'Golden State Killer' victim recalls rape that 'terrorized' her

Jane Carson-Sandler was attacked at her home in 1976.

It was just before 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 5, 1976. Jane Carson-Sandler, a 30-year-old wife and mother studying to get her nursing degree, was cuddling with her 3-year-old son in her Citrus Heights, California, home after her husband left for work when a man believed to be the "Golden State Killer" broke in.

Wearing a ski mask and holding a butcher knife, he shined a flashlight in her eyes.

"He told us, with clenched teeth, 'Shut up or I'll kill you. Shut up or I kill you,'" Carson-Sandler, now 72, recalled to ABC News' "20/20."

"He must have said it 10 times."

He gagged and blindfolded them, and tied them up with shoelaces, Carson-Sandler said.

She said she could hear him ripping up sheets or towels and opening her dresser drawers.

"His next move was to move my son," she said. "I was already scared to death, but this is where the fear really took place ... I had no idea where he had put him ... my heart was pounding through my chest, and I just prayed, 'Dear Lord, please, please let my son be safe.'"

Watch the full story on "20/20" May 4 at 10 p.m. ET/PT

"Then he came around and he untied my ankles," she said.

Carson-Sandler said she was "terrorized" as he raped her.

She went on, "After the rape was over, praise the Lord he moved my son back next to me. I could feel his body, and then I was relieved. Then [the killer] 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."

Carson-Sandler waited until she stopped hearing her assailant in the house. She said she was able to maneuver her blindfold "and when I got my blindfold down, would you believe that my 3-year-old was asleep? So, I woke him up, and I said, 'We've gotta get out of here, we've gotta go!'"

They managed to escape to a neighbor's house where she called the police. Her husband was still at work.

The emotional aftermath

Several male detectives were the first to respond but "I did not want talk to a male," Carson-Sandler said.

It was only Carol Daly, a female detective, who made her feel comfortable.

"I call her my angel," she said. "She saved the day. She interviewed me and she took me to the emergency room in Sacramento. And sat with me, I swear, for over an hour."

The rape exam was "another very painful ordeal" for Carson-Sandler.

"I had some blood stains on my clothing because, even though he didn't stab me, he scrapped my chest with his knife when he was threatening me. But that was the only injury I truly had -- physical injury," Carson-Sandler said. "Then the shot of penicillin in case this guy had venereal disease. And then the morning-after pill."

In the immediate aftermath, she said her emotions were like a roller coaster.

"At one moment I'd be so happy and just so joyous that I'm alive, we're alive. And then the next minute I would be sobbing," she said. "Back then, we didn't talk about rape. It was a very shameful event."

Her husband, angry and in shock, immediately installed an alarm system, she said.

'I was fortunate that I was No. 5'

Carson-Sandler was believed to be the fifth victim of the "Golden State Killer," who police say committed 12 murders, at least 50 rapes and multiple home burglaries throughout California in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I was fortunate that I was No. 5 because after my rape, he became much more aggressive in his tactics. Much more abusive," Carson-Sandler said. "This man that raped me is now murdering other women and men and bludgeoning them to death."

"There's no words," she said. "Every day in the newspaper -- it was number eight, it was number 10, it was number 15, 20, 28, 30. It just kept going on and on."

A backpack of hate

As Carson-Sandler tried to push past the terror, dark thoughts would creep into her mind on what she would do if she had the chance to be alone with her rapist.

"I wouldn't hurt him, but I would scare the hell out of him," she said. "I would have him tied to a post. Not blindfolded, maybe gagged, I'm not sure ... I would unzip his fly and I would stand there with a large butcher knife and I would stare at him ... I wouldn't have hurt him. I just want him to know the fear."

She continued, "I carried a backpack of feelings of revenge, of hate, of course of guilt, of shame, of anger for a long time. But I no longer carry that. I had to come to a point in my life where I finally forgave him, and at that time I was able to get rid of that backpack. It was holding me down for so long."

She said she waited until her son was in college to tell him about the attack he had survived at just 3 years old.

"He said, 'Mom, I do remember. I think there was a robber in the house and he moved me.' And that's about it," Carson-Sandler recalled. "But I've always kept him out of this story and he's doing really well."

'After all these years, they got him'

As the years went by, Carson-Sandler said she never gave up hope that the "Golden State Killer" would be caught.

"Every night for 42 years I have prayed," she said.

Decades went by without an arrest -- until this year.

Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, was arrested last week, taken into custody at his home in Sacramento County, where the crime spree started. He has not entered a plea.

When Carson-Sandler heard the news, she and her husband sobbed and screamed.

"After all these years, they got him," she said. "I have a lot of questions to ask him one day. I'm going to hopefully sit down across from him and say why did you move my son? Where did you put him? I'd like to know where he had first seen me, how long he had stalked me."

For Carson-Sandler, part of the healing process is turning her "pain into power" and helping other survivors.

"You have to do something with this horrible crime that's been committed against you -- you can't let it destroy your life," she said. "Life is too beautiful. Life is too good. Life is too precious. So you've got to move on, reach out, help other women that have been through something similar."

ABC News' Mike Repplier contributed to this report.

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