Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten announced Wednesday he has charged a Northern California man — who is suspected of being the long-sought Golden State Killer — with the 1980 murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, of Citrus Heights near Sacramento, has been charged with capital murder, Totten said at a noontime press conference jointly held in Sacramento with other district attorneys and investigators.
On Saturday, March 13, 1980, the Smiths’ son found the popular and socially prominent couple bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of their Ventura home. Lyman Smith, 43, was an attorney rumored to be in line for a judgeship; Charlene Smith, 33, was a decorator and jewelry vendor.
Charlene Smith had been raped; a log from the fireplace was used to beat both to death. Their wrists and ankles had been bound with a drapery cord, using a decorative knot called a diamond knot. The unusual knot is among details linking the murder to a series of crimes DeAngelo is now suspected of.
Two people were suspected of the crime at the time, one had the charges dropped; the other, a family friend and business partner, was tried and acquitted of the murders.
DeAngelo was arrested earlier Tuesday afternoon at his Citrus Heights home. Investigators say a discarded sample of DNA connects DeAngelo, a former police officer fired for shoplifting, to a gruesome crime spree lasting from 1976 to 1986.
The crimes began in Sacramento before moving south through Oakland, Santa Barbara and Orange counties. Besides the double homicide in Ventura County, DeAngelo is suspected of four murders in Santa Barbara County.