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Golden State Killer vs East Area Rapist: What's in the name?

The names reflect the areas, methods and increasing violence of his crimes as they evolved over time.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — (This story was originally published April 25, 2018)

One of the most prolific and sadistic of American serial killers has gone by a number of different names in the 40-plus years since his first crimes in the Sacramento area.

The names reflect the areas and methods of his crimes as they evolved over time. Here is a brief explanation, mostly drawn from writings by Michelle McNamara who wrote "I'll Be Gone in the Dark."

East Area Rapist:

So-called because he committed his first known crimes in the eastern part of Sacramento County.

Golden State Killer:

McNamara coined the “Golden State Killer” moniker, explaining in a September 2014 post on her true crime website that although some felt the name glamorized the killer, she felt that its "jarring juxtaposition" was apt, and in any case, more descriptive of the way he terrorized a wide swath of the state.

Diamond Knot Killer:

From the murders of Charlene and Lyman Smith in Ventura, in which the killer tied up the couple with a diamond knot, an unusual knot used by sailors and interior designers for its decorative appearance, according to a Los Angeles Magazine story by McNamara.

Original Night Stalker:

A string of similar crimes in Southern California in the early 1980's was attributed to a killer dubbed the ‘Night Stalker.’ For some reason, serial killer Richard Ramirez was given the same name after his killing spree in the 1980's, and at that time the first killer became known as the ‘Original Night Stalker.’



WATCH MORE:  A young girl from Exeter, California was brutally murdered in 1975. The jury convicted local handyman Oscar Clifton of the crime, but did the real killer get away? Was Clifton framed by Joe DeAngelo, the man police say later became the Golden State Killer? An ABC10 Originals investigation by Lilia Luciano.