A FORMER police officer accused of being one of California’s most feared serial killers and rapists in the 1970s and 80s has been charged with eight counts of murder.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested at his home on Tuesday after DNA linked him to crimes attributed to the so-called Golden State Killer. Authorities say he could face dozens more charges.

The culprit also known as the East Area Rapist, among other names, is suspected of at least 12 killings and 50 rapes in 10 counties from Northern to Southern California.

The armed and masked prowler sneaked in through windows and surprised sleeping victims who ranged in age from 13 to 41.

When encountering a couple, he was known to tie up the man and pile dishes on his back. He threatened to kill both victims if he heard plates crash to the floor while he raped the woman.

He then ransacked the house, taking coins and jewellery before fleeing on foot or bicycle.

Despite an outpouring of thousands of tips over the years, DeAngelo’s name had not been on the radar of law enforcement before last week, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.

“We knew we were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we also knew that needle was there,” she said. “It was right here in Sacramento.”