Accused Golden State Killer expected to enter to plea to avoid death penalty
The former California police officer who prosecutors say killed 13 and raped dozens of victims as the Golden State Killer is expected to enter a guilty plea Monday.
Joseph DeAngelo is accused of committing the 13 killings and more than 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986.
He was known by many names. After committing scores of burglaries as the Visalia Ransacker, DeAngelo’s crimes became more violent in 1975, with the slaying of Claude Snelling, prosecutors allege.
For the next 11 years, he terrorized communities from Sacramento to Orange County, prosecutors say. Headlines attributed the crimes to the East Area Rapist, the Orginal Night Stalker and, finally, the Golden State Killer.
DeAngelo is expected to appear at 9:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET) before Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman at the Sacramento State University Union Ballroom, a venue chosen to allow for social distancing. Proceedings are expected to last hours.
Details of the plea are slim, though a defense motion says DeAngelo is seeking a life sentence. The charges command a maximum sentence of death, but Gov. Gavin Newsom placed a moratorium on capital punishment last year.
Attorneys on both sides mum
While several media outlets report DeAngelo will plead guilty to a litany of charges — including murder, rape and kidnapping — prosecutors and DeAngelo’s defense team have been reticent on specifics.
In 2018, prosecutors in six different counties filed 26 charges against DeAngelo and consolidated the cases against him.
The counts stem from Sacramento, Contra Costa, Orange, Santa Barbara, Tulare County and Ventura counties.
DeAngelo’s attorneys filed a motion in March to dismiss charges that included the footnote, “Mr. DeAngelo is 74 years old. He has offered to plead to the charges with a lifetime sentence.”
Defense attorneys would not elaborate on the statement. The district attorneys’ offices issued a statement earlier this month explaining their silence.
“We have a moral and ethical responsibility to consider any offer from the defense, given the massive scope of the case, the advanced age of many of the victims and witnesses, and our inherent obligations to the victims,” it said. “This is an active prosecution and we will have no further comment until we are in the Sacramento Superior Court on June 29.”
The prosecutors said they will hold a news conference Monday at 3 p.m. (6 p.m. ET) at the Sacramento State ballroom.
In 1973, DeAngelo began working as a police officer in Auburn, outside Sacramento, and then in Exeter, an hour southeast of Fresno. The Vietnam War veteran spent six years in law enforcement before he was fired for shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from a drugstore.
He later worked as a mechanic in Roseville, near Sacramento, retiring in 2017. When he was arrested in April 2018, he was in Citrus Heights, the neighborhood where the Golden State Killer raped the first of his known victims in 1976.
DeAngelo’s longtime neighbors thought he was odd and reclusive, they said. He yelled at passersby who got too close to his yard or people who mowed their lawns too early in the morning, but there were no signs he was a serial killer, they said.
Investigators identified him using a then-novel investigative technique known as genetic genealogy that combines DNA analysis with genealogical research.
DNA from a crime scene matched genetic material from one of DeAngelo’s relatives, who was registered on a genealogy site, prosecutors said.
Cracking the case
While investigators did not immediately link DeAngelo’s crimes, patterns began to emerge. For one, if he broke into a couple’s home, he would usually tie up the man, place dishes on his back and threaten to kill both victims if he heard the plates fall while he raped the woman.
“Over the years, we heard of homicides down in Southern California, and we thought it was the East Area Rapist,” said Larry Crompton, a retired detective for Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department. “But he would not leave fingerprints, so we could not prove, other than his (modus operandi), that he was the same person. We did not know anything about DNA.”
Investigators in 2001 were able to link via DNA evidence the crimes of the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker.
Seventeen years later, using crime scene DNA, they created a profile on a genealogy database called GEDMatch and DeAngelo’s name emerged in a list of possible suspects.
They then gathered DeAngelo’s DNA on the handle of a car door and a tissue in his garbage can, which matched the DNA from the crime scenes.
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