April 27, 2018

Internet Sleuths Are Harassing the Family of the Golden State Killer Suspect

The hunt for the Golden State Killer, a serial murderer who stalked California between 1976 and 1986, has come to an end.

Yesterday, Sacramento police arrested 72-year-old ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo in connection to the 1978 murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore, based on discarded DNA evidence. The elusive criminal been called the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Diamond Knot Killer, and is suspected of 12 homicides, at least 45 rapes, and 120 home burglaries.

The Golden State Killer is one of America’s most famous criminals. And in online forums, where for years people have congregated to parse evidence and discuss theories, information about DeAngelo’s family members—such as his wife and children—is now being spread.

The popular subreddit r/EARONS (short for East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker) is one of these forums, and a moderator has asked users to stop posting personally identifiable information about DeAngelo’s family.

“If you want to research his entire family tree, that's up to you, but please DO NOT share that information here publicly,” moderator SACRED-GEOMETRY wrote. “I’ve been getting notifications all day (every 3 minutes on average) for the past 12+ hours. I would estimate that hundreds of posts have been reported and removed today for violating these rules.”

Users have described or shared links to the Facebook pages and websites of DeAngelo’s former spouses, for example. “I have seen some names, addresses, phone numbers, and social media accounts,” one user wrote.

A Yelp page associated with a woman who, according to The Sacramento Bee, DeAngelo married in 1973 and divorced, has been bombarded with hostile comments since yesterday.

“You are a divorce lawyer and are still married to the Golden State Serial Killer,” one Yelp user wrote. “What is wrong with this picture?”

“She knew oh yes SHE KNEW,” wrote another. “If she is a lawyer - oh yes SHE KNEW. Divorce and family law - HOW RIDICULOUS!!!!!! She sounds like a real nasty piece of work like her husband Joseph James DeAngelo and probably the daughters are like that too.”

Yelp has placed a warning on the page, stating that comments are being monitored and may be removed. It declined to say how many had been taken down.

Image: Sarah Emerson

“When a local businesses makes the news or do something controversial, their Yelp business page can be affected,” a spokesperson for Yelp told me, noting that posts will continue to be monitored until her page “has returned to normal.”

A Facebook profile belonging to DeAngelo’s former fiancée was also mentioned by Redditors. Yesterday, her Facebook wall was public, meaning that anyone could comment on her posts. One commenter urged her to change her settings. As of today, it has been made private.

In another thread, one user described the alleged social media accounts of DeAngelo’s daughters. “If I have the right person (which is a big if but I'm pretty sure I have),” they wrote, “he has 3 daughters, one of whom has deleted her Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.”

“We're walking a very fine line between what should and shouldn't be shared,” moderator SACRED-GEOMETRY wrote. “All of the information people are sharing is publicly available online, but that doesn't mean it should be spread around carelessly.”

So far, there’s nothing to indicate that DeAngelo’s family is also under investigation. Authorities only said the arrest was based on a public tip and DNA evidence. Neither woman has publicly commented since DeAngelo’s capture.

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