Photo: Riche Pedroncelli / Associated Press
There is no doubt: Joseph James DeAngelo Jr, is the state of Gold Killer.
On Monday morning, DeAngelo, 74, began the long process of pleading guilty to more than a dozen counts and admitting to many more of the felons – in a Sacramento State ballroom, the unusual needed to safely accommodate the many victims, witnesses and media with social distance.
In exchange for a guilty plea, DeAngelo will avoid the death penalty and, instead of spending the rest of his life in prison. He also agreed to waive his appeal, rights and will pay to-be-determined restitution from his victims. An official hearing to be held in August.
As prosecutors for Ventura, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Contra Costa, Orange, San Joaquin, Yolo, Alameda and Stanislas counties recited the details of his murders, DeAngelo, selfless looking, answered “guilty” for each count. On allegations with no formal charges attached, he simply said, “I admit it. ”
The former California police officer was tracking a large swath of the state he collected nicknames everywhere he went. In central California, he was the Visalia Ransacker. In Sacramento and the Bay Area, he was east of the Rapist Zone. In Southern California, he was the first Night Stalker. And, ultimately, he became the Golden State Killer after the crime writer Michelle McNamara coined the name in 2013.
DeAngelo raped more than 50 women from 1975-86. He also killed at least 13 people. Those who were killed were from Brian and Katie Maggiore, Lyman and Charlene Smith, Keith and Patrice Harrington, Manuela Witthuhn, Janelle Cruz, Claude Snelling, Robert Offerman, Debra Manning, Cheri-Domingue and Grégoire Sanchez.
After the brutal, hitting the Cruz in 1986, the state of Gold Killer disappeared, leaving frustrated investigators chasing red herring and dead ends for the next 30 years.
In his wake, DeAngelo has left countless families of trauma victims. With the victimization of women, he subjected husbands and boyfriends to the horror of listening to their partners being raped while they were tied up in another room. DeAngelo sometimes placed them flat on their backs, warning if he heard a plaque in the fall he would end up killing them. Some children slept through attacks, while others woke up for the nightmare unfolding and were forced to return to their rooms, alone, for hours, as DeAngelo roamed the house.
The state of Or Killer has been known for creating rape, personal contact for victims, calling women by their first names or telling them that they had hunted down before. It is unclear if he really has any links to them, however. DeAngelo broke out from victims houses before he attacked, giving him wide access to photos, letters and other identifying information. Investigators believe DeAngelo would be out on the streets for days or weeks before attacking him, and he often targeted a single neighborhood multiple times before choosing a new one. In the days leading up to the attack, residents of the family photos notice moved, closed the doors they swore they left open and scratched them on window screens.
The psychological terror did not end with the rape. In some cases, the police believe DeAngelo called his victims afterwards. In one of these calls, a woman and children could be heard in the background, leading investigators to speculate that the killer was a family man. A woman, at the request of the police, kept her phone number for years in the hopes that the attacker could call and reveal identification information.
Decades after the last case got cold, investigators announced in 2018 that DNA led to a rupture in the case. Detectives submitted the DNA killer to an open-source genealogy site called GEDmatch, where he found a hit with a family member DeAngelo who used the service. The detectives were then able to refine their list of suspects, ultimately, the arrest of DeAngelo after a secretly from the sample obtained from his trash corresponded to DNA related, so that a lot of crime scenes .
Left alone in the interrogation room, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Thienvu Ho said DeAngelo began to speak for himself.
“I did everything,” he would have said.
For the past three decades, DeAngelo has lived in one story at home in the Heights. During several of his crimes, he was on active duty police officer specializing in the burglary of cases – at Auburn and Exeter. He was terminated by Auburn Police in 1979 after a shoplifting arrest. Only, in retrospect, do the theft of items, which take on a dark importance: He had lifted a hammer and a dog repeller.
Until his retirement in 2017, he worked as a truck mechanic for Save Mart in Roseville. He had a wife and three daughters, although he and his wife separated in the early 1990s. Sacramento County prison records indicate DeAngelo rarely, if ever, receives visitors.
The death penalty is suspended in California due to a 2019 executive decree signed by the Govt. by Gavin Newsom. The order has put a moratorium on executions for the duration of Newsom, governance, but in order to take full advantage of the abrogation of the death penalty, the state, voters will have to intervene. Given DeAngelo’s age, it is very unlikely that he would have ever been executed by the state. But the haggling plea sped up the legal process, something from both DeAngelo’s public and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office pushed for the strain it would put on victims and witnesses.
“Many of these people, all deeply affected by these crimes, cannot be with us in time for a jury trial,” Sacramento County deputy district attorney Amy Holliday said Monday. “… Victims of sexual assault have waited decades for justice. ”
DeAngelo has been in jail since his arrest in April 2018.
He will probably die.
Katie Dowd is the SFGATE managing editor. E-mail: [email protected] | Twitter: @katiedowd