The Golden State Killer will return to a Sacramento courtroom next week to face dozens of his surviving victims and the family and friends of those he killed in a series of hearings that are expected to culminate in his sentencing.
Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer who has admitted to carrying out dozens of rapes and 13 murders across the state in the 1970s and 1980s, previously agreed to a plea deal that spares him the death penalty, but will almost certainly result in his spending the rest of his life behind bars.
The deal – which required DeAngelo to admit to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of kidnapping to commit robbery, along with 161 uncharged crimes that included scores of rapes, kidnappings, robberies and attempted murders – cemented DeAngelo’s status as one of the worst serial killers in California history, whose dozen-year crime wave spread fear in communities across the state.
Prosecutors said the plea deal allows the victims to hear DeAngelo admit to his crimes and to be present for his sentencing.
“The time for justice stands before us now,” Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday said during a June hearing.
DeAngelo’s formal sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin on Tuesday morning in a Sacramento courtroom. But victim impact statements are expected to take up all of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with the actual sentencing of DeAngelo not anticipated until Friday morning. Statements from those who know the Orange County victims are expected on Thursday afternoon.
The Golden State Killer – who was also known as the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist – began his crime wave in the mid-1970s with a series of burglaries before escalating to rapes and murders as he moved from the Sacramento area to the Central Valley, the Bay Area and, finally, to Southern California.
In Orange County, DeAngelo admitted to killing Keith and Patty Harrington, a newlywed couple who lived in Dana Point, in August 1980. He also admitted to killing Manuela Witthuhn in her Irvine home in 1981, and Janelle Cruz in her parents’ Irvine home in 1987.
For decades, the Golden State Killer eluded authorities. It wasn’t until 2001 when DNA evidence led authorities to even tie all of the crimes together, revealing the sheer geographic scope of his crimes.
It ended up being DNA from an online geneological website, which was compared to DNA found at a crime scene, that led to the arrest of DeAngelo, a Navy veteran and ex-cop who was living in a quiet Sacramento suburb.
During the June hearing, prosecutors described DeAngelo’s crime spree as “simply staggering,” noting that “pain followed wherever he went.” After seeing DeAngelo during the hearing, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer told a reporter “I swear I saw the devil today.”
“That is the devil,” Spitzer said. “Anybody who can do what he did, over and over and over, and seem to relish it over and over and over, is the devil.”
DeAngelo, now 74, appeared frail during his most recent hearing, speaking only in a shaky, raspy voice and showing little reaction as prosecutors spent hours meticulously describing his crimes in brutal detail.
Due to coronavirus-related restrictions, access to the hearings will be sharply limited beyond the actual participants. To provide public access, the hearings are expected to be live-streamed.
Source: Orange County Register