WALNUT CREEK -- Missy was 13 when she woke up to the weight of a man on her and a knife to her throat. "You better be good," he whispered.
Missy, who would enter eighth grade that fall in 1979, had no idea what that meant.
The next day, Walnut Creek police told Missy that she was likely the 44th victim of the infamous East Area Rapist, a serial rapist and killer who received his name for his first known assaults in East Sacramento County three years earlier. Or it could be a copycat, they said. Whoever it was, he was never identified.
But the memories still linger for Missy, who is telling her story now for the first time.
"The police cut pieces from the quilt my grandma gave me, and I never heard from them again," said the Contra Costa retail manager, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym.
"They didn't catch any copycat, and they didn't catch him."
Walnut Creek was still a small town with new housing tracts amid its walnut orchards in the 1960s and '70s when serial killers committed a number of high-profile crimes, particularly in the middle-class Rancho San Miguel neighborhood where Missy lived.
Three weeks before the attack in her San Pedro Court home, a 17-year-old baby sitter was the victim of a similar home-invasion rape fewer than three blocks away, likely by the same man. Four months before that, a 26-year-old woman on Hogan Court, across Ygnacio Valley Road from the neighborhood, pulled the mask off an attacker who fled.
From 1966 to 1979, predators committed at least six high-profile crimes, including rape, murder and kidnapping in the Rancho San Miguel tract, off a main road and near many recreation areas.
Walnut Creek police haven't stopped looking for the East Area Rapist, who they believe raped Missy and the baby sitter, said Detective Sgt. Tom Cashion. The rapes are among the long-unsolved cases that the department hopes to close by utilizing online publicity.
Cashion has been talking to retired detectives about forming a volunteer cold case squad to provide extra manpower.
"There's definitely that drive still in them to work on these cases," he said.
Missy, now 45, said her family and a loving community helped her regain a sense of safety. As time went on, she said she rarely thought about it.
In recent weeks, a friend from middle school left Missy a voice mail about a news article that described how recent DNA testing tied the East Area Rapist to a Santa Barbara County couple killed in their home in 1981.
Also known as the "Original Night Stalker," authorities say the white man who often wore a mask killed at least eight people and raped dozens of others in California from 1976 to 1986. In the 1970s, more than a dozen Contra Costa sheriff's detectives sought to solve the East Area Rapist attacks.
"I was shaken up by the news," Missy said. "Suddenly, all the memories were flooding back in detail."
Missy decided to share her story in the hope that it would lead to a new tip, or help another victim. She contacted cold case investigators for the first time.
"At the very least, I would know more than I knew. He could be dead or laying low, or who knows? Just knowing that more went into that investigation than collecting my things and putting them in a box, I think, would bring me some closure.
"It's something that I closed the door on, but something I never got closure on."
Missy lived on a Rancho San Miguel cul-de-sac with her divorced father and 16-year-old sister in 1979.
She slept with her new rainbow-print duvet draped over her grandmother's handmade patchwork quilt. The comforter matched the rainbows in her bedroom, which shared wall space with unicorns and heart posters that Missy drew by hand to display her love for her schoolyard boyfriend.
The rapist sneaked into the house about 4 a.m. June 25 as Missy's father and sister slept in their rooms down the hall. She suspects he got in through a sliding-glass door in the Eichler-style home.
The rapist told Missy that he would return to kill her family if she reported the rape; he left through a bathroom door, passing her playhouse in the backyard.
Missy waited about 45 minutes before she freed herself from leg ties and opened her bedroom door with her hands still tied behind her back. She woke her father and told him what happened. He was in shock as he called police.
She heard his voice crack, "Get those things off her." Her sister cut off the ties and hugged her until police arrived.
"I wasn't crying. I was in shock. I couldn't believe what had just happened," Missy said. "It was a huge nightmare and I was living it."
Community lends hand
Missy still remembers the warmth of the small town she grew up in, playing hopscotch and saving change to compete for the biggest stuffed toy at the Walnut Festival.
"Walnut Creek, I loved growing up there and I did still feel safe there. If I was ever walking alone, someone would join me: a friend, or a friend's brother or sister. I felt like everyone's little sister."
The community helped Missy pick up the pieces of her shattered innocence and, for that, she is eternally grateful.
"Am I still a virgin?" Missy recalls asking a friend's older sister.
"Absolutely," she replied, without a hesitation.
The community came to her aid again three years later, when, two days before her 16th birthday, Missy found her 49-year-old father dead in his bed from a heart attack. Missy's sister had joined the Navy by then. Again, friends and parents in the neighborhood stepped in to care for Missy while her mother moved from Southern California.
"I was very fortunate in a lot of ways. I was well taken care of by so many people," she said. "I don't know what kind of person I'd be today if I hadn't had that support.
"What happened, it didn't crush me."
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.
Sunday: At least six serial killers preyed on women and girls during the 1970s in Contra Costa.
Today: Missy was only 13 when the notorious East Area Rapist assaulted her in Walnut Creek. She talks about the unsolved crime and the man who would later become a serial killer. Also, a Concord man endures the pain from the 1972 murder of his sister Maureen Field.
Have a tip?
Contra Costa has 15 unsolved slayings of women in the 1970s. You can call the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office tip line at 866-846-3592.