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A man once sworn to protect the public from crime and injustice was accused, on Wednesday, of living a double life.

He terrorised suburban neighbourhoods at night and soon became one of California's most feared serial killers, rapists and robbers between the late 70s and early 80s, before leaving a cold trail that baffled investigators for more than three decades.

The suspect was identified at a Sacramento news conference as 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, in a case officials said was finally solved by DNA evidence, two months after gaining renewed attention in the bestselling book, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark".

The DNA evidence linked DeAngelo to crimes attributed to the so-called Golden State Killer and he initially was charged with eight counts of murder and could face dozens of more charges, claim authorities.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has previously said that the man sought in the 40-year-old case was tied to 12 slayings, 45 rapes and more than 120 burglaries in and around Sacramento, the eastern San Francisco Bay area and Southern California.

The armed and masked prowler sneaked in through windows at night and surprised sleeping victims who ranged in age from 13 to 41. When the so-called Golden State Killer was encountered by couples, he would tie up the husband and pile dishes on his back. He threatened to kill both victims if he heard plates fall to the ground while he raped the female victim.

He would then ransack the house, taking souvenirs, notably coins and jewellery before fleeing on foot or bicycle. The crime spree spanned 10 California countries in all, said Sacramento County District Attorney, Anne Marie Schubert. She was 12 in 1976 when a wave of violent home invasions shattered a "time of innocence" in which area residents routinely left their doors unlocked.

According to TimesLive, the suspect, also dubbed by investigators as the "East Area Rapist" and the "Original Night Stalker," is considered one of the state's most prolific serial killers, said the FBI.

It was like finding a needle in a haystack for the police, but the answer was always in Sacramento. You can learn more about the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo in the video below.

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