The Visalia Ransacker
In March of 1974, an unidentified male began a series of serial burglaries in and around Visalia, California until December 10, 1975. Single-story homes were typically targeted. He would often pillage the residence, stealing items that weren’t of much value. These reported break-ins hardly received attention across the press and news on television; the crimes went under the radar. During the majority of the intrusions, nobody was necessarily harmed in a physical manner until September 11, 1975, when his crime spree escalated for unknown reasons. By now, local newspapers dubbed the individual as the Visalia Ransacker.
In the late hours of the night on September 11, the home of Claude Snelling — a professor teaching journalism at College of the Sequoias — was broken into. The sound of loud and strange noises echoing throughout the home awoke Claude. Once he was able to wipe the sleep from under his eyes, he went to check on the commotion. That is when he noticed a masked trespasser attempting to abduct his teenage daughter, Beth Snelling.
The Visalia Ransacker was already outside in the backyard dragging Beth in hand when Claude heroically came to his daughter’s aid. The intruder threw Beth aside in a panic and pulled out a gun, shooting Claude in the stomach before fleeing. The wound proved fatal and Claude died on the back patio after rescuing his daughter from the monster.
Prior to this tragic home invasion, the Visalia Ransacker had allegedly attacked 84 homes, but this occasion was the first abduction and murder reported. It was this event that finally prompted law enforcement to perform stakeouts with hopes of catching the thief and killer. Different officers were designated to various neighborhoods that had been previously ransacked. However, despite neighbors and police being on high alert, the intruder managed to continue his invasions in an uncanny fashion ten more times between the dates of September 2, 1975 – December 10, 1975. Here is a list I compiled of stolen items he took per home.
The Visalia Ransacker continued relishing in his abilities, growing more confident by the day without being apprehended, but on December 10, 1975, Detective William McGowen witnessed a suspicious male walking through the neighborhood he was patrolling. McGowen attempted to confront the man for questioning and that’s when the stranger pulled out a gun and fired at the detective. Shockingly, the bullet struck McGowen’s flashlight which knocked him on his back and shattering the glass. Miraculously, he was unharmed, but the perpetrator managed to escape.
Thankfully, Detective McGowen was able to get a glimpse of the man. He was wearing individual a ski-mask that was rolled up so his face was visible. He seemed to have blond hair and was approximately 5’9-5’10 in height. His age estimated to be between 25-30 years old and he was relatively chubby weighing roughly 190-200 pounds. Despite his weight, he was incredibly agile and could hurdle fences with ease. After this encounter, the Visalia Ransacker officially vanished from the area. In total, he managed to burglarize a confirmed 94 homes, but the authorities estimate that number could be as much as 125 residences.
Six months later beginning on June 18, 1976, an unidentified male dubbed as the East Area Rapist emerged in Rancho Cordova, California, located in the northern region two hours away. He preyed upon at least fifty confirmed victims within a ten-year stretch. He would break into residences in a similar fashion to the Visalia Ransacker, but he would become much more aggressive by sexually assaulting women and ultimately became a serial killer. This is the story.
The East Area Rapist
On June 18th, 1976, at 4:00 in the morning in Rancho Cordova, California, a twenty-three-old insurance adjuster awoke to the consistent tapping of a knife against the framing of her bedroom door that was sprawled open. It’s unclear how long this intimidation factor took place, but it was long enough for the intruder to watch her sleep and plan his entire move; getting a thrill knowing his soon-to-be victim was in a deep sleep, completely unaware of the horrors soon to follow.
Eventually, the tapping grew louder and louder, causing the young woman to wake up. As she was trying to clear the sleep from under her eyes, the masked man turned on the bedroom light. That’s when she saw an unidentified male wearing a dark colored t-shirt, a handmade ski mask with holes only for his eyes, and gloves. However, he had no pants or underwear on.
For a brief moment, the man continued looking at her and tapping his knife against the door framing. She was in a daze, unable to move or rationally think — the fear making her paralyzed. At that moment, the man sprinted towards her and leaped onto her bed. As many kids do, she made an attempt to protect herself by throwing the sheets and covers over her body and face. Unfortunately, it was too late. He overpowered her, ripping the sheets from her body and putting his knife to her temple.
