Golden State Killer suspect is set to plead guilty to multiple charges
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Forty years after a sadistic suburban rapist terrorized California in what investigators later realized was a series of linked assaults and killings, a 74-yearold former police officer is expected to plead guilty Monday to being the elusive Golden State Killer.
The deal will spare Joseph
James DeAngelo Jr. any chance of the death penalty for 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges across six counties. In partial return, survivors of the assaults that spanned the 1970s and 1980s expect him to admit to up to 62 rapes that he could not be criminally charged with because too much time has passed.
Yet nothing is certain until he actually speaks in a Sacramento State University ballroom pressed into use as a courtroom to provide for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been on pins and needles because I just don’t like that our lives are tied to him, again,” said Jennifer Carole, the daughter of Lyman Smith, a lawyer who was slain in 1980 at age 43 in Ventura County. His wife, 33-yearold Charlene Smith, was raped and killed.
Investigators early on connected certain crimes to an armed and masked rapist who would break into sleeping couples’ suburban homes, binding the man and piling dishes on his back. He would threaten to kill both victims if he heard the plates fall while he raped the woman.
Gay and Bob Hardwick were among the survivors.
They are now looking forward to DeAngelo admitting to that 1978 assault. The death penalty was never realistic anyway, she said, given DeAngelo’s age and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium on executions.
“He certainly does deserve to die, in my view, so I am seeing that he is trading the death penalty for death in prison,” she said.
“It will be good to put the thing to rest. I think he will never serve the sentence that we have served — we’ve served the sentence for 42 years.”
A guilty plea and life sentence avoids a trial or even the planned weekslong preliminary hearing. The victims expect to confront him at his sentencing in August, where it’s expected to take several
days to tell DeAngelo and Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman what they have suffered.
Investigators finally connected a series of assaults in central and Northern California to later slayings in Southern California and settled on the umbrella Golden State Killer name for the mysterious assailant whose crimes spanned 11 counties from 1974 through mid-1986.
The mystery sparked worldwide interest, a bestselling book and a six-part HBO documentary, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” that premiered Sunday.
It was only the pioneering use of DNA techniques that two years ago led investigators to DeAngelo, who was fired from the Auburn Police Department northeast of Sacramento in 1979 after he was caught shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer. He previously had worked as a police officer in the Central Valley town of Exeter from 1973 to 1976.
Investigators painstakingly built a family tree by linking decades-old crime scene DNA to a distant relative through a popular online DNA database. They eventually narrowed in on DeAngelo with a process that has since been used in other cases nationwide, but said they confirmed the link only after surreptitiously collecting his DNA from his car door and a discarded tissue.
His defense attorneys have publicly lobbied since then for a deal that would spare him the death penalty, though they did not respond to repeated requests for comment before Monday’s hearing.
Prosecutors who had sought the death penalty cited the massively complicated case and the advancing age of many of the victims and witnesses in agreeing to consider the plea bargain.
The deal will spare Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. any chance of the death penalty for 13 murders and 13 kidnappingrelated charges across six counties of California.