SACRAMENTO, CA – A fired police officer from the 1970s has been arrested in the decades old “Golden State Killer” case.

The man suspected of the serial crime spree who was arrested this week for killing and raping dozens of California residents decades ago, seemed shocked to find police outside his home, according to Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department official Paul Belli.

Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, was taken into custody on Tuesday at his home in Citrus Heights in Sacramento County, the same county where the crime spree began in 1976. The crimes continued across the state until 1986.

fired police officer

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, has been arrested in the “Golden State Killer” case from the 70s and 80s. He is accused of being a serial murderer and rapist. (Sacramento Police Department)

DeAngelo lived at the home with family but was home alone when he was arrested, Belli told ABC News.

DeAngelo told police he had a roast in the oven, and officers said they could take care of it, Belli said.

As a result, he was placed under arrest without incident, but fanfare is rampant due to the publicity placed on the case.

Colleen Fernandez, who lives in DeAngelo’s neighborhood, told ABC News, “We walked by that house all the time … but we never saw him.”

“I’m just thankful he got caught,” Fernandez said. “It’s huge for this community. Even though it was 40 years ago, people still remembered.”

Fernandez lived in the Sacramento area during the years of the “Golden State Killer” crime spree, calling it “a scary time.”

“I was just a young woman. It was frightening. You’d definitely lock your doors and your windows,” she said. “You had a buddy system. I worked at a restaurant — I made sure somebody walked me to my car.”

Another neighbor, Robin Brown, noticed the police tape at DeAngelo’s home but figured he was getting his driveway repaved.

“We’ve always felt safe in this neighborhood,” she said.

Investigative authorities believe DeAngelo committed 12 murders, at least 50 rapes and multiple residential burglaries in the 1970s and 1980s.

The “reign of terror” spanned from the Sacramento area in Northern California down to Orange County in Southern California, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said Wednesday.

Yesterday, investigators conducted a methodical, room-by-room search of his home, Belli said.

Authorities have a list of items stolen from victims’ homes as well as other items connected to crimes, including weapons. Consequently, they hope the accused killer kept some “trophy items” that will further link him to the homicides.

fired police officer

Accumulated evidence in the “Golden State Killer” investigation. (FBI)

DeAngelo served in the Navy in the 1960s. An Auburn Journal article from 1967 said DeAngelo was a sailor aboard the USS Canberra.

DeAngelo was a police officer in Exeter, California, from 1973 to 1976, officials said.

In 1976 he served as a police officer in the city of Auburn until he was fired in 1979 for reportedly stealing a hammer and a can of dog repellent, The Associated Press reported, citing Auburn Journal articles from the time.

Subsequent to his termination as a police officer, DeAngelo spent the next 27 years working for Save Mart Supermarkets at a distribution center in Roseville, near Sacramento, said Victoria Castro, a public affairs manager for Save Mart. He retired last year.

“None of his actions in the workplace would have lead us to suspect any connection to crimes being attributed to him,” Castro said in a statement. “We are working with the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office on their investigation.”

Last week, DeAngelo’s name came up for the first time in the “Golden State Killer” investigation, Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.

It was discarded DNA that confirmed, “We had our man,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said at a news conference Wednesday.

“We found the needle in the haystack,” Schubert added.

“For over 40 years, countless victims have waited for justice,” Schubert said. “Over these years, hundreds of individuals have sought justice for these victims and their families.”

An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday and a complaint was filed charging DeAngelo with two counts of murder with special circumstances for the murder of a Sacramento couple in 1978, said Schubert. He was also charged with the capital murders of a couple killed in March 1980 in Ventura County, California. The crimes span 10 counties; charges are expected in more counties soon, reported ABC News.

Bruce Harrington, whose brother and sister-in-law were killed in 1980 by the “Golden State Killer,” said at the news conference, to the “ladies who were brutally raped in these crime scenes, sleep better tonight. He isn’t coming through the window. He’s now in jail and he’s history.”

The “Golden State Killer” would break into his victims’ homes by prying open a window or door while they slept, the FBI said.

He would then shine a flashlight into their faces, tie them up, ransack the house, and rape female victims, the FBI said.

Sometimes he would take jewelry, identification, cash, and coins from the victims’ homes.

Some victims said the suspect called them after the crimes, the FBI said.

In 1978, the “Golden State Killer” was believed to have shot and killed a couple walking their dog in the Sacramento area.

That crime was followed by rapes in the Northern California area, including Stockton, Modesto, Davis, and the East Bay.

Between 1979 and 1981, the “Golden State Killer” was suspected of rapes and murders in Southern California. The FBI said the victims were tied up in the same way and had their homes ransacked in the same way as the Sacramento area victims.

The final crime tied to the “Golden State Killer” was the May 1986 rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman in the Southern California city of Irvine, the FBI said.

DeAngelo has not yet appeared in court.