'East Area Rapist' terror grips Sacramento as number of victims rises

A man brazenly raped and robbed numerous women in their homes, at times in the presence of their husbands and children, beginning in 1976.
7:37 | 05/05/18

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Transcript for 'East Area Rapist' terror grips Sacramento as number of victims rises
Control was this offender's chosen language. It was in the bindings. The blitz attacks. He ruled in the houses he sneaked into, a static mask imposing horror. Tuesday, October 5th, 1976. It was about 6:30 in the morning. My husband had just left for work. My three-year-old son hopped in bed with me for a snuggle. Within one to two minutes I saw a flashlight shining down the hall, and I screamed out to my husband "What have you forgotten?" And the next thing I knew, I looked up, and there was a man shining this flashlight in my eyes with a ski mask on, holding a large butcher knife. He told us, with clenched teeth, "Shut up, or I'll kill you." Reporter: She would soon become victim number five. But before that terrifying morning, she was simply Jane Carson. A 30-year-old nursing student at Cal state Sacramento living with her air force pilot husband and their young son in the suburb of citrus heights. Life was very good back then. Just a Normal routine. Getting up in the morning, taking my son to daycare. Then I would go to school, come home, fix dinner. Reporter: That month's number one song was Chicago's "If you leave me now." ??? If you leave me now you'll take away the biggest part of me ??? "Rocky" was due to hit theaters. A new president, Jimmy Carter, was on the cusp of election and Sacramento was still an up and coming capitol city with a small town feel. It was a sleepy town. Friendly, safe, people didn't lock their doors. You could park your car in the driveway and you could leave it unlocked, you could leave the keys in it. You didn't worry about your safety. That was until 1976. Reporter: For Jane, her secure home would soon become her prison. The next thing is he gags us, he blindfolds us, and he ties us up with shoelaces. He started ripping sheets, or towels, I'm not sure, but it was very methodical, and it was very slow. That tearing sound just he's doing that purposely. Reporter: He wanted to inflict absolute fear and suffering in these victims. And that was his primary goal. His next move was to move my son. This is where the fear really took place. So my heart was pounding through my chest, and I just prayed, "Dear lord, please, please let my son be safe." Then he came around and he untied my ankles. I wasn't paying attention to the rape. I was paying attention to what had he done with my son. After the assault, her son is put back in bed with her. I could feel his body, and then I was relieved. And then he said, "Don't move, or I'll come back and kill you." Then he goes into the kitchen, and he starts rattling pots and pans. It's like he's cooking something. And I went, "Wow, this is really off the wall. This is really weird, strange." Reporter: When her attacker finally leaves, the sun is rising. Jane and her little boy still bound in bed. Then, she breaks free. And when I got my blindfold down, would you believe that my 3-year-old was asleep? That was god's protection for that child. Reporter: Carol Daly, a detective with the Sacramento sheriff's department, was one of the first at the scene. By the time our patrol officer got in the area and started looking for him, he was nowhere around. Reporter: Nowhere close. No. Reporter: There had been four similar attacks in Sacramento in recent months. At what point did you realize you had a serial rapist on your hands? With Jane Carson. When we looked back and realized she was number five of -- of -- similar rapes. Reporter: In each case, the same meticulous, petrifying M.O. He always had a mask on. He always had gloves on. Sometimes he would break into the house the night before. Part of that is probably to -- to figure out the layout of the house. He would be in there, anywhere from one to three hours in -- in the assaults. They could hear him going into the kitchen. He would eat food. He would drink a beer. This was about power for this guy. This was not about sex. He's thinking to himself, "I am the king here and I'm just going to relish that feeling." Reporter: So he would just make himself at home? Knowing that he had the victims secured. He would find their wallet. He would take their driver's license. And he said, "I know where you live. I know who you are. He would -- took rings off of the victim. He would take some of the jewelry. Anything that would be a memento for him to look back and say, "Ah, that was my victim." And he was simply driving a stake through people's psyche. Reporter: After Jane's attack, there are three more rapes just that month. Police had been keeping them quiet, certain they would soon solve the case. But public safety was at risk and rumors had begun to spread. It was almost like wind through the trees. Everybody knew something was going on, but nobody knew exactly what. The sheriff decided that we would hold community forums. If you are going to defend yourself, you must injure your attacker. I had no idea there were going to be several hundred people that would show up. Concern over rape is mounting in this community. I live alone and I would like to learn to protect myself. I imagine a lot of women in the area are scared and are nervous. Reporter: Terror gripping the city. Residents desperate to protect themselves from a madman now dubbed the east area rapist. People in these quiet east bay suburbs have wondered and worried wondered about why police can't catch the rapist and worried about their own homes being violated. Locks were flying off the hardware shelves. I don't like it. It's gotten to close to home. I've put locks on my doors, peep holes just this week. Gun sales soared. They just want to protect themselves and protect their families. I have a gun but I still don't feel safe being at home alone. Every day in the newspaper. It was number eight, it was number 10, it was number 15, 20, 28, 30. You know, it just kept going on and on and on. Reporter: This map of the area showed the rapist's brazen ability to strike wherever and whenever he wanted. This particular rape happened within one block of another rape. Reporter: The initial attacks are on women, home alone or with their children. But then, the east area rapist shifts his target to couples. And it tells me that this guy has the self-confidence in his abilities, to be able to go into a house, with the threat of this male present, and take control. Reporter: One of the town meetings addresses the new development. A man stood up and said, "I don't believe somebody could be raped if a man was in the house." Reporter: What happened to him? Well, several months later, he and his wife were victims of the east area rapist. It's chilling to think that this guy said, "Oh, yeah? Really? You think you can protect your wife?" And then he attacked them. I believe the rapist was in that room and followed them home. It's a completely devastating story of predatory evil, connected to the psyche of the town in a way I've never seen before. Until he's caught, this area will continue to live in fear. This one man could change a city.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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