A former police officer began pleading guilty Monday to dozens of charges in the famous “Golden State Killer” case, a series of murders, rapes and robberies that terrorized Californians in the 1970s and 1980s.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 74, spoke the word “guilty” in a low, raspy voice before the first of 13 counts of murder Monday morning in a makeshift room in a ballroom at Sacramento State University to allow social distancing amid the pandemic coronavirus.
As part of a plea agreement reached between DeAngelo and prosecutors in six counties, he will be spared the death penalty; instead, he will likely receive a life sentence without parole for 13 murders and 13 kidnapping charges.
It also recognized dozens of violations that are too old to be processed as part of the settlement.
DeAngelo and his lawyers wore transparent face shields in court as prosecutors described in horrifying detail their rapes and murders for several hours.
“The scope of the Joseph DeAngelos crime wave is simply staggering, encompassing 13 known murders and nearly 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986,” Thien Ho, assistant deputy chief district attorney for Sacramento County, told the court.
Ho said that DeAngelo, who was eventually arrested with the help of DNA technology in April 2018, had admitted only to an interrogation room to lead a double life.
The serial predator was a member of the police when his crime wave began in and around Sacramento, eastern San Francisco Bay, and southern California.
“I did all of that,” DeAngelo told himself, Ho said. “I didn’t have the strength to expel him. He made me. “
“He left with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s part of me. I didn’t want to do those things. I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I have to pay the price. “
DeAngelo was known for breaking into couples’ houses, tying them up and raping the woman, and in some cases killing both of them.
But for more than four decades, the predator eluded authorities while crossing the state.
It was first known by nicknames such as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Diamond Knot Killer.
Later, the late writer Michelle McNamara named him the Golden State Killer, who brought renewed interest to the case in the best-selling book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.”
Detectives uploaded a DNA profile of the killer to an online database to approach DeAngelo and finally secure his arrest in 2018.
DeAngelo was brought to court Monday in a wheelchair and appeared frail, often meekly answering questions.
But prosecutors suggested he had used similar tricks when initially confronting him with his crimes and “overwhelming” DNA evidence.
Ho said he had “faked a weak inconsistency” after his arrest, but “just a few hours before the interview, detectives observed DeAngelo working vigorously in his yard, getting in and out of his truck and lifting heavy objects.”
“Just a week earlier, he was seen running his motorcycle on the highway at high speeds, getting in and out of traffic and performing sophisticated counter-surveillance,” Ho told the court.
Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday said prosecutors had moved forward with the plea agreement to finally bring justice to the survivors and families of the victims.
“During the time we have waited for the identity of this person, who committed these crimes, to be discovered, many of the victims, witnesses and law enforcement personnel have died,” Holliday told the court. “Now, while we wait for the legal proceedings to advance, many of the victims, witnesses and law enforcement officers are between 80 and 90 years old.”
“Many of these people, all deeply affected by these crimes, may not be with us at the time of the trial.”
DeAngelo, who is being held at the Sacramento County Jail, is expected to face sentences in August that could last for days, as dozens of victims are expected to speak.