Margaret Wardlow was just 13 in 1977, when she became the 27th victim of the East Area Rapist, a.k.a. the Golden State Killer. Unlike previous victims, Wardlow read everything she could about the East Area Rapist. She knew he thrived on fear. Because of this, she was defiant throughout the ordeal, which she helped her survive the attack. This Margaret Wardlow wiki looks at her childhood in Sacramento, how she survived the attack, and her thoughts on the Golden State Killer, a man who murdered at least 12, and committed more than 50 rapes in the 1970s and 1980s.
Who Is Margaret Wardlow?
Margaret Wardlow grew up in an idyllic neighborhood in Sacramento, California in the 1960s.
At a young age, her parents went their separate ways. From that point on, she lived with her mom, Dolores McKeown. In those sunny, innocent days, Wardlow was the kind of girl who would turn somersaults in the streets outside her mom’s condo building.
But, Wardlow said, Sacramento’s safe, peaceful atmosphere changed when the East Area Rapist (EAR) started to terrorize Sacramento County in 1976.
There was a Sacramento before the attacks, where she would take her golden retriever for hikes along the American River; a community where young Margaret Wardlow “totally felt safe.”
Then there was Sacramento after the EAR was on the loose.
“As soon as the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department came out and announced that we had a serial rapist that was attacking in Sacramento, everything changed,” Wardlow recalled.
That crime spree struck a chord with Wardlow, who became a self- described “little crime buff.” She devoured everything she could about the EAR.
By the fall of 1977, he had attacked 26 women inside their homes since 1976.
“I remember distinctly reading over one article three times and saying to myself, ‘There aren’t any more words that you haven’t read,’” she said.
“I don’t think I was the only person that was curious as to what was making this guy tick. And it was very clear that during the attacks he was using this fear that he was controlling people with, you know, by making them very much afraid of what he was saying to them and what he was doing to them,” she observed.
This morbid fascination with the EAR did not escape her mother’s notice. Dolores, who was 55 in 1977, assured Margaret that the two of them were too old and too young, respectively, to be targets of the EAR.
We now know this wasn’t true. On top of that, Margaret’s obsessive fascination with the EAR actually helped save their lives.
The East Area Rapist
Known alternately as the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, and Golden State Killer, it is alleged that Joseph DeAngelo murdered at least 12, and raped more than 50 during a crime spree from 1976-1986.
Over that decade, he left victims in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Yolo, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin counties.
He was pathologically meticulous, stalking his victims. He normally chose single women who lived alone in one-story homes.
Law enforcement knew that he’d break into the homes when the intended victim was out. He’d learn the layout of the home and prep the scene, removing bullets from victims’ guns, unscrewing light bulbs, and hiding rope.
November 10, 1977, Margaret Wardlow Is the EAR’s 27th Victim
On the evening of November 10, 1977, 13-year-old Margaret and her mother Dolores went over to a neighbor’s house to have dinner and listen to music.
Dolores didn’t lock their door, because she thought their 80-pound golden retriever would protect their home. She also believed they lived in a safe area.
November 10 was a Thursday. It was a school night, so Margaret went to bed early when they got home.
Later that night, the EAR popped open the lock on the sliding glass door upstairs, turned on the kitchen sink and stove fan for ambient noise, and tied up Dolores McKeown.
He also stacked plates on her back. If he heard the plates rattle, he told Dolores he would kill her and cut off Margaret’s fingers; something he’d also threatened to do in other attacks.
Then he went for Margaret.
Margaret was awoken early in the morning by a man wearing a ski mask and leather gloves, and pointing a flashlight in her face. At first, she thought it was someone in her family playing a practical joke to get her out of bed early before school.
In the blinding light, she said, “Oh quit joking, stop joking.” In fact, she said it a number of times.
It Was No Joke
Only after he repeatedly said “This isn’t a joke” in a harsh whisper, and she noticed the clock showing 2:30 a.m., did she realize what was about to happen.
“And I knew at that moment, this is not my neighbor, Bill. This is the ‘East Area Rapist’ most likely.”
He told her to turn over onto her stomach, and tied her ankles and hands with her own shoelaces. The knots were so tight that blood vessels popped out on her wrists. The EAR then blindfolded her, asking if Margaret ever had sex before. The 13-year-old said no.
As she lay there bound, “a little voice inside of me said, you know, ‘You get out of a lot of stuff, Margaret. But you’re not going get out of this one. And just you need to understand that this is what’s going happen to you. You’re going get raped. But you’re going be OK. And he’s not going hurt me.’”
Reflecting on that night, Margaret said, “How many rape victims in this sort of situation with an unknown attacker have a dossier written about their attacker?”
