The youngest victim of the Golden State Killer — who was just 13 when the monster raped her in 1977 — called his arrest “the greatest thing ever.”
Margaret Wardlow, now 54, became Joseph James DeAngelo’s 27th victim when he allegedly crept into her home, tied her up and threatened to kill her mother, she told CBS Sacramento.
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“My inside voice told me, ‘You are going to be raped, this is what’s going to happen to you, and you’re gonna survive,’” she recalled thinking. “It was just that simple.”
Four decades later, Sacramento police announced Wednesday they’d arrested former cop DeAngelo, 72, for allegedly murdering at least 12 people and raping 50 women throughout California in the 1970s and ’80s.
“This is the greatest gift ever,” Wardlow said of the arrest. “I am so thrilled with it, tickled they caught him, couldn’t be any better news.”
The killer, also known as the East Area Rapist, had stacked plates on top of Wardlow’s mother’s back so he would know if she moved, Wardlow said, recalling how he’d whispered, “Do you want to die? Do you want me to kill your mother?”
Wardlow said she’s tried to never let the attack define her.
“Certainly I’m a victim, I was 13 years old, a man came into my home, tied up my mother and raped me, but I don’t own that,” she said. “I can choose whether I own that or not, and I don’t own it.”
She’s thrilled for the other victims and their families, who may finally get closure.
Michelle Cruz, whose sister Janelle Cruz was raped and murdered in 1986, called the arrest “surreal and unbelievable” on “Good Morning America” Thursday.
“We finally got the guy who brutally raped and murdered my sister,” she said.
“I’m so thankful this journey is finally over. And I can rest and go to bed at night, and rest easier knowing that he’s in jail and he’ll never walk free again.”
Linda O’Dell, who became victim 20 when she was raped in 1977, said she “just didn’t give up” belief that her attacker would be caught.
“Thousands of nightmares and thousands of sleepless nights by everybody,” she told CBS News.
Another victim, who asked that only her first name, Mary, be used, told the Mercury News she’d waited 39 years for Wednesday’s news.
Mary was 13 when she became the killer’s 47th rape victim in 1979. He’d gotten into her home while her parents and sister slept, pulled down her new rainbow-pink duvet, held a knife to her throat and whispered, “You better be good,” before raping her, she recalled.
“I’m so happy. All the victims are all sharing a fabulous morning together,” Mary said. “We never felt safe and sound in our homes all of these years.”
Mary immediately called her 82-year-old mother and her sister to tell them the news. After all these years, she’d imagined that her attacker was dead.
“It’s horrible to think this man was living safely in his home for 20 years, just … Ewwwwww,” she said.
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