It's been 40 years since a violent serial burglar, rapist, and killer started to terrorize Northern California, but the FBI this week announced there is a new, concerted push to find the so-called "East Area Rapist." Described as a white male about 5-foot-10 with blond or light brown hair, an athletic build, and possible training in military or law enforcement, the suspect is likely between 60 and 75 years old and has been linked to at least 52 sexual assaults in the Bay Area and Sacramento County in the 1970s and '80s. The bureau is offering a $50,000 reward for information that helps identify him and is launching a national campaign that includes billboards. No crimes have been connected to the man since 18-year-old Janelle Cruz was raped and bludgeoned to death in her family's home in Irvine, Calif., in 1986, reports the Los Angeles Times.
And yet, "We believe he's alive," says Sgt. Paul Belli of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Homicide Bureau. "There's no reason to believe he's not alive." After serial killer Richard Ramirez became known as the "Night Stalker" in the mid-'80s when he terrorized the Los Angeles area, the East Area Rapist took on the moniker "Original Night Stalker" and has stumped investigators ever since. But DA Anne Marie Schubert, who was 12 and in East Sacramento during the first attacks, says memories haven't faded, reports the Sacramento Bee. "In essence, a community was taken hostage," she says. The suspect is linked to more than 175 crimes since he attacked a woman in 1976, including 45 rapes and 12 homicides. He's known for targeting couples, tying them up, and taking jewelry or coins. (Some think America's first serial killer went on to become Jack the Ripper.)