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Original Night Stalker/East Area Rapist
Alias(es): East Area Rapist, EAR-ONS, Bedroom Killer, Diamond Knot Killer
State: California California
Country:  United States
As Original Night Stalker
Number of victims: 6+ (murdered)
Span of killings: 1980 - 1986
Area: Southern California
As East Area Rapist
Number of victims: 50+ (sexually assaulted)
Span of Rapes: 1976 - 1979
Area: Northern California
At Large

The Original Night Stalker is the moniker for an unidentified serial killer and rapist who murdered at least six people in Southern California from 1979 through 1986[2] and sexually assaulted at least fifty in the Sacramento and the Bay Area from June 1976 to July 1979.[2] However, the connection to the Sacramento and Contra Costa Counties assaults was not made until 2001, during this time he was dubbed The East Area Rapist.

The Original Night Stalker/The East Area Rapist may be considered one of the worst and prolific "unapprehended" serial offenders in history since the Middle Ages. So far in the investigation, every named or investigated suspect has been cleared through DNA, alibi or other investigative means and methods.[3]



This case, along with that of the Zodiac Killer, remains one of the most tantalizing and mysterious unsolved serial crimes in American history. Some California Law Enforcement authorities estimate his combined total number of victims at well over 50, including his rape victims in Sacramento County and Contra Costa County, California, and his rape and murder victims in Ventura, Dana Point and Irvine, California.[4][5] Additionally, some law enforcement authorities have attempted to link an additional 94 burglaries and 5 murders, in Visalia, California and Santa Barbara County, California, to the Original Night Stalker.

The perpetrator's modus operandi was to stalk middle-class neighborhoods for victims who lived in single story homes, then commit hot prowl burglaries. Early in his spree, the criminal sought out women alone by themselves, but later partially changed focus towards couples. During the time the perpetrator was known as the "East Area Rapist" his victims were left alive following the attack. Later the perpetrator began killing his victims and he become known as the "Original Night Stalker".

Typically he stealthily entered their living space late at night, and then took control with a handgun in a surprise home invasion. All victims were bound with ligatures the criminal brought to the crime scene. The male companion, if present, was either isolated or killed first by bludgeoning. Then a considerable amount of time would be spent sexually assaulting the female victim before bludgeoning her to death and ransacking the home.

The Original Night Stalker/East Area Rapist case was the motivating factor in the passage of legislation leading to the establishment of California's DNA database, which authorizes the collection of the DNA of all convicted felons in California. California's DNA data retrieval and storage program is considered by experts to be second only to Virginia's in size and effectiveness in solving cold cases. Ironically, while the California DNA database motivated by this case has solved numerous previously unsolved cold cases across the country, the original case remains unsolved.


Southern California

Six murders in Ventura, Dana Point and Irvine, California, have been linked by DNA evidence to the Original Night Stalker.

  • On March 13, 1980, Charlene Smith, 33, and Lyman Smith, 43, were found murdered in their home in Ventura. A log from the fireplace was used to bludgeon both the victims. Their wrists and ankles were bound with drapery cord and an unusual Chinese knot, known as the diamond knot, was used on their wrists.
  • On August 19, 1980, Keith Harrington, 24, and Patrice Harrington, 27, were found bludgeoned to death in their home in the Niguel Shores gated community in Dana Point. Although there was evidence that the Harringtons were bound at the wrist and ankles, no ligatures or murder weapon were found at the scene. The Harringtons were married only three months at the time of their deaths. Patrice was a nurse in Irvine, while Keith was a medical student at the University of California, Irvine.
  • On February 5, 1981, Manuela Witthuhn, 28, was murdered in her home in Irvine. Again, while the body showed signs of being tied before being bludgeoned, no ligatures or murder weapon were found at the scene. While the victim was married, her husband was recuperating from an illness in the hospital, thus she was alone at the time of the attack. A lamp and crystal curio was removed from her house, presumably by the killer. Also, detectives remarked that Mrs. Witthuhn's television was found in the backyard, which was possibly the killer's attempt to make it appear as a botched robbery.
  • On May 4, 1986, Janelle Lisa Cruz, 18, was found bludgeoned to death in her Irvine home. Her family was on vacation in Mexico at the time of the attack. A pipe wrench was reported missing by Cruz' stepfather and was the probable murder weapon.[6]

