Age is known to change people. Ears get bigger, backs get weaker, and the mind wanders. However, for most people, growing older does not mean that they suddenly stop being serial killers. This is one theory currently making the rounds about why the Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, stopped his criminal activities in 1986 after a decade of mayhem.

In April 2018, law enforcement officers in California arrested 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo and charged him with the crimes of the GSK/EAR. So far, the Citrus Heights, California resident and Vietnam War veteran has been charged with eight murders.

He is believed to be responsible for 12 murders and over 50 rapes between 1976 and 1986. Since his capture, it has been reported that DeAngelo once worked as a police officer in two small towns in California before he was let go after he was caught shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from an Auburn, California hardware store.

Paul Holes, one of the chief investigators on the case and a former District Attorney inspector for Contra Costa County, believes that DeAngelo's age in 1986 is what made him stop his life of crime.

Final murders

Holes told Mercury News that the GSK's last two murders explain why his reign of terror ended. On July 27, 1981, the Golden State Killer entered the home of 35-year-old Cheri Domingo and 27-year-old Greg Sanchez and killed both.

Holes noted in his interview that during this crime, the attacker struggled with Sanchez, a much younger man. This fight, Holes believes, convinced DeAngelo that he could be killed or captured at one of the crime scenes.

Holes also notes that the last known crime of the GSK, the murder of teenager Janelle Cruz in 1986, occurred while the young woman was home alone.

Holes believes that the killer waited until Cruz's boyfriend left the house before attacking the young woman. By this point, DeAngelo was 41-years-old.

More crimes?

Although it is uncommon, many sexual predators and serial killers have stopped for no apparent reason. The infamous Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, told detectives that he stopped raping and murdering prostitutes in the Seattle area because of his third marriage in 1988.

Likewise, Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK Killer, stopped his crime spree abruptly in 1991 and remained a free man until 2005.

Of course there is the possibility that DeAngelo continued carrying out crimes after 1986. Similarly, cold case detectives in Visalia, California are trying to find some way to link DeAngelo to the crimes of the Visalia Ransacker. Between April 1974 and December 1975, the Visalia Ransacker committed over a dozen home invasion burglaries. More chillingly, on September 11, 1975, the Ransacker murdered 45-year-old Claude Snelling, a journalism professor at the College of Sequoias. Snelling was shot and killed while trying to save his 16-year-old daughter from being kidnapped by the Ransacker.

Several students of the GSK/EAR case, including Holes and late true crime author Michelle McNamara, have discredited the idea that the Visalia Ransacker became the Golden State Killer. Both have pointed out the sharp differences in eyewitness testimonies and the differences in the composite sketches of the two killers.