On April 25, 2018 the world learned that Joseph James DeAngelo, Jr. was arrested. Having read several books about his crimes, one more disturbing then the other, I sincerely hoped that after sentencing I’d never have to hear that name again.
Not only were the crimes haunting to read, I became friends with some victims’ family members. They wrote me about their pain. I saw their pain on their faces when I watched the hearings especially when they were allowed to address the man who had ripped their families apart.
Tony Reid is a private investigator and experienced criminal appeals attorney. His book Twelve Twenty-Six Seventy-Five (December 26, 1975) brought DeAngelo back. Another disturbing read but one that brought answers to questions that had remained open to me and I feel sure, to many others as well. Why was he not caught earlier?
For each targeted area, it was clear that this criminal knew how to move and avoid detection. It had always been clear that when he was not violently attacking people, he walked among us. Hiding in plain side, observing, knowing where the cops would be, knowing who was home alone. Why was he not caught earlier?
Are there any crimes we do not know about? Was he charged with all the cases or were some held back? Had he ever tried to frame anyone else? Did anyone ever suspect him? In excruciating detail, Reid explains that yes, there was a time to catch him and yes, there are other cases. And yes, some murders could have been avoided.
The book is well written, the pace is fast, and it details everything. That is both its strength and its curse. Reid leaves nothing out and details how he got to his conclusions. All the sources are on his website, here. It even includes an interactive map. However, the book is hard to read.
The table of content does not help the reader follow the timeline. It is crucial as in the book, several cases are discussed and also other trials for comparison. There is an extensive timeline in the back of the book but it doesn’t include a reference to the chapters. There are no subheadings in the chapters either.
There is no cross-referenced index and that, in a true crime book with as many details as Reid has included, should be a must. I was particularly interested in any forensic testing on the multi-colored ski mask that was found at Neel Ranch where Donna Jo Richmond (14) was found murdered. This ski mask matched the description given in the Claude Snelling case. I was also interested in touch DNA from several bras as at least two victims were tied with their own bras. An index would have been extremely helpful.
Having said this, nothing was harder than to read how an innocent man was convicted for a crime that DeAngelo probably committed. That man died in prison. Oscar A. Clifton was set up. An easy target, a lousy defense team, no direct evidence, and then cross-contamination of evidence sealed his fate.
If you are wondering how this all could have happened, consider the fact that a police sergeant ordered the destruction of case evidence in Donna Jo Richmond’s murder merely five months after Oscar A. Clifton had been sentenced while his appeals were still pending.
Tony Reid’s book will guide you through all the cases. He shows you how early on it was clear that the Visalia Ransacker and the East Area Rapist were the same man. And he could have been stopped if only there had been more collaboration between the involved authorities.
Last, pay attention from Chapter fourteen onwards especially from page 320. Reid discusses the familial searches, forensic genealogy, Paul Holmes, the privacy issues with online DNA databases, and the danger they pose not just to people’s privacy but also to convictions that are being contested.
If you have time, please watch the documentary by Lilia Luciano about the murder of Donna Jo Richmond. You can watch it on YouTube. The Attorney General for California will not reinvestigate the Oscar A. Clifton case. But, if you read this book and watch the documentary, you can draw your own conclusions.
Highly recommended reading.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. My other book reviews are here.