With clenched teeth, he told the young woman, “If you make any sound or move in any way, I will stick you with this knife. I want to fuck you.” Now that he was in complete control, he got off the bed and demanded her to take off her clothes. She complied. As she was undressing, he strode back and forth across the room impatiently.
Once her clothing was completely removed, he noticed she was on her period and had a tampon. Un-phased, he told her to remove it and roll onto her stomach. Afterward, he forcefully took her arms, crossing them against her back, binding them together with rope that was pre-cut while she was sleeping. Now that she was immobilized, he left to scour the room.
He soon came back and raped her without saying a word. After cleaning the mess off his genitals with the bed sheets, he asked if she had any money, but every time she tried responding he would immediately interrupt her; still speaking through gritted teeth.
While she remained tied and bound, the intruder briefly left her bedroom to rummage the home. Moments later he returned with her hairdryer from the bathroom, cutting the electrical cord to bind her ankles even tighter, all the while using her discarded clothing for a gag, threatening her even more if she attempted to move while he ransacked the home again.
Over a period of time, the house became silent. Although paranoid, the young insurance adjuster tried making her way to the kitchen. Due to her arms being bound behind her back, she was unable to reach the phone attached to the kitchen wall. Thankfully, she managed to hobble to her father’s bedroom where another landline was on his nightstand and called the police.
- This is the first confirmed attack committed by the East Area Rapist. However, there is circumstantial evidence that suggests he was active much earlier. A few blocks away near Dolecetto Way and Dawes Street, there was peculiar activity. In August of 1974, a home was burglarized and a dog was found beaten to death by a log. On October 21, 1975, an unknown individual gained entry into a home occupied by a young mother, her eighteen-year-old daughter, and seven-year-old daughter. The perpetrator bound the family with strips of towels he had cut and spoken through clenched teeth; the typical hallmark of the East Area Rapist. He did not sexually assault the seven-year-old, but he did make sexual innuendos to her. Unfortunately, he did attack the mother and oldest daughter. This attack was considered canon for approximately a year before it was removed from his timeline due to inconsistent reports from the victims. However, it’s generally believed amongst initial investigators to be the work of the notorious rapist. Here is a link where I discuss the details further.
- The woman’s father was a retired U.S. Army Air Force Serviceman. He was in Boston attending to business at the time of the attack.
- What seemed like an eternity, this entire tragedy happened in 20 minutes from the moment she woke up.
- The assailant used a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Oil to lubricate himself during the rape.
- Nothing of value was stolen, but the victim’s purse was discovered in her backyard; her personal belongings scattered everywhere.
- The victim told investigators she thought two people were in the house conversing with one another, because at one point during the ransacking she heard a male voice loudly say, “I told you to shut up!”
- Police found a section of a birdbath and firewood placed underneath the phone line that led to the telephone pole outside. The intruder tried cutting it but was unsuccessful. Wood chippings were also on the ground at the back door indicating the perpetrator spent time disbarring the door jammer to pry the door open.
- With the excessive mess the intruder left behind in terms of failing to cut the victim’s phone line and personal belongings spread across the backyard, the investigators didn’t consider this work as professional, believing a local teenager was responsible.
- The victim told authorities she believed she was stalked for a month beforehand. She started noticing a suspicious older, dark and medium-sized American vehicle constantly driving through the neighborhood. This generally happened while she was outside. Every time she looked at the driver, the individual would turn away to conceal his identity. Once she became more aware of what was happening, the vehicle no longer appeared in the vicinity. Soon thereafter, she began receiving random phone calls. When she would answer and say “Hello,” the caller would hang-up.
- Lastly, on January 2nd, 1978, she received a phone call from someone asking if Ray was home. It was apparently the wrong number. A few hours later she got another phone call. The person on the other end spoke in anger with his teeth clenched saying, “Gonna kill you … Gonna kill you … Gonna kill you … Bitch … Bitch … Bitch … Fucking whore.” Both calls were recorded. I will link them below:
On Tuesday, October 5th, 1976 in Citrus Heights, twenty-nine-year-old Jane Carson, and her three-year-old son were home alone after her husband left for work at 6:30 a.m. to Travis Air Force Base. Jane and her son were snuggling in bed after her husband’s departure. Suddenly, a clicking noise could be heard resonating throughout the home that sounded like a light switch turning on and off repeatedly.
