thus accounting for the different descriptions.
There is no question that EAR was the hang-up phone caller in a number of these incidents. This begs the question— how did he get their phone number? The Sacramento phonebook is voluminous (copies are still kept at the Sacramento Room of the Capitol Library on I Street). However, it is impractical to skim the entire white pages looking for the address in hopes of finding the name and number of the owner. Evidence is abundant that in a number of cases the EAR entered the house beforehand and familiarized himself with its layout and the schedule of its occupants. This may be one method by which he learned the phone number. Many people have their number written on their phone rotary (in the days of rotary phones). He could also browse paperwork in the house, especially mail, and discover their name. He could also browse through the trash can at night, without even entering the house, and discover the family name. In this way he could then return to his lair and skim the telephone directory. He probably used both methods. It is clear he also called neighbors, some who could not possibly have been intended victims. He thus had prowled their houses and trash cans to obtain their numbers as well.
However, there is another method even more anonymous. I asked a retired police detective friend of mine, Steve Doran, and he told me of the various ways that reverse look up could have been done in the 1970s, merely by giving the operator the address. There were also back then (and today) Ex-Directories maintained by libraries, that would have all the phone numbers and addresses in then, even the unlisted numbers (also known as City or Polk Directories).
The hang-up phone calls served a couple of purposes. He could judge when the occupants were home and when they weren’t, thus learning their schedules. In calling the neighbors, he would also learn when they were most consistently not home. This would help him remain faceless in the daytime, as he knew the best times to stalk the neighborhood when no one was immediately around.
Like Victim 1, Victim 5 experienced a preamble of hang-up phone calls for weeks in advance, and Victim 5 even suffered a previous entry into her house. This substantiates the theory that EAR carefully stalked victims and familiarized himself with their house in advance.
Apparently, neither victim 2 & 6 had hang-up phone calls preceding their attacks. Victim No. 1 and No. 5 received the most hang-up phone calls so far. This should be regarded as significant. This perhaps indicates that the rapist could not readily determine the movements of that household whereas in 6 and 7 the household routines were more noticeable from the levee, field and greenbelt. No. 4 and No. 8, apparently stand-ins, had not received any hang-up phone calls.
This is not reading too much premeditation into EAR’s modus operandi. Somehow he kept tabs on a neighborhood and on the intended victim. This is seen in other ways. For instance, it is certain that EAR struck no house while the husband or grown male was present. In each case, father or husband was away. Since observation from afar cannot give him such knowledge, he must have obtained it by entering the home beforehand, perhaps days or even weeks in advance and learning from some bulletin board or desk notes what the future movements would be of members of the household. Victim #1’s father had been away in Boston; Victim #3’s husband began a night shift just 2 days before; Victim #5’s husband went to work early in the morning, EAR apparently waiting for him to leave.
Residents in the neighborhood when questioned reported much prowling had been going on. Side gates had been found left open. Dogs had been barking more frequently. Footsteps had been heard, fences rustling as someone had jumped over. One must conclude that out of all the houses he entered, he chose those that had a woman to his liking and one in which the male of the house would be away on given dates. Homes harder to observe perhaps required the hang-up phone calls as a means to determine the schedule of those within. It is interesting to note the neighbors of No. 1, 3, 5 also reported hang-up phone calls preceding the attack. It almost seems as if the EAR was also trying to determine when the neighbors would be away.
It is clear from the foregoing on this page that EAR was a very developed prowler. But he had never intruded in a home knowing that a person was inside. This can be surmised by his clumsy attempt to cut the first victim’s telephone line outside the house. It would seem that no more inspiration than an old movie would tell any prospective burglar to enter the house and then cut the phone line. This he would do in future.
Indeed, he became a very skilled and confident house breaker. In like manner as he refined his stalking of a community, he meticulously assessed the viability of a potential victim’s house. For example, victims’ window screens revealed an intriguing and essentially unsolved calling card— scratch marks on screens. They were invariably on the lower left side. Lt. Larry Crompton (Contra Costa County Sheriffs) referred to this as his signature, for it never had a logical explanation. These marks could be found even on some of the victims’ neighbors’ screens. I would suggest here something logistic in terms of an explanation— that he scratched these screens to see if it would arouse a pet in the house or to see how heavy a sleeper the occupants were. There is no proof he left these scratches the night of the attack. He may have done so nights in advance to see how safe it was to attack here. Heavy sleepers and homeowners without threatening pets thus became viable targets. No one would likely notice these little scratches on their screen until after the attack when the sheriffs searched for the break-in point. It was only then indeed that the screens, some on bedroom windows, some on other windows, were noticed. The very fact they were on the lower left side, where the windows are usually open, tells us he was interested in responses within the home.
