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Woman Says Golden State Killer Suspect Raped Her Two Years Before First East Area Rapist Crimes

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Elizabeth Silva says the man who has been charged with being the Golden State Killer and East Area Rapist sexually assaulted her while living in Visalia.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

As Joseph James DeAngelo sat in a wheelchair during his first appearance in court, Elizabeth Silva stood outside the Sacramento County Jail with a sign that read, "Victim."

Silva says the man who has been charged with being the Golden State Killer and East Area Rapist sexually assaulted her while living in Visalia. At the time, she was three months shy of turning 13.

The alleged attack happened two years before investigators say he committed his first crimes in Northern California.

"He violently raped me and took everything from me,” she said, “and now that they have the key to his cell, I can talk. I can say something now."

Silva, now 56, says DeAngelo wore a police uniform from the city of Exeter, where he worked from 1973-76. Exeter is adjacent to the city of Visalia.

She says he picked her up for skipping school. "He said he was going to take me to my dad and I was in the back of his cop car handcuffed and he took me to St. John's River” north of Visalia, she recalled. She alleges that DeAngelo assaulted her inside his patrol car.

She says the suspected Golden State Killer kept a memento after he assaulted her. "I hope they [law enforcement] find my buttons in his backyard to my pants. That will show my truth,” she said.

Last week, Silva filed a police report with the Los Rios Police Department, which forwarded it to the Visalia Police Department, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Four decades after the assault, she insists she was 13 years old at the time, but is unsure as to whether it occurred in March of 1973 or 1974.

She says she is speaking out now “for anyone who can't stand up and come out of hiding. They need to come out of hiding."

DeAngelo was arrested last week and is charged with killing eight people in Sacramento, Ventura and Orange counties. Investigators working those cases say they linked him to nearly 50 rapes and three attempted sexual assaults from 1976 to 1986.

Silva says DeAngelo threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about the assault. She says she kept it a secret until he was arrested last week.

A request for comment to DeAngelo’s public defender, Diane Howard, has not been returned.

On Friday after his arraignment, she said she has not seen his mug shot, but came forward when she saw an old photo of him published in the Visalia Times Delta.

Her stepfather, Joe Collins, was an officer with the Visalia Police Department at the time of the attack. He says Silva's behavior changed dramatically around that time.

"She got wild,” Collins said. “She totally became a different person. We didn't know what the reason was behind the behavior of change. She totally changed into another person.”

Collins says Exeter police officers were often in Visalia because it is the site of the Tulare County Jail.

Police in Visalia are trying to determine if DeAngelo is responsible for the August 1975 murder of a college professor, who was shot and killed while stopping the kidnapping of his 16-year-old daughter.

The department believes the same suspect shot at a Visalia police officer in December of that year as he tried to arrest a man for breaking into a home.

The suspect in those cases has only been known as the “Visalia Ransacker,” who the department believes also committed 100 burglaries but has not previously been linked any sexual assaults.

Damon Maurice with the Visalia Police Department says they are reviewing the cases. “We don't have any DNA evidence to go on,” he said, “but we are working through some physical evidence that was gathered at those crime scenes, specifically in regards to the homicide that occurred, and we're trying to see if that will connect Mr. DeAngelo to the kidnapping, murder and attempted murder.”

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department says DeAngelo is being held on the medical wing of the downtown jail and is on suicide watch, “which is standard for all persons brought into our facility for charges of this magnitude,” according to Sgt. Shaun Hampton.

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