Coincidentally the day after an HBO documentary about the hunt for the Golden State Killer premiered, the man law enforcement identified as the perpetrator of a decade-long spree of brutal rapes and murders across California has pleaded guilty to his crimes in exchange for avoiding a death sentence.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. took the stage in a ballroom turned courtroom at Cal State Sacramento Monday morning — the same school from which he graduated in 1972 — in a wheelchair, to formally enter his plea and admit to 13 murders and 13 kidnappings for purposes of robbery. In addition, he was charged with 62 other counts of rape, abduction, and other charges, and he was expected to admit to those as well.
Delivering his on-stage confession in an at-times whispery voice, as the LA Times reports, DeAngelo found no sympathy from victims and their families who assembled in the ballroom. The venue had been selected in order to provide adequate distancing space for the victims and families as well as 27 lottery-selected members of the media.
"Rest assured, it’s still an act," said Jennifer Carole to the LA Times. Carole was there to hear DeAngelo confess to the 1980 murders of her father and stepmother in their bedroom.
DeAngelo was identified by investigators in 2018 in a high-profile, pioneering use of family DNA in an online database. Crime scene DNA was linked to a relative of DeAngelo, and detectives then spent months attempting to confirm their suspicion that DeAngelo — a now elderly former police officer living in the Sacramento area — was the perpetrator of a string of heinous and violent crimes across the state between 1974 and 1986.
The evidence against DeAngelo remains sealed, and while avoiding a lengthy trial means California taxpayers won't have to foot the bill for it — estimated to be around $20 million — it also means victims' families and victims themselves will not get to hear any of the details surrounding the deaths of loved ones, and the many sexual assaults DeAngelo committed.
The closest they and the public will come to such information, until such time as someone writes a book based on eventually unsealed evidence, will be in HBO's television adaptation of the true-crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by the late writer Michelle McNamara (also the late wife of comedian Patton Oswalt). McNamara doggedly pursued the cold cases and died two years before DeAngelo was arrested, but she helped to give him the moniker Golden State Killer, linking together the crimes of a man once known as the East Area Rapist and The Original Night Stalker with a host of others. The first episode of the show premiered Sunday night, and in it, actual crime scene photos that McNamara had received from cold-case files in Orange County are featured — something that victims' families are less than happy about, as the LA Times reports.
Also, McNamara's brother-in-law, 69-year-old Jim Huddle, has a self-published book coming out this week titled Killers Keep Secrets, in which he shares some creepy details from the DeAngelo he knew. Among those details, DeAngelo loved watching gory horror films a little too much, and in committing many of his assaults he was likely trying to avenge a rejection by his first love, a woman named Bonnie Colwell. Some of DeAngelo's victims say they heard him say, "I hate you Bonnie!" through tears while he was attacking them.
DeAngelo is believed to have committed more than 50 rapes, at least 100 burglaries, and 13 murders during the course of his active period, which was primarily between 1974 and 1981. DNA testing back in 2001 linked the East Area Rapist, who was accused of crimes in the Sacramento area, to the man known as the Original Night Stalker who committed crimes in Southern California between 1979 and 1981, and raped and murdered a teenager in Orange, California in 1986 while her family was away on vacation.
Investigators say that DeAngelo, upon his arrest in 2018, muttered to himself, "I did all those things. I’ve destroyed all their lives. So now, I’ve got to pay the price."