Composites: Sorting and Contextualizing

4/25/18 Update: As anyone visiting this site most likely knows, 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo has been arrested. DNA is a reported match. Apparently, not only has the East Area Rapist been caught, but today’s press conference has also revealed him to be the Visalia Ransacker as well. Unless a cruel twist of fate is to follow, this case has been resolved.


It’s an amazing day–for the victims and their families; for law enforcement; for the many people who have dedicated their time and energy to this series of crimes and their effects.


What use are the composites? At this stage–decades later–they are probably not useful. The notion of sorting them and providing context may appear useless.

However, the composites are prominent with any Google search on the subject, they are mostly decontextualized when they show up on various websites, and people still use them when talking about particular Persons of Interest.

Decontextualized composites are not just useless, but potentially harmful to the public’s sense of the criminal.

Providing context, then, is at least a potential corrective to that danger.

I’ve divided the composites into three categories, each with a separate page:

  1. Canonical (the posts below of suspicious men, typically associated with EAR)
  2. Connected (suspects of unrelated crimes, no solid connection, yet the suspects and images circulate with EAR)
  3. Fake or Creative (not generated from an official suspect or crime, but created for some other purpose)

Sources: Most of the information about the composites originated in forum posts (A&E, now defunct; earonsgsk; ons) from members with access to LE reports. Other sources of information include the EAR/ONS timeline and Richard Shelby’s Hunting a Psychopath. See About page for more details.

Please note that this site is my attempt to gather available public information about the composites. It is not affiliated with law enforcement.


La Riviera Drive (1976) / HLN Unmasking Doc (2018)


Thanks to Kat Winters for providing the high-quality image on the proboards.

This will most likely appear in the upcoming HLN series, where I hope more info will be provided.

The HLN trailer gives a larger image that includes LE notations regarding the sighting (but the overall quality of the image is poor). The location from description is La Riviera Drive. The description has the notation “SUSP CIR” for, I assume, “suspicious circumstances.”

As ever, it’s safe to assume that nearly all of the composites are of men seen near attack locations–and not direct sightings of EAR.




“New” San Ramon (8/8/79)


This composite was posted to the proboards by user speakelofengrish (SOE). He was Michelle McNamara’s researcher and continued working on her book until it was completed. This composite was included among LE files loaned to Michelle and SOE.

The context section is my summary of information provided by posts from SOE and Winters.

Context: This sighting of a suspicious man occurred one month after EAR’s failed Danville attack on July 5, 1979.

On August 8, 1979, a teenage girl was home alone. Checking on some noise at the home’s rear sliding glass door, she saw a man who was holding a knife, attempting to get in through the sliding door. She turned on a patio light, and he backed away, running to and climbing over a fence that bordered a Christmas tree farm.

From SOE’s post: “The subject was described as a white male adult, 30 to 35 years old, 5’9” with a slender build (and heavy legs), clean-shaven with a very light complexion, and straight, light brown hair that was collar-length. He was wearing a black zippered nylon jacket and faded blue Levis.

The girl was later placed under hypnosis and aided sketch artist Tom Macris in crafting the above composite of the subject.”

From Winters: “Tennis shoe prints were found near the fence. They were a size nine or ten.”

Also noted by Winters is the fact that the police responded quickly and thoroughly, with a strong and noticeable police presence (a helicopter and bloodhounds were involved). As Winters observes, “Even though the suspect wasn’t located, such an impressive show of force by the police department probably chased him out of that immediate area for good.”

Validity: Nearly every composite is of a suspicious person, not a direct, confirmed sighting of EAR.

However, SOE and Winters point out compelling features of this sighting.

I will quote SOE at length:
  • The Christmas tree farm into which the subject fled was the *same* Christmas tree farm the EAR used before and after attack #40. That victim’s home was on the other side of the farm (which is essentially just a narrow greenbelt). Additional, a TRAP surveillance unit had observed activity in the same Christmas tree farm on the night of Jan 26, 1979 (and two separate prowler incidents occurred in the area over the course of that night).
  • The would-be victim’s description of the individual is consistent with most descriptions of the EAR.
  • The composite closely resembles — eerily so, in fact — the subject chosen by victim #15 (the only victim with whom the EAR wore an open-faced mask, revealing his features), from the array of yearbooks detectives asked her to browse, as closely resembling her attacker.
Because of these details, SOE is “certain the subject observed attempting B&E in San Ramon on 8/8/79 was the EAR, and therefore the composite that resulted is the closest likeness of the EAR that exists among the rather noisy assortment of composite sketches floating about.”

