The Original Night Stalker—so called to differentiate him from several other subsequent rapists and murderers who’ve been tagged with the “Night Stalker” sobriquet—was the name given to an unidentified serial killer and rapist who has been connected to as many as 13 murders and more than 50 sexual assaults in California between 1976 and 1986.
Other criminals who’ve been dubbed the Night Stalker over the years include Richard Ramirez, a serial killer and rapist whose crimes terrified the residents of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 1980s, and Delroy Easton Grant, a London serial rapist in the 1990s and 2000s. So why is it that the Original Night Stalker isn’t just called the Night Stalker, and those others called the Other Night Stalker? Because the Original Night Stalker’s attacks weren’t all linked together until well after many of the other Night Stalker crimes had already been committed.
Between June 18, 1976, and July 5, 1979, a string of more than 50 sexual assaults were committed against women in neighborhoods near Sacramento, California. The unknown perpetrator of these attacks was dubbed the East Area Rapist. Authorities believed all the attacks to have been carried out by the same person due to their similar MO. Believed to have begun as a burglar, the East Area Rapist stalked women who lived in single-story houses in middle class neighborhoods, and then broke in at night where he frequently tied up his victims before committing his crimes.
The East Area Rapist is believed to have performed extensive reconnaissance on his victims, often calling them both before and after the attacks. Sometimes he would simply hang up or pretend to have a wrong number, other times he threatened his victims. In one call, recorded by the victim, the rapist’s voice repeatedly threatens, “Gonna kill you.”
While the East Area Rapist initially targeted women who were home alone, he later came to prefer to strike at couples, where he would force the woman to tie up her partner at gun point, and then separate them in order to rape the woman. He sometimes stacked plates or other dishes on the back of his male victims, saying that if he heard the dishes rattle he would kill everyone in the house.
Beginning in 1979, a string of rapes and murders occurred in various towns in Southern California that echoed the MO of the East Area Rapist. But because these attacks were committed in scattered communities in different jurisdictions over the course of several years, they were not initially thought to be connected to one another, let alone to the assaults committed by the East Area Rapist in the years before. While some authorities had their suspicions as to a connection much earlier on, it wasn’t until 2001 that DNA evidence linked the Southern California murders to the East Area Rapist, and the full scope of the Original Night Stalker’s crimes began to become clear.
The brother of one of the Original Night Stalker’s victims spent almost $2 million dollars of his own money to support the passage of California Proposition 69 in 2004, which led to the creation of a DNA database containing the DNA of all the accused and convicted felons in the state. The third-largest DNA database in the world, California’s widely considered second only to Virginia’s in its effectiveness in solving cold cases. However, the case that motivated its creation remains unsolved to this day.
In addition to his numerous sexual assaults, DNA evidence implicates the Original Night Stalker in eight murders, while MO links him to two others. Several investigators also believe that he was responsible for at least three other murders, one in 1975 and two in 1978. Though no additional crimes have been linked to the Original Night Stalker since 1986, the last contact with him is thought to have occurred in 1991, when he placed a taunting phone call to one of his victims.
In spite of more than 14 million DNA profiles in the FBI’s National DNA Index, no match has yet been found for the killer known as the Original Night Stalker. While many have speculated as to his fate, they also admit that it’s possible that whoever the Original Night Stalker was, he may still be out there, and his true identity may never be known.