‘Golden State Killer’ case

For­mer po­lice of­fi­cer, 74, ad­mits to com­mit­ting cold-case mur­ders, rapes

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JUSTIN JOUVENAL justin.jouvenal@wash­post.com

Joseph James Dean­gelo Jr. pleaded guilty to 13 mur­der counts and ad­mit­ted other crimes.

The man ac­cused of be­ing the “Golden State Killer” pleaded guilty to 13 mur­ders and ad­mit­ted to other crimes Mon­day, fi­nally bring­ing to a close an in­fa­mous string of long-un­solved slay­ings, rapes and bur­glar­ies that ter­ror­ized Cal­i­for­nia dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s.

Joseph James Dean­gelo Jr., 74, ad­mit­ted he was one of the na­tion’s worst se­rial preda­tors, as part of a deal with pros­e­cu­tors in a hand­ful of Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties that spared him the death penalty. The deal calls for him to serve life in pri­son with­out pa­role.

In a hoarse and halt­ing voice, Dean­gelo said “guilty” or “I ad­mit” over and over, after mul­ti­ple pros­e­cu­tors spent hours de­tail­ing hor­rific at­tacks that were so pro­lific and spread out across North­ern and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia they were ini­tially thought to be the work of mul­ti­ple sus­pects.

“The scope of Joseph Dean­gelo’s crime spree is sim­ply stag­ger­ing, en­com­pass­ing 13 mur­ders and al­most 50 rapes,” said Thien Ho, as­sis­tant chief deputy district at­tor­ney for Sacra­mento County. “His monikers rep­re­sent the sweep­ing ge­o­graph­i­cal im­pact of his crimes. The Visalia Ran­sacker, the East Area Rapist, the Orig­i­nal Night­stalker and Golden State Killer. Each time he es­caped, slip­ping away silently into the night, leav­ing com­mu­ni­ties ter­ri­fied.”

Ho added that after Dean­gelo’s ar­rest in April 2018 he be­gan to talk to him­self while wait­ing in an in­ter­view room.

“I did all those things,” Ho said Dean­gelo mut­tered. “I’ve de­stroyed all their lives, so now I’ve got to pay the price.”

Claude Snelling was gunned down in his Visalia back­yard in 1975, after he tried to fight off a man at­tempt­ing to kid­nap his teenage daugh­ter.

De­bra Man­ning was raped and shot in the back of the head, be­fore her boyfriend, Robert Of­fer­man, was shot and killed in his

Santa Bar­bara County apart­ment in 1979. The killer ate left­over tur­key out of his fridge.

Greg Sanchez was shot and blud­geoned in the head 24 times, be­fore his girl­friend, Cheri Domingo, was raped and blud­geoned to death in a home where she was hous­esit­ting out­side of Go­leta, Calif., in 1981.

And so it went, pros­e­cu­tors pil­ing chilling de­tail upon chilling de­tail.

Many waited four decades for this mo­ment of reckoning. The hear­ing was held at a cav­ernous Sacra­mento State Univer­sity ball­room, a venue cho­sen be­cause it was large enough to hold the more than 150 vic­tims, fam­ily mem­bers and oth­ers who were ex­pected to at­tend and pro­vide for so­cial dis­tanc­ing. Sacra­mento Su­pe­rior Court Judge Michael G. Bow­man presided.

Deputies wheeled Dean­gelo into the hear­ing in a wheel­chair. He ap­peared in an orange jump­suit, wear­ing a face shield to pro­tect him from the novel coro­n­avirus. The for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer and Navy vet­eran did not speak other than to answer a judge’s ques­tions.

The ar­rest of Dean­gelo in 2018 marked an ex­tra­or­di­nary break­through, be­cause it came decades after the hunt for the killer had grown cold, and be­cause it re­lied on a ground­break­ing ge­netic tech­nique that has now helped solve dozens of other crimes.

Dean­gelo was qui­etly liv­ing out his re­tire­ment in the Sacra­mento sub­urb of Cit­rus Heights when au­thor­i­ties linked him to a se­ries of bru­tal at­tacks that stretched from 1975 to 1986.

It would take the ad­vent of a new tech­nol­ogy to fi­nally crack the case long after it had gone stale.

Paul Holes, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor for the Con­tra Costa County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, and other in­ves­ti­ga­tors used a tech­nique that was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped to re­unite adoptees with their birth­par­ents.

Holes’s team up­loaded a DNA pro­file of the killer to a pub­lic DNA data­base that scours tens of thou­sands of other pro­files to find po­ten­tial rel­a­tives. The search un­cov­ered some dis­tant cousins.

The team then found a com­mon an­ces­tor be­tween the rel­a­tives and the killer and cre­ated fam­ily trees down to the present day. One of the fork­ing branches con­tained Dean­gelo.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors trailed Dean­gelo be­fore scoop­ing up some­thing he dis­carded that con­tained his DNA. That was tested against the DNA recovered from the crime scene and it pro­duced a match, Holes said. Dean­gelo was soon ar­rested.

The vic­tims and their fam­ily mem­bers are ex­pected to con­front Dean­gelo at an Au­gust sen­tenc­ing, which is slated to last days. Vic­tims are ex­pected to read im­pact state­ments at that hear­ing.

RICH PEDRONCELL­I/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Joseph James Dean­gelo Jr., shown in Sacra­mento County Su­pe­rior Court in 2018, pleaded guilty Mon­day in a string of killings, rapes and bur­glar­ies that ter­ror­ized Cal­i­for­nia in the 1970s and ’80s.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.