It's like a real life Scream. A woman picks up the phone, clueless about who is on the other line, and is in store. "Hello? ... hello?"

The caller's breathing becomes increasingly heavy.

"I'm gonna kill you. Gonna kill you. Gonna kill you. B - ch. B - ch."

And the caller hangs up.

Advertisement

This terrifying call is the closest link authorities have of the East Area Rapist, who for the last 40 years has eluded detectives. Multiple crimes, multiple stories, and multiple casualties.

When a man appeared in the doorway of a young woman's Sacramento, California bedroom on June 18, 1976, she assumed it was her father.

But it wasn't. Instead, it was her living nightmare, a man the FBI would later describe as a "violent serial burglar, rapist, and murderer". He would eventually become known as the East Area Rapist, and the Golden State Killer.

"I didn't hear him come in, I didn't hear anything, and all of a sudden there was someone standing in the bedroom door.

"He had a ski mask on and jumped on the bed and had a knife," his first victim described.

He walked towards her, told her "don't scream" and tied her hands behind her back.

The East Area Rapist, later known as the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer, committed 12 homicides, 45 rapes, and more than 120 burglaries.
The East Area Rapist, later known as the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer, committed 12 homicides, 45 rapes, and more than 120 burglaries.

The young woman was then raped, and robbed.

"After it was all over and done with, he went through the stuff in the room, took money out of my purse ... and a piece of jewellery.

"I laid in the bed for - it seemed like forever. I was waiting for the door to close, and I never heard the door close. I was afraid to get up."

But this woman's rape was only just the beginning. She was the first of the man's unbelievable 10-year crime spree across California; 45 rapes, 12 murders and 120 burglaries, with victims ranging in age from 13 to 41 over the next decade that to this day, have left police baffled.

"I woke up with a hand over my mouth," another victim recalled.

"He was hitting me, I pretended that he'd knocked me out so he'd quit hitting me. I was on my stomach, he put me back in bed, and said, 'If you move I'm going to kill you'.

"So I lay there for two hours," her voice quivered.

"He came in, I think about five different times over the course of the night and raped me. While you're laying there thinking you're going to die, I remember being in shock, just laying there on my stomach shivering.

"Finally, after, my best guess is two hours - it went on a long time - at about 4:30 in the morning I heard a car drive away. I started counting to 60 because I didn't have any concept of time so I counted to 60, 30 times and I figured then a half an hour would have gone by with no noise in the house. I got up and didn't know if he was there."

He targeted women who were home alone, women at home with their children, and couples.

The offender would ransack homes, taking jewellery and other valuables. Photo / FBI
The offender would ransack homes, taking jewellery and other valuables. Photo / FBI

He would shine a flashlight in his victim's eyes, ransack their homes and take small items such as coins, jewellery, and identification.

"He's not concerned about human life. He enjoys the terror," said Sergeant Paul Belli, from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

"He enjoys inflicting that type of an emotional pain on people."

But just who is responsible for these heinous crimes?

Despite the man's last known attack in 1986, when he raped and killed an 18-year-old teenager in Irvine, California, the FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for information that could finally lead to his arrest.

They also claim to have his DNA "that can either positively link or exclude a suspect".

The problem is, "we just don't have a face or name for that DNA", says the FBI.

"He's got to be one of the most prolific criminals when you think of the other murder cases that are connected and all of the rape cases and God knows what else we don't know," said Retired Detective Ray Biondi, from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

"He's an extremely prolific offender. This person ruined a great number of lives, and he should be held accountable.

"It is mind-boggling that he committed so many crimes without a slip up."

The FBI estimates the killer is between the age of 60-75, if he is in fact still alive.

"I don't want him to be dead because I think that would be the easy way out for him," his first victim said.

"I'd rather him be tried and convicted and spend the rest of his life in prison."

He is described as a "white male, standing approximately 5'10" tall and having blond or light brown hair and an athletic build".

He may have had an "interest or training in military or law enforcement techniques, as he was familiar and proficient with firearms".

"People who know the subject may not believe him capable of such crimes. He may not have exhibited violent tendencies or have a criminal history."