Winters added this note: “What makes this incident interesting is the fact that happened about a couple thousand feet from both Attack #39 AND the Thunderbird Place incident where rope was found under the couch cushion.”

The Mask (7/5/79)

On 7/5/79 in Danville, EAR stood in a couple’s bedroom. As EAR was putting on his mask, the husband woke up and confronted the intruder by screaming obscenities. In perhaps the best demonstration of EAR’s toughness when a male victim is unbound, the EAR did nothing as the wife and husband bolted out a rear sliding glass door.

These sketches have been associated with that incident.

Danville 1979

Dville outfit

Context: EAR’s previous attack (6/25/79) was in Walnut Creek. Before that, an attack in Danville (6/11/79). This aborted July 5th attack would be followed by another unsuccessful attack on 10/1/79.

Validity: Some have questioned whether this was an EAR attack or whether it even happened at all. However, the dominant view is that it was an EAR incident.


The East Area Rapist’s first known attack happened 40 years ago today: June 18, 1976.

This is most likely the final entry of the canonical composites. I may add some new material on other pages and update existing material, so this blog won’t fall completely silent. At this point, I believe I have catalogued the most common composites that have circulated. (I’ve seen a few that I have no plans on adding without more information–they are rare and little is known about them).

How fitting, then, to end the canonical composites with EAR wearing a mask. May it soon be torn away to reveal the vile man responsible. As we all know, the FBI has called on the public’s help to catch him. The story is international, and visitor numbers to this blog spiked after the FBI’s announcement. I hope that one day an update to this page can be made with his real face. Until that day–and on that day–my thoughts will be with the victims and their families.

FBI Wanted Poster (2016)

This composite was released at the June 2016 press conference, offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of EAR. Its original context was unknown until the 2018 HLN documentary series Unmasking a Killer.

FBI Wanted

Context: In the second episode of Unmasking a Killer, the “Moonie Surfer” sketch (above) was revealed to come from another witness in the area of the Maggiore murders.

It was one of three composites given special emphasis at the 2016 press conference; the other two were “revised Maggiore” and the “Ripon prowler.”

Validity: These composites represent the informed opinion of the multiple law enforcement agencies involved. Consequently, they gain some weight when it comes to validity.

However, it should be noted that investigators promoted three composites, not just one. This reflects the necessary uncertainty of the composites: although the Ripon Ct. and Maggiore incidents have evidence that point to EAR as the culprit, it is not certain that he was involved. Also, the composites share similarities and some differences: if all three were actual sightings of EAR, then, by putting forward all three, investigators seem to be taking into account the problematic nature of eyewitness testimony and composite accuracy.

Based on statements made by Paul Holes in the episode, it seems that people should still call in about a person of interest even if that person did not resemble the composites. In other words, people with a relevant tip should not let a composite mismatch stop them.


When considering the Moonie Surfer, it is tempting to see similar appearances in both Carmichael and the Ripon shooter.



Maggiore Suspects (2/2/78)

On 2/2/78, Brian and Kate Maggiore went for an evening walk with their dog in Rancho Cordovoa. They were shot to death in a backyard on La Alegria Drive.

That’s about as much as anyone can say about this tragedy without stepping into unclear and controversial territory. Was EAR seen prowling–and perhaps personally recognized–by the Maggiore couple? Did the murders involve a possible stalker of Katie’s? Or were they connected to Mather Air Force Base? Or some other circumstances entirely?