Subtle, calculated at the very least, are the best words to describe such an individual. Yet we have a strange contradiction. He often left side gates open— telltale clues someone uninvited had been in the yard. Would this not give away that someone had been prowling the neighborhood and would return? Alas, neighbors seldom reported it.
Even more curious than this is his behavior in two of his attacks. At the attacks of Victim 3 and 7 he arrives naked from the waist down. In both instances he is unstoppable. At Victim 7 in Del Dayo the yipping dog and the boy slamming the door do not stop him. At Victim 3 he is seen by the girl as he is wedging the screen, then later by the mother, and this does not deter him. Wrestling with the mother does not stop him. There is nothing subtle in these attacks.
A strange thing now happens at Victim #3’s. He walks away down the street, bare as birth from the waist down. Yet the sheriffs, who are quickly there, spot no man. No car starts and drives away.
Due to the circumstances, it seems impossible to believe that EAR would merely leave pants folded over a bike somewhere in the shadows. From the events surrounding Victim 8, it is clear he used yards or perhaps even homes where people were gone for the night or, more likely, on vacation. (His prowling would have revealed vacations beforehand rather than just a spontaneous night out.) For Victim 3, I suggest to you he used a house and yard that was empty, and thus walking away he entered it again and laid low until morning. This will also become significant later.
At the neighbor’s of Victim #8 he already had all the implements he used in binding a victim laid out in their backyard. The owners were, however, senior citizens who were away. Who the actual victim was intended to be is unknown. But I would suggest he knew the home was empty and had much earlier positioned himself there. Why he bothered to attack Victim 8 and steal the car is ponderous. But after the opportunistic attack on Victim 8 he drove her car a short distance down El Segundo.
This, once again, is that significant mistake. He certainly had not left a bicycle or car blocks away and walked to the area of Victim 8. At Victim 4 and 5 he could park quite a distance away because he could move through fields, orchards, parks and canals. But El Segundo to Los Palos is nothing but residential streets. How did he get to the attack scene to begin with? If he used the canal, why not quietly retreat that way and not bother Victim 8 at all?
Peculiarly, half naked he didn’t stop no matter what. Yet at Victim 8, when fully dressed, he must have been confused and left her alone. Though violent with her, he just stole her car, as he said he would. In other cases, the lines he fed the victims were pure red herrings, such as with Victim 6, saying he lived just down the street, or with the others when he said he just wanted money. It was to put them at ease before he raped them.
Thus we have a skilled prowler, even burglar, but not someone who had tactically assessed a home and then intentionally attacked a person within. Consumed with the thrill of conquest, EAR develops his MO slowly, adding topographical features tactically. He uses these— parks, schools, canals— to prowl a neighborhood both night and day and therewith remain completely faceless to the communities. He comes back in the dark of night and assails the home. Evidence and clues reveal a young man growing obsessed with careful selection, a man who knew he was leaving his victims as potential witnesses against him He disguised his voice. He carefully stalked a community. He carefully assessed a house. He committed double, even triple jeopardy by entering it more than once in advance. The sheriffs had good reason to worry this guy was not going to stop and that he was going to prove a unique problem in the annals of crime.
Politics on the “4th Floor” (administrative level) of the sheriffs would not play a part in the actual investigating. Misterly had long been gone as sheriff, abandoned even by the Sheriff Association (Misterly didn’t want his deputies college educated), and replaced by Duane Lowe. Lowe was updating the Sheriff Department not only with the latest technology but with the latest approaches to crime solving. He may have been accused of drinking his breakfast at his desk and his lunch under his desk, but he would have little direct influence in the case.
Sgt. Jim Bevins was in charge of the EAR task force, but Sgt. Richard Shelby acted quite independently, reporting to Lt. Ray Root who in turn answered to Captain Stamm, chief of detectives.
In any case, EAR was now news. Few knew the details, but they knew the home was the target. There had been 8 known victims since June 18. Neighborhoods were now on the alert. This was more than a rapist. This was a calculating terrorist. Neighborhood watches and a task force, however, would not curtail him. Indeed, he would dominate the year to come.