Ex­cop pleads guilty in 13 deaths

Golden State Killer is also ex­pected to ad­mit to dozens of rapes

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Matthias Gafni and Ale­jan­dro Ser­rano

SACRA­MENTO — Four decades af­ter he started sneak­ing into homes, ty­ing up vic­tims, rap­ing women and killing cou­ples, former po­lice of­fi­cer Joseph DeAn­gelo pleaded guilty Mon­day to 26 charges of mur­der and kid­nap­ping, ad­mit­ting what pi­o­neer­ing foren­sic sci­ence had al­ready proven — he was the sadis­tic Golden State Killer.

His ac­cep­tance of a plea deal spared him death, a re­prieve the 74year­old never of­fered more than a dozen men and women he shot and blud­geoned to death dur­ing a 12­year spree of rapes and killings dur­ing the 1970s and ’80s.

The ad­mis­sion of guilt guar­an­tees that DeAn­gelo will be sen­tenced to life with­out pa­role.

DeAn­gelo was charged with 13 counts of mur­der, with ad­di­tional spe­cial cir­cum­stances, as well as 13 counts of kid­nap­ping for rob­bery in six coun­ties, in­clud­ing Con­tra Costa County in the Bay Area. He ad­mit­ted to more than 50 rapes, in­clud­ing some in Santa Clara, Con­tra Costa and Alameda coun­ties, but the statute of lim­i­ta­tions ex

“It’s just heart­break­ing to hear what they’ve gone through and what we’re still all going through. Ad­mit­ting his guilt is one thing, but this will never be over for us.”

Jane Car­son­San­dler, vic­tim iden­ti­fied as Jane Doe 20 by pros­e­cu­tors

pired on those crimes. He will be sen­tenced in Au­gust.

Sit­ting in a wheel­chair and wear­ing an orange jump­suit and a plas­tic vi­sor over his face Mon­day, DeAn­gelo was taken into a university ball­room, where of­fi­cials read de­tailed ac­counts of each crime. On one side of the room sat his vic­tims and their fam­i­lies and on the other dozens of law en­force­ment of­fi­cials and pros­e­cu­tors.

Many cringed dur­ing more than seven hours of gutwrench­ing, graphic de­scrip­tions of DeAn­gelo’s crimes. He raped a UC Davis stu­dent, a babysit­ter, a preg­nant wife, a mother whose 6­year­old daugh­ter cried nearby. He whis­pered through clenched teeth, be­rat­ing cou­ples and threat­en­ing to cut the ears off their sleep­ing chil­dren. He taunted po­lice with creepy phone calls brag­ging about his car­nage and in­vin­ci­bil­ity.

His crimes were strik­ingly sim­i­lar. He would find an open win­dow or break in through a door of sub­ur­ban houses at night, wear­ing a ski mask and wak­ing up cou­ples or women by shin­ing a flash­light in their eyes. He would bring shoelaces and have the women tie up their boyfriends or hus­bands be­fore bind­ing the women and sex­u­ally as­sault­ing them re­peat­edly over hours, dim­ming the lights. He’d place dishes on the men’s backs as a makeshift alarm sys­tem and warn them that if as much as a rat­tle was heard from a plate he’d kill ev­ery­one in the house. Mean­while, he’d rum­mage through the houses, eat­ing food, drink­ing beer, steal­ing small amounts of money and trin­kets be­fore even­tu­ally slink­ing out.

DeAn­gelo struck fear in the hearts of res­i­dents from Sacra­mento down to Orange County. Pros­e­cu­tors shared how res­i­dents at the time lived in fear, one house­hold lined their hall­ways with tarps to pro­vide a warn­ing sys­tem. His crimes earned mor­bid monikers: Visalia Ran­sacker, East Area Rapist and Orig­i­nal Night Stalker.

Over the years, in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­nected some of the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia mur­ders with a se­ries of rapes in the Bay Area and the Cen­tral Val­ley, and the sus­pect was named the Golden State Killer. Of­fi­cials now be­lieve he com­mit­ted crimes in 11 coun­ties from 1975 to 1986.

Each crime sum­mary cul­mi­nated with the judge ask­ing DeAn­gelo how he pleaded to the charge or did he ad­mit to the un­charged crime.

“Guilty,” or “I ad­mit,” DeAn­gelo said re­peat­edly in a croaky voice.

In to­tal, DeAn­gelo ad­mit­ted to 62 un­charged crimes, most of them rapes of women and girls, that oc­curred in Sacra­mento, Yolo, San Joaquin, Stanis­laus, Alameda, Con­tra Costa and Santa Clara coun­ties.

Last year, district at­tor­neys de­cided to pur­sue the death penalty. But with DeAn­gelo’s ad­vanced age and Gov. Gavin New­som’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der halt­ing ex­e­cu­tions, it was doubt­ful he would ever be put to death.