A 2/16/78 Sacramento Bee article published these composites of suspects:maggiore2Suspects

Here is a clearer view of the composites (from EAR-ONS timeline):

magg first suspects

On 4/16/78, two months later, the Bee published a revised composite of one suspect from a “better description” from a new witness:


A clearer view of the revised composite (from EAR-ONS timeline):

Revised comp

Context: The 2/2/78 Maggiore murders occurred after Victims #29 and #30 (1/28/78) near American River College, and before Victim #31 (3/18/78) in Stockton.

If EAR was prowling in Rancho Cordova that night, it was familiar stalking ground, having struck multiple times in that area. His first known attack occurred down the street.

Validity: The validity of the composites as EAR rests upon two obvious foundations: first, eyewitness reports and memory; second, whether this was an encounter with EAR. I am not going to take a side or represent every detail of the arguments. What follows, instead, are the brief versions.

EAR: Rancho Cordova was familiar stalking ground, and he may have been stalking in it that night: “EAR-style burglaries and prowls in the hours preceding the Maggiore murders suggest he was in attack mode that night.” Additionally, near the crime scene a shoelace was found–or shoelaces, depending on the source. The current LE position seems to be that it is “a single pre-tied shoelace…consistent with the EAR’s knots.” Of course, if it were EAR’s stalking ground, he could have dropped this shoelace at some other time. And if two suspicious men were connected to the crime, that would suggest that EAR was working with a partner, which seems unlikely. (I am trusting that readers will spin out the many obvious variations and rebuttals to these scenarios, as many others have).

Mather AFB Connections: Lt. Ray Biondi investigated the case, with Brian’s air force connections as a primary focus: “It was very close to Mather Air Force Base; and because one of the victims was a military sergeant, I bet you we interviewed thousands of airmen….We had a lot of suspects, a lot of great theories and a lot of guys who seemed to have an established motive, but we never solved that case.” During the initial investigation, it seems, EAR was not a suspect. And newspapers from the time did not mention the shoelace or EAR as a potential culprit, either.

On the AETV forum, Archangel posted a detailed timeline and argument for two suspects working together, with motives involving illegal activities at the air force base. Those archived posts can be found on the earonsgsk board.

A Stalker: As noted in HAP, Katie received threatening calls from a man saying that he was going to rape Katie:

“Katie had been the victim of crank phone calls, and may have been the target of a stalker. The crank phone caller told her he was the one who raped two women in a Regal gas station, and she would be next. Any more information about this possible stalking, or what may have occurred while in Fresno, has not been made public” (Shelby).

According to reliable forum posts, a possible connection to those calls calls was a man sitting in a car outside of Katie’s work, staring at her for an unusual amount of time. If Brian and Katie’s nighttime walks were a routine, a stalker would know such a thing and might even follow them, leading to a confrontation. It should be noted that this scenario is less popular than the EAR or air force scenarios.

Current LE thinking seems to focus on EAR as the assailant, and EAR is noted as a possible suspect by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, who have reopened their investigation into the murders.

Nicknames: The Mustache; The Bland Man; Revised Composite

Update: The June 2016 FBI announcement presented “Revised Composite” along with two others. “Revised” was stated to be the best composite, featuring it on the national billboard.




Stockton Sketches (9/6/77)

On this date, a 6-year-old girl woke in the night to use the bathroom. EAR was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. This is what she saw:

He was wearing a purple t-shirt, a brown ski mask, black knit mittens, a belt that held a sword (or hunting knife, possibly) and a gun in a holster. He also wore a watch and no pants.

Under hypnosis, the girl recalled a few more details: a tattoo that resembled the Schlitz Malt Liquor bull on his left forearm; a belt buckle with two revolvers on it, their barrels crossed; and a large black ring on his right hand. A close-up of the ring and the belt buckle:


Context: The girl was unharmed. EAR said he was playing tricks with her mom and dad. She didn’t understand what he was saying, so she went to the bathroom and then back to bed.

With the exception of the sighting by a child, the attack on the parents resembled other EAR attacks.

Validity: By just about any measure, this was an EAR attack. In Crompton’s Sudden Terror and Shelby’s Hunting a Psychopath, the girl was described as “real sharp” and “astute,” which should add some credibility to what the young girl saw. Apparently, only some of the details came from hypnosis, so if some feel skepticism toward that technique, it would apply to only part of the description.