Eventually, she peeked her head up and heard someone sprinting in the hallway outside of her room. Before she could promptly react, an unknown male with a ski-mask was standing in the doorway with the large knife raised above his head in an attacking motion. Jane quickly grabbed her son and tried protecting him, all the while telling the masked man where all the money was; hoping to keep her child from harm in any possible way.
Ignoring her pleas, he angrily whispered in clamped teeth to remain quiet. She submitted to his demands as the intruder tied Jane and her son’s hands, wrists and ankles together with the bedsheets, muttering to her, “I don’t want to hurt you. I just want the money. If you don’t comply, I will kill you and your son.”
Once Jane and her child were secured, the invader went to browse the interior for valuables. After a short while, he returned telling Jane he had found the cash and would be leaving. Though she was speechless, those words provided relief as she prayed the nightmare was over. Unfortunately, that was a lie in order to create more traumatic terror.
There was silence in the bedroom, and Jane wholeheartedly believed the man had left. Instead, he was standing above her from a distance watching her and the child without making a single noise. That’s when she unexpectedly heard bath towels being torn into strips to further fasten the arms and legs of her family. After doing so, the intruder sat on Jane’s back and put his penis into her hands that were numb from the circulation being cut off. He told her, “Play with it.” She listened intently but explained she was having trouble because of how tight were hands and wrists were. Frustrated, he told her to shut up and untied her ankles so he could violate her.
During the torment, he started saying interesting things to her that could possibly be a clue to who the unidentified male is, or a pre-planned lie to later throw off investigators. “I thought you were attractive ever since I saw you at the club.” This wasn’t a reference to a nightclub, but an Officer’s Club at Travis Air Force Base where her husband worked, indicating he might have known her family on some personal level. He then asked her, “Is my penis like the Captain’s?”
Following the rape, he told her he would be back to check on her, but he was going to make something to eat first. An agonizing twenty minutes of silence passed by and Jane gained the courage to free herself and son. The man had already disappeared. She hurriedly ran to the back door and asked help from the neighbor, who quickly came to her aid and called the police.
- This was a very risky attack. The sun had already risen. Adults were getting ready for work, while children were planning for school. Not only that, wearing a ski-mask and jumping fences should have been easily noticed.
- $160.00 was stolen.
- Inside of the home, the intruder left white shoelaces strewn about that did not belong to any of the family members. This was a significant piece of evidence that would link other attacks together by a modus operandi.
- Thankfully, the three-year-old son was not harmed. He told police he thought “A doctor was examining his mommy.”
- The invader made something to eat in her frying pan.
- On September 20th, 1976, Jane was vacuuming through her home when she saw mud and dirt on the carpet under her son’s bedroom window that oversees the backyard. She thought this was bizarre and immediately looked through personal belongings owned by her and her husband. She discovered some jewelry was absent, but they were inexpensive. She called the authorities to report a possible break-in, although oblivious to when it could have happened. Jane escorted the officer to her son’s bedroom, and he noticed pry marks on the lock of the window screen, including dried up muddy footprints from outside of her home. They both went outside and found a blue sock belonging to Jane’s husband.
- Jane also told police on September 20th that she had been receiving phone calls from an unidentified caller for weeks. Every time she said “Hello,” the person would never respond. The hang-up phone calls continued until October 3rd, 1976. On this day, Jane finally expressed her irritation and told the caller to stop. This time, the person on the other end replied in a calm demeanor, “I’m going to kill your husband.” The following day on October 4th, Jane didn’t receive any perplexing phone calls. One day later she was raped.
- When the police arrived after the attack on October 5th, they brought bloodhounds along with them. They were able to track the intruder’s scent to the backyard fence. On the other side was a lot of land being bulldozed and orchestrated for a housing development.
- The police questioned neighbors in the vicinity. One particular witness mentioned seeing a strange man prowling the neighborhood on October 1st. Apparently, he didn’t have any distinguishing features that would make him look unsavory. The witness also mentioned the man was driving a dark-colored Chevy Vega. That vehicle coincides with victim one’s statements, although she wasn’t able to provide a brand of the car. After this information, the bloodhounds continued tracking the scent of Jane’s attacker to a specific location in the neighborhood where the witness reported seeing the Chevy Vega parked. The car had supposedly left an oil leak. Another witness came forward attesting to the testimony, saying she had detected the same vehicle at 7:00 a.m. but it was gone at roughly 8:30 a.m.
