SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Golden State Killer, a former police officer in California who eluded capture for four decades, faces his victims in court Tuesday on the first of four days of hearings before he is sentenced to life in prison.
The scope of Joseph James DeAngelo’s crimes “is simply staggering,” prosecutors said in a court summary released Monday: 13 known murders and nearly 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986.
Sixteen of his Sacramento County rape victims plan to confront him Tuesday in a courthouse that is otherwise still sealed from the public because of the coronavirus. A similar number will tell Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman on Wednesday and Thursday how DeAngelo’s crimes changed their lives, before he is formally sentenced Friday.
“He didn’t win, I’m not a lost girl,” Kris Pedretti said in an interview before her testimony. “I want to make that clear.”
But the attack just before Christmas 1976 destroyed the 15-year-old she was then, she said, costing her her faith and friends and propelling her into an adulthood of poor choices and failed marriages.
It wasn’t until his capture in 2018 that she bonded with fellow survivors, underwent counselling and renewed her life, she said.
DeAngelo in June pleaded guilty to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges, but publicly admitted to dozens more because the statute of limitations for sexual assaults had expired.
Defence attorneys did not respond to requests for comment and did not file a response to prosecutors’ outline of the case.
All told, he admitted to harming 87 victims in 53 separate crimes scenes spanning 11 California counties in a plea deal that spares him the death penalty, prosecutors said.
That’s a larger number of victims than prosecutors cited after his admission in June to 161 crimes involving 48 people, but Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said the higher number includes those who chose not to participate in having DeAngelo publicly admit to crimes in which he could not be formally charged.
His nicknames showed the escalation and geographic sweep of his crimes, prosecutors said: the Visalia Ransacker, thought to be responsible for about 100 burglaries and one slaying in that San Joaquin Valley farm town; the East Area Rapist; the Original Night Stalker. And finally, the Golden State Killer when investigators eventually linked the crimes that stretched across much of the state.
“Each time, he escaped, slipping away silently into the night, leaving communities terrified for years,” prosecutors said.
He was only identified and arrested in 2018 by using a new form of DNA tracing.
“This has been on my mind for 44 years. That’s a long time,” Jane Carson-Sandler said before her testimony.
Certain triggers can still bring flashbacks to that night in 1976 when DeAngelo confronted her with a butcher knife as she snuggled in bed with her 3-year-old son after her husband left for work at a nearby military base.
She hopes to break through to DeAngelo by humiliating him with a T-shirt and reference to what she observed to be his “little penis.”
“I hope that he’ll be listening, but we know that during the hearing when he pleaded guilty, he never lifted his head,” she said.
She is among survivors and prosecutors who contend that DeAngelo is merely masquerading as a feeble old man in a wheelchair.
Prosecutors cited “his slow gait, the distorted twist of his hands” and his halting answers to Bowman in June. But, they said, his “agile movement and behaviour in his jail cell indicate an individual who is healthy and physically active.”
Don Thompson, The Associated Press