One of America's most horrifying serial rapist killers likes to stay in touch and terrorize his victims who survive. The "East Area Rapist" has blazed a trail of terror up and down the state of California, believed to have committed 45 rapes and 12 murders over 10 years.

Once thought to be several different criminals over a long and far-ranging crime spree, he's been given many names.

"'East Area Rapist, 'Original Night Stalker,' 'Golden State Killer,' 'Diamond Knot Killer,'" said Orange County, California District Attorney investigator Erika Hutchcraft.

It took years to connect all the crimes to one man, who remains at large to this day.

The dreadful career of this most elusive and intelligent killer-rapist begins in and around Sacramento, California, in June 1976.

The tally is devastating: More than 30 rapes in the Sacramento area, all in upper-middle-class neighborhoods, all in the dead of night.

"He makes entry into the house and he is all of a sudden appearing at the foot of their bed," said Sacramento County Sheriff's Homicide Sgt. Paul Belli. "He would very commonly wear some sort of mask, whether it was a mask he fashioned himself, or ski masks he would purchase at the time."

In time the rapist, estimated to be between the ages of 18 and 30, became emboldened. He started attacking when both men and women were at home asleep, binding the man and raping the woman.

And he adds a chilling new technique to maximize the terror.

"He would throw the bindings to the female and tell her to bind the male up, then the offender would go and tie the female up," said Paul Holes, an investigator with the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office. "At a certain point he separates the female out into the family room, then he would come out with the dishes and puts it on the male's back and then tells the male 'If I hear these move, she's dead.' Or 'I'm going to cut a part of her and bring it to you.' At a certain point during the attacks he would tell the victims, 'I'm going to get something to eat now,' and the victims would hear him go in the refrigerator and sometimes he would go outside on the back patio he would take the food and go eat out there."

And he always takes something from the home, a memento to remember them by.

"Something that would be significant to the victim, maybe a class ring or maybe a ring that a wife had given a husband that had his initials on it," said Hutchcraft. "Sometimes photos would be torn in half and he would take half the photo. He's able to prolong that crime by messing with the victim."

By now the communities in and around Sacramento are utterly traumatized. And rumors abound as police try to calm the public.

"At one of the community meetings a gentleman stood up and said he absolutely could not believe that a rapist could come into a home and rape a woman while the husband was in bed with her," said Carol Daly, who survived one of the first attacks by the suspect.

But surprise -- it appears there may be an unexpected guest among them, and he's taking notes.

"It was about seven months later where this husband and his wife were victims of the East Area Rapist," said Daly. "I believe the rapist was at the meeting. He may have followed them home and just waited. It was not random."

The East Area Rapist is building a reputation as Sacramento's worst nightmare, his evil intent matched only by his skill at eluding capture.

"He's not necessarily stalking the victim, he's stalking the neighborhood," said Erika Hutchcraft. "He is very familiar with the area where he commits his crimes. He has an exit route planned out. He knows each house in the neighborhood. He knows how to navigate in the dark."

"I don't think we're looking at the troll under the bridge," said Paul Holes. "I don't think that we're looking at the sex registrant and transient that's moving around attacking couples. I think we're looking at somebody that has the skill set to move around and be a relatively successful person in his normal life."

A few witnesses say they have seen him fleeing one of his many crime scenes, or prowling the neighborhood in search of prey. But all police have to go on is a few possible sketches of the most wanted man in town.

"What most people don't realize is that those are composites are what other people are saying -- 'Hey, we saw a strange guy walking in the neighborhood' -- none of those people are the victims, because he always had a mask on his face. To this day we don't know what his face looked like," said Holes.

But police believe he finally makes a misstep, and it's a mistake with horrific consequences. A young married couple named Brian and Katie Maggiore are walking their dog on an early evening, when investigators say they encounter the rapist, without his disguise, lurking near a house.

Brian Maggiore is a security officer at a nearby Air Force base, and cops say he may have focused in on the suspect.

"He is prowling, looking in some windows, doing his surveillance," said Belli. "Brian being a security officer, I very much believe he would have attempted to intervene and attempt to catch this individual."

But it all goes horribly wrong.

"Brian is shot and killed in one backyard," said Belli. "It appears that Katie was trying to run through the two backyards to get out by a side gate where she ends up getting caught by the suspect and he ends up shooting her."

It is a brutal slaying, the first murders linked to the rapist.

"I think that in that particular killing it was to avoid detection and people figuring out who he was," said Belli.

Cops are all eyes and ears on the street, keeping a sharp lookout for anyone that might remotely resemble the attacker. Several men are questioned and released. Police pick up Michael Bowker.

Bowker a some-time crime writer who has ironically in later years written much on the very case for which he was questioned, was in his early 20s, living in the area where the suspect was striking.