- Two days preceding Jane’s strike, an additional neighbor stepped forward saying she had visualized the same individual described by other witnesses at 6:15 a.m. while she was on her front porch. Interestingly, the man was standing in her driveway and staring at her attentively for a few seconds before walking away to his Chevy Vega and driving off.
- Jane was able to provide a description of her attacker. He wore a khaki ski mask with eye slits only, just as the first incident. His height was estimated to be 5’9 or 5’10. He was lean and slightly muscular, but not physically strong. She also noted he was not well endowed.
On Monday, October 18th, 1976 in Carmichael, CA, a ten-year-old boy woke up at approximately 2:30 a.m. by the sound of his small dog barking relentlessly in the garage where he normally resided.
After checking on the commotion, the dog led him to the backyard patio. Once he turned the light on that illuminated the yard, he saw a masked individual standing outside of the kitchen window with the screen already taken off. He was dressed in a dark-colored t-shirt, ski-mask, but from the waist down he was completely nude.
This caught the creeper off guard, leaving him motionless for a split second. The dog ran to the masked intruder growling and barking more ferociously, provoking the man to sprint towards the backyard fence and perch himself atop until the dog calmed down. After regaining his composure, he lowered himself down and continued his task.
The young boy ran back inside frantically; closing the sliding back doors and locking it. Sadly, he forgot to secure the kitchen window the criminal was entering. While running to his mother’s room, he heard sounds of dishware shattering in the kitchen. Crying from fear, he woke his mother saying someone is inside the house. Still groggy from awakening, she immediately turned her nightstand light on and called the police and her neighbor, but those efforts were fruitless because the trespasser had successfully cut the wires this time.
instantaneously, charging footsteps could be heard from the hallway as he entered the bedroom. His pants were removed and he was holding a large knife in leather gloved hands. The mother shrieked in fright, but the intruder fiercely demanded her to be quiet or he would kill and butcher her entire family in bits and pieces.
Somehow, the family dog managed to get inside; still barking at the intruder. She insisted she could take the dog into another room where he’d be quiet and the intruder allowed her to do just that. As she walked by she noticed his eyes were strikingly blue, appearing lifeless like a toy doll.
Thereafter, he asked the mother, “Is there anyone else in the house”? She mentioned her daughter was inside, surprisingly fast asleep and unaware of the atrocities taking place ten feet away on the other side of the walls. Desperately, the mother begged him not to hurt her family, also revealing her husband was away on business, as he ripped the phone from the wall jack, making it completely ineffective.
He continued his typical modus operandi, ripping bath towels into strips to bind his victim. Once the mother was subdued, he went back to the ten-year-old boy and followed suit, tying him to the mother’s headboard. The young child was terrified, whimpering that he didn’t want to die. The intruder disregarded his words and threw a blanket over his face, ultimately causing pitch blackness to surround him.
Now, all of his attention was focused on his prime target. Bizarrely, when speaking to her with demands, he began stuttering his words. He took her and threw her down on the family sofa, spouting his nonsense about only wanting money to provide food for his van. Nevertheless, she told him the money was in an envelope meant for the nonprofit organization, Hearts Association, but the answer fell on deaf ears as he bound her, making her incapable of moving.
Shortly after, he hissed at her through his teeth, “You’re beautiful.” Knowing what was soon to follow, the mother imploring not to be harmed, professing she was pregnant. Again, this was meaningless, only exciting him even more. He took action and threw her on the living room floor, still complimenting her with a question, “Did you lay out in the sun because your complexion is beautiful”? After removing her clothing, he pranced on her like a crazed psychopathic dog, slobbering all over her entire body as he admired her from the face down.
As per usual, he rolled her onto her pregnant belly with her hands fastened behind her back, placing his penis into her hands. In order to get any form of sensation, he had to grind his own hips back and forth, but when this wasn’t pleasing enough, he got angry and removed the gag from her mouth. In the process, he saw numerous rings on her finger. He tried taking them off, but they were too tightly wrapped. She insisted on using soap to slide them off easier, but he kept trying forcefully until he finally succumbed to her idea.
