Excop pleads guilty in 13 deaths
Golden State Killer is also expected to admit to dozens of rapes
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.
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).
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.