Her family took a trip to Mexico, but Janelle Cruz stayed at Irvine, California, home. Eager to pick up some hours at her part-time job at a pizza parlor, the 18-year-old was getting her life in order after years of struggling with depression.
On the evening of May 4, 1986, while Janelle and a friend watched movies at the Cruz home, they heard several noises outside, which sounded like a door or outside gate closing. When they looked, they saw nothing. Though a little spooked, the young women dismissed the noises. The friend left Janelle’s home at 10:45 p.m.
Around 5 p.m. the following day, a real estate agent who had planned to show the home to potential buyers found Janelle bludgeoned to death in her bed. An autopsy determined she had been raped.
Authorities believe Janelle was the final murder victim of one of America’s most infamous serial killers.
The Golden State Killer committed at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 through 1986. He committed crimes throughout the state and acquired various monikers in different regions before DNA evidence connected the same person’s crimes.
Other monikers include:
East Area Rapist
Original Night Stalker
East Bay Rapist
Diamond Knot Killer
Before the murder of Janelle Cruz in 1986, the last homicide linked to the Golden State Killer occurred in 1981. The killer apparently took a hiatus from 1981 until mid-1986 before returning for one final thrill before apparently calling it quits.
On April 25, 2018, authorities announced the arrest of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., a former police officer, on eight counts of first-degree murder based on DNA evidence. They believe him to be the Golden State Killer, responsible for at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 through 1986.
In addition to the eight murder counts, DeAngelo has also been charged with 13 related kidnapping/abduction attempts. More charges may be coming, but due to California’s statute of limitations on pre-2017 rape cases, he cannot be charged with the 1970s rapes.
Preliminary hearings are currently being held in Sacramento in preparation for DeAngelo’s trial. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty, and the judge has ruled that cameras will be allowed inside the courtroom during the trial.
On June 29, 2020, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder. On August 21, he was sentenced to twelve life sentences in prison plus an additional eight years.
Among the murders of which DeAngelo was convicted was that of Janelle Cruz. She is, as far as authorities know, his final victim.
DNA found at one of the crime scenes was checked against genetic profiles from GEDmatch, a site where people enter their DNA profiles or genealogical data. Investigators searched family trees generated through the public profiles, and DeAngelo emerged as a suspect. They then placed him under surveillance, collected a sample of his discarded DNA, and had a match the following day. The DNA was soon matched to that found at other crime scenes.
Since DeAngelo’s arrest, several concerns have been raised. The ethics of the secondary use of personally identifiable information has been called into question, particularly given California’s Online Privacy Protection Act and in the wake of last year’s Facebook scandal.
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Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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