One pre­vi­ously undis­closed de­tail of DeAn­gelo’s 2018 ar­rest be­came pub­lic Mon­day. Sit­ting alone in an in­ter­view room that day, DeAn­gelo was recorded talk­ing to him­self, ac­cord­ing to court records.

“I did all that,” he said. “I did all those things. I’ve de­stroyed all their lives… I raped. So now I gotta pay the price.”

Mon­day’s hear­ing was moved from a cramped Sacra­mento County Superior court­room to a Sacra­mento State University ball­room to pro­vide space for so­cial dis­tanc­ing amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic and a large number of vic­tims ex­pected to at­tend.

Two years ago, in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­cided to use a fam­ily ge­neal­ogy web­site that stored a mas­sive data­base of ge­netic pro­files from ama­teur sleuths look­ing to find long­lost rel­a­tives. They up­loaded the Golden State Killer pro­file to GED­match.com and got a hit. A dis­tant rel­a­tive of DeAn­gelo’s had up­loaded a DNA pro­file and in­ves­ti­ga­tors mapped out fam­ily trees and slowly nar­rowed down pos­si­ble sus­pects.

The ge­netic road map even­tu­ally led to DeAn­gelo, a grand­fa­ther liv­ing in Cit­rus Heights (Sacra­mento County). Po­lice surveilled his home in a quiet res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood and even­tu­ally con­firmed the match by pulling DNA from his car door and a tis­sue in his garbage.

The ef­fort not only caught one of Cal­i­for­nia’s most no­to­ri­ous crim­i­nals, but it also launched a new era of crime­solv­ing where ge­netic ge­neal­ogy is used to crack dor­mant cases. That tech­nique and DeAn­gelo’s crimes gar­nered world­wide in­ter­est, launch­ing a best­sell­ing book, a six­part HBO documentar­y that pre­miered Sun­day, pod­casts and count­less tele­vi­sion shows.

Since his ar­rest, DeAn­gelo has ap­peared in­creas­ingly frail, los­ing weight and rarely show­ing any emo­tion.

DeAn­gelo was fired from the Auburn Po­lice De­part­ment in 1979 af­ter he was caught shoplift­ing. He had pre­vi­ously worked as an of­fi­cer in Ex­eter from 1973 to 1976, not far from where the Visalia Ran­sacker bur­glar­ized more than 100 homes in the Cen­tral Val­ley.

DeAn­gelo also talked to him­self in 1979, when he was stopped shoplift­ing dog re­pel­lent and a ham­mer.

Af­ter try­ing to run away, the store’s se­cu­rity tied him to a chair. He pre­tended to have a heart at­tack and bab­bled un­til sher­iff ’s deputies ar­rived and he asked to speak to them pri­vately. He told them he was a po­lice of­fi­cer and had just pre­tended to act crazy to avoid get­ting in trou­ble.

Debbi Domingo McMul­lan, whose mother Cheri Domingo and her boyfriend, Greg Sanchez, were mur­dered by DeAn­gelo in 1981, stood with her brother Mon­day wip­ing away tears as a prose­cu­tor read hor­rific de­tails. Her mother was blud­geoned and raped by DeAn­gelo in Santa Bar­bara.

On Mon­day, she fi­nally heard DeAn­gelo take re­spon­si­bil­ity and a judge de­clare him guilty.

“It was hard to stay on my feet,” Domingo McMul­lan said dur­ing a break.

Jane Car­son­San­dler, only iden­ti­fied by pros­e­cu­tors as Jane Doe 20, said she ap­proached DeAn­gelo on Mon­day be­cause she wanted him to look at her when he ad­mit­ted his guilt. Al­though he did not look at her, Car­son­San­dler said it had been an “ex­tremely emo­tional day.”

“Look what he’s done to some of these other women,” Car­son­San­dler said. “It’s just heart­break­ing to hear what they’ve gone through and what we’re still all going through. Ad­mit­ting his guilt is one thing but this will never be over for us. We’ll never truly have clo­sure.”

“Our wounds heal but our scars re­main,” she said.

Pho­tos by Gabrielle Lurie / The Chron­i­cle

Above: Joseph DeAn­gelo (cen­ter) en­ters court pro­ceed­ings in Sacra­mento. Be­low: Debbi Domingo McMul­lan (sec­ond from right) em­braces Michelle Martin along­side Jane Car­son­San­dler (sec­ond from left).

Pho­tos by Gabrielle Lurie / The Chron­i­cle

Joseph DeAn­gelo (cen­ter) lis­tens as court pro­ceed­ings start; he pleaded guilty to 13 counts each of mur­der and kid­nap­ping.

Sur­vivor Vic­tor Hayes at­tends the hear­ing, which was held at Sacra­mento State University to al­low so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

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