Sacramento and the Bay Area

In 2001, California law enforcement linked DNA evidence from three presumed East Area Rapist crimes committed in Sacramento and Contra Costa County, California to DNA found from Southern California victims of the Original Night Stalker.[7][8][9][10] The connection of the East Area Rapist to the Original Night Stalker make this the most extensive and geographically widespread crime series in California history. The case remains open in multiple California jurisdictions.[11]

Possible connections

Visalia Ransacker

The Visalia Ransacker is linked to some 94 burglaries and the murder of Claude Snelling, occurring in the early 1970’s, in Visalia, California. Some have found similarities in modus operandi, between the Visalia Ransacker and the Original Night Stalker/East Area Rapist.

At about the same time the Visalia Ransacker stopped his crime spree in Visalia, the East Area Rapist began attacking victims in Sacramento County, California. Based on witness descriptions of the East Area Rapist and the method of operation which was used to carry out his crimes, Detective McGowan, of the Visalia Police Department, attempted to link the Visalia Ransacker crimes to the East Area Rapist. Both the Visalia Ransacker and the East Area Rapist were described as physically fit white males in their twenties. In terms of modus operandi, both the Visalia Ransacker and the East Area Rapist pulled Hot prowl burglary on single-family residences in the middle of the night. Neither the Visalia Ransacker nor the East Area Rapist ever took valuable items from the homes they burglarized. Additionally, both the Visalia Ransacker and the East Area Rapist took firearms along when burglarizing residences.

The Visalia Ransacker has eluded capture as well and may actually have been the Original Night Stalker/East Area Rapist in his fledgling years.

Goleta murders

Even prior to 2001's connection of the Original Night Stalker to the East Area Rapist, some law enforcement officials, particularly several from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, sought to link four Goleta murders in 1979 and 1981 separately to the East Area Rapist[12] and the Original Night Stalker.[12] These postulated links are considered primarily due to similarity in modus operandi. One of the Original Night Stalker double murders did take place in Ventura, California, 40 miles east of Goleta, while the remaining murders took place in Orange County, California, an additional 90 miles to the southeast.

A possible reason for discounting a connection is that a forensics link between the two crime series has never been found, and that the murderer in Goleta did not rape his female victims even when he had the opportunity to do so. In 2000 an official from the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department claimed that DNA found at a Goleta crime scene did not match that found in the linked Original Night Stalker crimes.[13] However, not all of the seminal fluid or hair samples from the Goleta crimes have been preserved.

Additionally, the Goleta murders show distinctive characteristics not found in the later crimes, such as the shooting of the victims with a gun, the escape or almost escape of the victims and the presence of a recently stolen bicycle at the crime scene. However the East Area Rapist often took firearms with him, was known to steal a bicycle to aid his flight, and did have an early victim escape.

Suspects eliminated

Throughout the course of the investigation into the Original Night Stalker murders, the following persons were suspected of committing the crimes, only to be determined to not be the culprit:

  • Brett Glasby - An alleged drug dealer and gangbanger from Goleta, California who was killed in Mexico in 1982. Glasby's untimely death, prior to the murder of Janelle Cruz, eliminates him as a suspect.
  • Paul "Cornfed" Schneider - A high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. Schneider is a career criminal who was living in Orange County, California when the murders of the Harringtons, Manuela Witthuhn, and Janelle Cruz occurred. In the late 1990s, while serving time at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, Schneider provided a DNA sample to authorities. This sample cleared him as the Original Night Stalker.
  • Joe Alsip - A business partner of victim Lyman Smith. Alsip was a friend of the Smiths and visited their home on High Point Drive in Ventura the day before the murders. Alsip's pastor claimed that he had confessed to him during a family counseling session, but this confession was considered dubious by the Ventura County District Attorney's Office. Nevertheless, Alsip was arraigned for the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith in 1982. After the preliminary hearing, however, all of the charges against him were dropped.

It would not be until 1996 when DNA testing came on line that the murders would be linked.

