An ex-policeman who terrorised California with a sickening string of murders and rapes over 11 years has begun admitting his crimes in court.
Joseph James DeAngelo began pleading guilty to a series of offences in a US court today as part of a plea deal to spare him the death penalty and the victims’ families from having to suffer the ordeal of a trial.
The 74-year-old was was charged with 13 counts each of murder and kidnapping following his arrest in 2018. He was pushed into a makeshift court room in a Sacramento ballroom in a wheelchair while wearing a facemask to make his pleas.
After individual charges were read out in turn along with details of the horrific crimes, DeAngelo admitted his guilty.
Ironically, it was the same hall in which DeAngelo received his degree in Criminal Justice in 1972.
DeAngelo also pleaded guilty to the July 1981, murders of Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez.
Cheri was house sitting and her boyfriend Greg came to spend the night when DeAngelo broke in.
DeAngelo’s plea followed investigations that went on for more than 40 years in a sprawling case that was finally solved with DNA evidence.
For decades detectives were clueless as to who was breaking into dozens of houses around Sacramento, the eastern San Francisco Bay area and Southern California.
But in 2018 police supplied DeAngelo’s DNA to a genealogy website, which led to a relative being discovered.
The identity of the serial rapist and killer was narrowed down to six men, and in April 2018, DeAngelo was charged with eight murders, on DNA evidence.
Had he not pleaded guilty today, DeAngelo may have faced the lethal injection following a trial.
The former cop agreed to admit to scores of crimes for which he is not charged, including rapes, for which the statute of limitations has expired.
The FBI has said DeAngelo was linked with 45 rapes in all, and more than 120 burglaries in
and around Sacramento, the eastern San Francisco Bay area and Southern California.
His alleged crime spree spanned a total of 10 California counties over an 11-year period – from 1975 to 1986 – and began while he was a police officer, authorities said.
DeAngelo was sentenced to 11 consecutive counts of life without parole plus 15 concurrent counts of life for other offences, which will be approved at a later date.
Assistant chief deputy district attorney for Sacramento County, Thien Ho, described the terror and impact the former US solider had on communities throughout California.
“The scope of Joseph DeAngelo’s’ crime spree is simply staggering,
encompassing 13 known murders and almost 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986,”
he told the court.
“For over 40 years, the biggest question remained unanswered who was the serial killer and rapist,” the prosecutor added.
Nicknamed the Golden State Killer by investigators before he was caught, the suspect became known for creeping into the homes of couples at night.
Several couples were murdered together, including Charlene and Lyman Smith who were bludgeoned to death with a log from their fireplace at their home in Ventura in 1980.
An unusual diamond-shaped knot had been used to tie them up which led to the serial killer briefly being given the moniker the Diamond Knot Killer.
When it became clear a large number of horrific crimes were linked, a huge manhunt was launched and a number of suspects arrested and interviewed.
The breakthrough in the case came about two months after the case gained renewed national attention in the bestselling book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.”
DeAngelo was caught after police created a fake profile for the ex-cop using his DNA from a crime scene and submitting it to a genealogy website.
It provided a list of six men who could be the killer allowing police to identify their former colleague.
During the hearing, many of DeAngelo’s victims provided moving impact statements as their attacker sat pathetically in his chair forced to listen.
After first DeAngelo started as a burglar known as the Visalia Ransacker before progressing on to sexual assault.
It wasn’t long after becoming known as the East Area Rapist he would turn to murder, becoming known as the Golden State Killer.
One of his victims, Margaret Wardlow, who was brutally raped at the age of 13 by the monster, did not want him to be executed for his crimes.
“It’s too easy,” she says. “I don’t want him to get the death penalty. I want to see him in prison fending for himself because he’s no longer a young man.“He prides himself in being this top dog and kind of pushing people around you know, authoritarian and his neighbours were petrified of him.
“So if he’s going to try to pull that s*** in prison. It ain’t going to fly.”