Forty years after a suburban rapist terrorized California in a series of assaults and murders, a 74-year-old former police officer said he would plead guilty to being the elusive Golden State killer.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr told a Sacramento judge Monday that he would plead guilty to 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges across California, and would admit dozens of sexual assaults of which he could not be criminally charged.
The plea agreement saves DeAngelo any chance of the death penalty. Prosecutors who had applied for the death penalty cited the highly complicated case and the advanced age of many of the victims and witnesses in agreeing to consider the plea agreement.
DeAngelo He was arrested in 2018 after police compared DNA from crimes committed in the 1970s and 1980s in 11 California counties with that of users on the open source genealogy website GEDMatch.
The police had spent decades trying to solve crimes. It took years for investigators to connect a series of assaults in central and northern California with subsequent murders in southern California. Authorities eventually settled on the Golden State Killer nickname for the mysterious assailant.
Sacramento County Prosecutor Thien Ho said DeAngelo made incriminating statements after his 2018 arrest, alleging that he was led by an internal force he was unable to control.
“I didn’t want to do those things,” DeAngelo said, according to Ho, “I destroyed all their lives. So now I have to pay the price.”
Ho said the day had come for DeAngelo to pay that price.
“The scope of the Joseph DeAngelo crimes is simply astonishing,” said Ho, which includes nearly 50 rapes. “Every time he escaped, he quietly escaped into the night.”
The case garnered renewed attention in 2016 when the Sacramento district attorney announced the creation of a task force to identify the killer, and the FBI offered a $ 50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
The scope of the crimes, and the long-time unidentified perpetrator, attracted particular interest from the true criminal community and generated dedicated panel discussions. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, a best-selling book on crime writer Michelle McNamara’s true quest for the Golden State Killer, drew attention to the case when it was released months before DeAngelo’s arrest.
To anticipate social estrangement, Monday’s hearing took place in a ballroom at Sacramento State University that was made to look like a state court room with the seal of the Sacramento County superior court behind the judge’s chair.
DeAngelo was brought into the makeshift courtroom in a transparent mask and spoke in a low, hoarse voice.
For many survivors, DeAngelo’s plea comes with mixed emotions, as well as fear that he might choose not to participate in the deal at the last minute.
“It is a difficult place to be, knowing that you can change your mind at any time and that it is very manipulative. I won’t believe anything until it’s written in ink and approved, ”said Hardwick.
DeAngelo is a Veteran of the US Navy from the Vietnam War and father of three and He had worked as a police officer in communities near where the crimes occurred. He worked as a police officer in the city of Exeter in the Central Valley from 1973 to 1976 and was fired from his job at the Auburn Police Department in 1979 after allegedly stealing a dog repellent and a hammer from a Pay ‘n store. Save. He later worked at a Save Mart distribution center, the Sacramento Bee reported, and reportedly lived with his daughter and grandson on a quiet street in a Sacramento suburb when he was arrested in 2018.
DeAngelo’s victims hope to confront him at a sentencing hearing in August.
Before Monday’s guilty plea, many felt mixed emotions. “I will be very happy that this is done. I’m tired of having real estate in my head, ”said Jennifer Carole.
Carole’s father Lyman Smith and his wife Charlene were beaten to death at their Ventura home in 1980 when Carole was just 18 years old. Her 12-year-old brother discovered the bodies. The family did not know that the crime was the work of a serial killer for 20 years, and it was only after DeAngelo was captured that Carole realized to what extent the murders had affected her life.
“You can’t get your people back. You can’t get your sense of security back, ”added Carole. “She stole something from everyone in California who endured their terrorism.”