He still was having trouble with the separation, so he removed her bindings entirely and told her to take the rings off or he would kill her. After she listened to his orders, he bound her once more. His attention was now focused on her body, giving another compliment to her beauty. However, this time he put his penis towards her mouth. Likewise, he had to move his body back and forth to feel any sensation, but after a lack of pleasantry, he went on to physically rape her.
During the rape, the mother told the rapist, “You’re such a good lover,” hoping that by pretending to enjoy the unlawful sex he would be gentler. When he heard that, he was taken aback and stupefied. He replied, “No one has ever said that before. Most people just laugh at me.” She noticed the walls slowly crumbling down and pressed onward, “Do you like to be complimented?” In response, “Yes. People make fun of me, especially since something happened to my face.” Still dumbfounded by her generosity, he asked her, “I need to know what time it is. Where is your clock?”
The man started searching through the kitchen and looking for the time before raping her a second time. He was becoming more physical this time around. The mother proclaimed, “You’re hurting me!” For a sheer second, he treated her with kindness and gently took her to the sofa to continue his plan. Following the second rape, he bound her legs to the nearby coffee table to check on the ten-year-old son. “If you move, I’ll kill your mother,” he professed.
He came back to the mother and asked when her husband would arrive home. She told him Friday, and once more raped her while licking her entire body. She told her rapist that she was cold, and he surprisingly got a blanket for her before raping her a third time. However, due to her pregnancy and relentless attacking from her rapist, she fainted for an extended period of time. By the time she woke up, her home was eerily quiet. The aggressor had long disappeared and she managed to escape her bindings to check on her children’s well-being, who thankfully were unharmed.
- Despite the numerous searches throughout the home, nothing of value was stolen aside from her driver’s license.
- This is the first account where the rapist stuttered his words. Many believe it was deliberate, but it’s possible it’s authentic.
- More pieces of EAR/ONS MO was coming together, such as the home having a backyard fence with an open field behind it. It was later discovered the rapist more than likely parked his transportation in this open area due to tire tracks implanted in the mud. The tires were approximately 84 inches round. Because of the size, authorities ruled out the vehicle being a Chevy Vega that witnesses from victim five noted. Moreover, out of seven attacks committed, this was the third vehicle allegedly used for escaping, indicating access to many cars.
- One neighbor told investigators she spotted headlights in the field behind the victim’s home. Another neighbor found their back gate wide opened, and also heard many dogs barking after the victim’s dog started barking. It was startling, but the residents ignored the ordeal.
- Four hours after the initial attack, a paperboy saw a suspicious Lincoln Continental that didn’t belong to any residents nearby. As the boy was close to making his way towards the car on his paper route, the driver quickly drove away. According to his testimony, the motorist was a young white male, but that’s the only description he was able to provide.
- In 1991, the seventh victim received a phone call from an unknown man. The caller asked, “Do you know who this is?” While it’s not confirmed completely since no recording was made, Detective Richard Shelby remains adamant that it was The East Area Rapist for reasons he didn’t disclose. This incident was published on April 5th, 2001, in the Sacramento Bee by the staff writers, M.S. Enkoji and Ralph Montano.
- A short while after victim #7 was attacked, she moved to another location. Apparently, The East Area Rapist had stolen her driver’s license. Some people speculate this is how the caller was capable of tracking her down, surmising the call was actually from him. The question is, what triggered him to make this phone call 15 years after the fact? That would indicate a few things. For one, it not only confirms he steals from his victims, but also collects trophies, which isn’t uncommon for serial rapists and killers. Moreover, this must mean the individual visits his collection. If he has a family, does the person keep his secret cache inside of his home that family members are unaware of or are they placed elsewhere, possibly a garage or storage shed only accessible by him?
- Also interesting is that Detective Richard Shelby asked victims to keep their same phone number when investigating these cases, specifically because of the MO of stalking and later taunting victims. Some people didn’t heed his advice, because they wanted to try and move on completely from the situation, and rightfully so, which victim 7 did. Other people kept their same numbers and addresses, however. It’s also intriguing to point out the fact that fifteen years after the rape, The East Area Rapist (if the caller) clearly shows signs of obsessional behavior; taking the time to phone call the only victim to give him compliments and show compassion, albeit deceivingly.