In November 2002, journalist Colleen Cason wrote a newspaper series about the Original Night Stalker murders for the Ventura County Star. According to Cason's articles, Detective Larry Pool of the Orange County Sheriff's Department visited California's Death Row at San Quentin State Prison in an attempt to locate the Original Night Stalker. Detective Pool suspected that the Original Night Stalker had been captured and sentenced to death for some other violent crime. Nevertheless, none of the genetic samples collected from Death Row inmates at San Quentin matched the DNA of the Original Night Stalker.

Psychological profile

After criminalists matched serological evidence found at the southern California murder scenes, a psychological profile of the Original Night Stalker was compiled. According to Leslie D'Ambrosia, who was the primary author of the profile, it's likely that the Original Night Stalker would possess the following characteristics:[14]

  • White male
  • Emotional age of 26 to 30 at the time the crimes were committed
  • Likely began as a peeping Tom his late teens or early twenties.
  • Lived and/or worked near Ventura, California in 1980
  • Had some means of income, but did not work in the early morning hours
  • Drove a well-maintained car
  • Dressed well and would not stand out in upscale neighborhoods
  • Would appear harmless
  • Intelligent and articulate
  • Neat and well-organized in his personal life
  • Possibly unmarried and did not enter into long-term relationships
  • Would have been described by those who knew him as arrogant, domineering, manipulative, and a chronic liar
  • Had some knowledge of police investigative methods and evidence gathering techniques
  • Was a skilled and experienced cat burglar and may have begun that way
  • Was in good physical condition
  • Had a criminal record as a teenager which was expunged
  • Engaged in sex with prostitutes
  • Peeped into the windows of many potential victims who were not attacked
  • Engaged in deviant paraphilic behavior and brutal sex in his personal life
  • Sexually functional and capable of ejaculation with consenting and non-consenting partners
  • Self-assured and confident in his abilities
  • Hated women for real or perceived wrongs
  • Would continue committing violent crimes until incapacitated by prison, death, or some other intervention
  • If married, probably has a submissive spouse who tolerated his sexually deviant behavior

In addition to describing the characteristics of the Original Night Stalker, the profile also speculates about the fate of the slayer. According to the profile, the Original Night Stalker could have been incarcerated following Janelle Cruz' murder or killed in the commission of a similar crime. As to the latter point, the profile indicates that law enforcement agencies should look into attempted hot prowl burglaries in the late 1980s which resulted in the death of a lone male offender. The profile also indicates that there is a slight chance the Original Night Stalker committed suicide, but that it would be unlikely that he is confined in a mental institution.

The profile reveals that, following the original homicides in this series, teletypes were broadcast to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. These teletypes requested information on similar home invasion attacks involving sexual assault, murder, bludgeoning, multiple victims, and/or bondage. As of 2010, no similar crimes have been reported in the United States. The profile propounds the possibility, however, that the Original Night Stalker could have continued committing his crimes in another country where records were not consulted for linkage purposes.


  1. ^ "Convict focus of 'night stalker' probe". San Francisco Chronicle. 2002. 
  2. ^ a b "DNA Links '70s 'East Area Rapist' to Serial Killings". San Francisco Chronicle. 2001. 
  3. ^ Cold Case Files, "The Original Nightstalker" - (Episode #46), A&E Network, most recent broadcast March 20, 2009
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^][
  7. ^ "DNA Links '70s 'East Area Rapist' to Serial Killings". San Francisco Chronicle. 2001. 
  8. ^ "Local Rape Case Unsolved After 3 Decades". CBS. 2006-11-16. 
  9. ^ "DNA Links '70s 'East Area Rapist' to Serial Killings". San Francisco Chronicle. 2001. 
  10. ^ "Local Rape Case Unsolved After 3 Decades". CBS. 2006-11-16. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b .Wayne Wilson, "Link to East Area Rapist Probed in Couples’ Slaying," Sacramento Bee, February 26, 1980, p. B1; Wayne Wilson, "Police Debate Tie Between East Area Rapist, Killings," Sacramento Bee, March 13, 1980.
  13. ^ Dawn Hobbs, "Serial Link Explored in Old Murders: Goleta, Orange County Cases Similar," Santa Barbara News-Press, October 3, 2000.
  14. ^

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