“My instinct said don’t let him see you sweat.”
Wardlow knew that the EAR loved to see fear in his victim’s eyes, and hear it in their voice. Margaret was determined not to give him what he wanted.
“I knew he got off by frightening people and I thought the less enjoyable time he has here the better.”
While reading up on the EAR, Margaret learned that he had not yet killed anyone. And she was determined to get the rape over with.
Every time he threatened to kill her or her mother, she replied, “I don’t care.”
It was, she said, the best way to let her attacker know she was not afraid of him.
She stayed calm throughout the rape.
She was briefly sodomised during the attack, which was over within minutes. It appears as though the EAR gave into her indifference.
He wasn’t getting what he wanted, which was fear. And Margeret knew that.
That doesn’t mean the EAR left right away. He stayed in their home for an hour and a half after the rape took place, walking in and out of her bedroom. Oddly, when Margaret lay on the bed naked, shivering from the cold, he put a blanket on her.
Later, she heard her mother start screaming. Margaret untied her ankles and ran upstairs, locking herself in the bathroom. Her mother followed and called the police.
The EAR left through the front door.
At 13, Margaret Wardlow was the youngest victim of the Golden State Killer, a.k.a. the EAR.
Alleged Attacker Arrested
After the morning attack was reported at around 5:00 a.m., local police took a man into custody at a nearby El Camino Ave. restaurant. The suspect was taken to the scene of the rape, then held in custody for two hours before being released.
At the same time, police also put out a description of a suspicious car seen in the area: a blue 1966 Chevrolet with Arizona license plates.
Before his attack on Wardlow, he was believed to have raped 26 women in the Sacramento area. He went on to rape many more women across California, and kill at least 12 people in crimes that detectives were later able to connect.
At the time of the Wardlow rape, the EAR was subject to the most intensive manhunt in the county’s history. Up to that point, police checked out more than 5,000 suspects. But, they still had no leads.
They had ideas of what he was like, though. According to a November 10, 1977 newspaper article in The Sacramento Bee, the EAR was described as being “a man in a homosexual panic caused by feeling of sexual inadequacy attributed to his having a small penis.”
But, after talking to several victims, police revised their description that day to saying the ERA “has an average size penis, neither abnormally small or large.”
Sheriff’s Deputy Carol Daly described the mental torture on his victim, “His big thing is being master over their minds, once he gets them tied up. That’s his big trip.”
Margaret Wardlow Refused to Let Assault Define Her Life
After the attack, Margaret Wardlow said she became discouraged that he hadn’t been caught, and continued on his violent spree. That said, she refused to let the rape consume or define her life.
“I’ve never shed a single tear over this whole thing,” she said. “It wasn’t like I tried to forget it, but it didn’t play into my life.”
Wardlow followed the case on and off, but wasn’t keeping close track.
Married, Wardlow now splits her time between Palm Springs and San Diego. She has a daughter of her own.
According to her Twitter account, she loves surfing, sailing, and all water sports. She also eats wholesome foods, and meditates at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California.
Her Facebook page shows her enjoying a night out with her husband and family, and spending time out on the ocean sailing.
April 24, 2018: Joseph James DeAngelo Arrested
On April 24, 2018, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, a.k.a the Visalia Ransacker, a.k.a. the East Area Rapist, a.k.a. the Original Night Stalker, a.k.a. the Golden State Killer, was arrested.
The retired police officer, who lived in Sacramento, California with his daughter, was identified through a DNA database called GEDmatch.
Police called Margaret Wardlow the night before they announced that DeAngelo was arrested. When she got back from dinner and a movie with her husband, she noticed she’d missed two calls from a number with a Sacramento area code.
A retired detective had called to tell her that Joseph DeAngelo, the man they believed to the EAR, was in custody.
“I was elated. I could not believe it. It was … the most beautiful, beautiful phone call I’ve ever had. I mean, I was just so excited,” she said.
“I was literally like kicking my husband, saying, ‘They’ve got him, they’ve got him,’” she said. “I barely slept that night because I was so ecstatic.”
And there’s an odd, later connection between Wardlow’s family and DeAngelo.
When the alleged GSK was arrested, Wardlow discovered that Sharon Huddle, an attorney, had been a client of her brother’s process-serving business. Huddle is DeAngelo’s ex-wife.
Margaret Wardlow plans to follow the trial, and maybe go to Sacramento to attend some of it.
“I think justice will take its course now,” she said.
She hopes DeAngelo’s arrest will inspire other women with cold cases to not lose hope in finding justice.
“We have a message for everyone out there. No matter how cold your case is, it’s not hopeless. There’s hope in solving the coldest of cases, we solved ours after 42 years and there’s always hope,” she said.