A 72-year-old former police officer is accused of carrying out a heinous crime spree that included at least 12 murders, dozens of rapes, and multiple robberies throughout California dating back more than 40 years. Joseph James DeAngelo, who has been identified as the “Golden State Killer” and “East Area Rapist,” was arrested as he stepped outside of his home near Sacramento, police announced on Wednesday (April 25).

DeAngelo lived in the quiet suburb of Citrus Heights for several years, but didn’t become a suspect in the case until a week ago. Authorities were able to get an arrest warrant after linking him to the crimes due to advancements in DNA testing.

According to Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, DeAngelo had been under surveillance and was caught off guard by the arrest.

DeAngelo, a father of adult children, worked as a police officer in two different cities in California between 1973 and 1976. He is believed to have committed some of the crimes while he was on the force.

“It is extremely troubling to learn the perpetrator was a former police officer, who was sworn to protect and serve, but instead preyed on extraordinarily vulnerable people in the sanctity of their homes,” Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Miles Weiss said. “It is certainly reasonable to think this suspect was so effective in evading identification for so long due to the training and experience he gained in law enforcement.”

DeAngelo has so far been charged with the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith who were found bludgeoned to death in their Ventura County  home in 1980.

“We will, God willing, hold this man fully accountable for his crimes, ” said Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten.

Besides murder charges in Ventura County, the Orange County District Attorney charged DeAngelo with four felony counts of murder with special circumstances sentencing enhancements for multiple murders, lying in wait, and murder during the commission of rape, robbery, burglary, and sodomy.

In the Orange County case, DeAngelo is accused of killing 24-year old Keith H. and 28-year-old Patrice H. in Dana Point in 1980. He's also accused in the 1981 rape and murder of 28-year-old Manuela W. in Irvine, and the 1986 rape and murder of 18-year-old Janelle C., also in Irvine.

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against DeAngelo.