Golden State Killer admits to murders
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A former police officer who terrorized California as a serial burglar and rapist and went on to kill more than a dozen people while evading capture for decades pleaded guilty Monday to murders attributed to a criminal dubbed the Golden State Killer.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. had remained almost silent in court since his 2018 arrest until he repeatedly uttered the words “guilty” and “I admit” in a hushed and raspy voice as part of a plea agreement that will spare him the death penalty for a life sentence with no chance of parole.
DeAngelo, 74, had never publicly acknowledged the killings, but offered up a confession of sorts after his arrest that cryptically referred to an inner personality named “Jerry” that he said forced him to commit the wave of crimes that ended abruptly in 1986.
“I did all that,” DeAngelo said to himself while alone in a police interrogation room after his arrest in April 2018, Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho said.
“I didn’t have the strength to push him out,” DeAngelo said. “He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s a 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’ve got to pay the price.”
The day of reckoning had come for DeAngelo, Ho said.
“The scope of Joseph DeAngelo’s crimes is simply staggering,” Ho said. “Each time he escaped, slipping away silently into the night.”
DeAngelo, seated in a wheelchair on a makeshift stage in a university ballroom that could accommodate hundreds of observers a safe distance apart during the coronavirus pandemic, acknowledged he would plead guilty to 13 counts of murder and dozens of rapes that are too old to prosecute.
DeAngelo, who wore orange jail scrubs and a plastic face shield to prevent possible spread of the virus, listed to one side and his mouth appeared agape as prosecutors read graphic details of crimes, in which he raped and killed and then snacked before leaving.
DeAngelo, a Vietnam veteran and a grandfather, had never been on the radar of investigators who spent years trying to track down the culprit.
It wasn’t until after the crimes ended that investigators connected a series of assaults in central and Northern California to slayings in Southern California and settled on the umbrella Golden State Killer nickname for the mysterious assailant.
Police used DNA from crime scenes to find a distant relative through a popular genealogy website database then built a family tree that eventually led them to him. They tailed DeAngelo and were able to secretly collect DNA from his car door and a discarded tissue to get an arrest warrant.
The retired truck mechanic was arrested at his home in the Sacramento suburbs — the same area he terrorized in the mid-1970s, earning the title East Area Rapist.
Prosecutors detailed sadistic acts he committed after slipping into homes undetected and surprising couples in bed by shining a flashlight in their faces and threatening to kill everyone in the house — including young children — if they didn’t follow his orders.