"I actually was pulled over twice by police when I was jogging because I have somewhat the characteristics of this guy," said Bowker.

In the years after the East Area Rapist attacks, Bowker says he was hired by Sacramento Magazine to write hard-edge stories.

Bowker has never been named as a suspect in any crimes whatsoever. Today he lives in Goleta, Calif., not far from some of the very homes targeted by the East Area Rapist.

In earlier chapters of his violent spree, the East Area Rapist heads about 90 miles farther south in search of new victims and possibly less heat from the police. Investigators have some theories about his changing base of operations as well.

"Personally I believe he moved down here for his job," said Paul Holes. "I think he came down to this area because his job assignment changed or his occupation changed. Studies have shown that oftentimes they are doing victim selection during their normal activities."

Over the following year, the suspect racks up a terrifying tally of up to 18 attacks, most of them involving couples.

"For most of the attacks he's jumping off the freeway and hitting places that are close to the freeway," said Holes. "His M.O. is exactly the same as what we saw up in Sacramento."

For now, all of the victims of the home-invasion attacks survive. But even though police have not yet connected all the crimes to one man, they still regard the East Area Rapist as the prime suspect in the murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore. And they fear more bloody encounters yet to come.

"Very early on in the series in fact, psychologists that had been consulted in Sacramento had predicted that this guy would kill," said Holes.

And their worst fears are about to be realized.

"What's remarkable about this case and series is just the sheer number of cases involved," said Hutchcraft. "He's one of the most prolific serial offenders in California's history."

"After he does the second attack in Stockton, that's where he starts to toggle back and forth between Modesto and Davis," said Paul Holes.

Later the attacker adds an unspeakable touch of horror to his M.O.: he not only rapes and threatens, he brutally murders all of his victims over the next two and a half years, leaving a trail of blood from Santa Barbara to Orange County.

"He would rape the female victim and then he would bludgeon the victims to death using an unknown object usually, but he would take the item from the crime scene," said Hutchcraft.

Lyman and Charlene Smith were an upwardly mobile couple living in Ventura County when the East Area Rapist came calling. Charlene was raped, and they were both murdered. Detectives take note of something odd about the bindings used to tie the wrists of the victims.

"The knots on their wrists later got classified as a 'diamond knot.' It's like an ornate knot used in decorative stuff and oftentimes maybe sailing," said Ventura Police Sgt. Matt Cain. "They tried to recreate, have someone, say a knot expert, redo these knots and it was difficult for them to do it. It wasn't an everyday knot."

It is a maddening clue, but it only shows up that one time in a gruesome crime spree that leaves four couples slaughtered in their bedrooms, along with two other women raped and murdered in separate attacks.

As suddenly as he began, the East Area Rapist goes quiet.

After five years since the last attack by the East Area Rapist, police have still not linked all the crimes to one man.

Then Janelle Cruz, 18, was raped and killed on May 4, 1986.

"I believe at that point he saw Janelle and that was a case where he couldn't help himself, and he decided he had to go and kill her," said Paul Holes.

The Janelle Cruz killing is the last-known attack by the East Area Rapist to this day. A solid team of detectives all over California is still working hard to catch him, dead or alive.

"What we have to ask ourselves is where the East Area Rapist would be today," said Erika Hutchcraft. "If you look at pure statistics alone, a male of his age, purely statistically, would be alive. We're looking at a male between 5' 8" and 6 feet tall, and we know he probably had light-colored eyes."

"My sweet spot for his age range is 65 to early 70s," said Paul Holes. "I think it's possible he's still in Sacramento."

The clues to his identity are few. He never left a single fingerprint, and none of the surviving victims can provide a physical description of the masked assailant. But there is one very small detail in the case books. and for lack of a better way to say it, the suspect has an "extremely small penis," according to reports from victims.

And there is yet another crucial development in identifying the east area rapist that has come to the forefront in recent years. Thanks to the modern day use of DNA evidence, the sperm of the attacker recovered from his victims shows that all the rapes and murders once thought to be the work of several men are now linked to one lone monster.

"They don't get connected until 10 years after this last known crime," said Paul Holes. "DNA then was able to make that connection between northern and southern California."

It's a massive step forward in solving who did it.

"He didn't know about DNA and that's probably what's going to do him in," said Holes. "At some point we are going to find him.

"There have been suspects I've developed, thinking I've got the guy, and I've spent several years tracking down the guy, trying to get his DNA, thinking I've got him, and then the DNA results come back and it's not him," said Holes.

But cops are far from giving up the hunt. And they can use any help they can get from the public. And now the FBI has recently signed on to the case, offering a $50,000 reward. Contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or submit a tip here.

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