Fifty rapes. Twelve murders. Forty years later… One man finally pleads guilty.
Between 1976 and 1986, the Golden State Killer launched a reign of terror and committed at least 5 rapes, 12 murders, and 120 residential burglaries throughout California. Then he disappeared without a trace – until now.
On June 29th, 2020, in a makeshift courtroom set up in a ballroom at Sacramento State University to allow for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic – 74-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. uttered one word in his raspy, low voice – “guilty”.
Two years earlier, DeAngelo was arrested in a Sacramento suburb after DNA evidence linked him to the Golden State Killer investigation. As part of a plea deal reached between the serial killer and prosecutors from six counties, he will be spared the death penalty in exchange for a guilty plea. Instead, he will likely receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In the 1970s, DeAngelo was employed as a law enforcement officer for six years before he was fired for shoplifting. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said:
“Very possibly he was committing these crimes during the time he was employed as a police officer, and obviously we’ll be looking into whether it was actually on the job.” Adding, “That someone can commit such heinous crimes, and finding out someone in a position of trust could betray that is absolutely unbelievable.”
How He Was Caught – 30 Years Later
In April 2018, authorities revealed how they were eventually able to capture the Golden State Killer. Using DNA they obtained from a 1978 crime scene, they submitted this to genealogy websites like Ancestry.com and 23andme.com which allow people to publicly share their DNA profiles.
After searching through family trees, looking for plausible leads, they were finally after “a long period of time” able to focus in on a suspect – Joseph DeAngelo. They then placed him under surveillance, collected a sample of his discarded DNA, and were able to confirm a match the following day. Following DeAngelo’s arrest, Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert stated at the press conference: “The answer was and always was going to be in the DNA.”
One survivor, Jane Carson-Sadler, who was tied up by the masked madman in her home alongside her three-year-old son, told CNN News, “When I think back about all of the lives that he destroyed and all of the folks that he has affected over all of these years, I can’t help to get angry. I want to punch him.”
These are just some the most horrific facts about his crimes…
6. Victims Were Bound, Threatened and Raped
The Golden State Killer was wanted by the FBI for more than three decades.
They described on their website, “The (Golden State Killer) gained entry into the homes of his victims by prying open a window or door while they slept. He would then shine a flashlight into the face of his victims, tie up the female victim, and, if a male victim was present, tied him up as well.”
“(The killer) then ransacked the residence and raped the female victim. He often took small items from the residences including coins, cash, identification, and jewelry. Some victims reported receiving telephone calls from the suspect after the crimes.”
5. He Stalked His Victims Beforehand And Tormented Them After
Following in the creepy footsteps of Dennis “BTK Killer” Rader who worked as a home security alarm installer, the Golden State Killer also stalked his victims; monitoring their movements before deciding when to strike.
Forensics determined that he would enter the home of a victim before the attack and learn the layout, as well as memorizing names and study family photos. He left shoelaces and ropes under cushions in preparation for his attack. He would then make disturbing phone calls to the home before his attacks, as well as disabling porch lights and unlocking windows.
When the victim awoke to find a flashlight in their face – they were stunned and momentarily paralyzed. He then attacked – with the advantage of having his weapons ready and in place, and knowing his exact getaway route.
Even after his sinister crimes – the hell for his victims was not over yet. Detectives tapped the phone of one rape victim and they recorded his call, threatening, “Gonna kill you.”
4. His Creepy Chant Before Killing
On October 1st, 1979, one terrified victim who lived in a town near Santa Barbara, recalls being facedown in her living room with her feet bound and wrists tied behind her back. Her shorts were thrown over her head to blindfold her.
She heard the killer chant from another room, “I’ll kill em, I’ll kill em, I’ll kill em.” This was later described by an investigator as “a guy pumping himself up for an athletic endeavor.”
Luckily she managed to free herself from the ties and escape out the door.
3. He Kept Creepy “Trophies” To Remember His Crimes
Like many other cold-blooded killers, DeAngelo also took many items from the homes of his victims. Cufflinks, wedding rings, driver’s licenses, souvenir coins, jewelry, and even 850 pennies, would all be kept as tokens of his crimes.
Former FBI agent John Douglas (a.k.a Mindhunter) explained, “Many of us get trophies for our accomplishments. For killers, taking souvenirs extends the fantasy into that realm. My accomplishment may be solving a case. I get a plaque or some kudos; their accomplishment is perpetrating a crime. I get to put the plaque up on the wall of my den. They get to take something from the victim to give to the girlfriend, or put up in the attic.”
2. Nobody Really Knew What He Looked Like – Till Now
The Golden State Killer was masked during his sinister crimes and along with blinding his victims using torchlight – he was unrecognizable. Police worked extensively with the victims to try and determine exactly who they were looking for but it was not an easy task.
He was described on the FBI website as “a White male, currently thought to be between the ages of 60 and 75 years old, and approximately 5’10” tall. He may have/had blond or light brown hair and an athletic build. He may have had an interest in the military, or had some military training, leaving him familiar and proficient with firearms.”
They offered $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction.
1. His Twisted Games Continue
Following his arrest in 2018, DeAngelo continued to evade telling the truth and continued to toy with law enforcement.
Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho said when left alone in an interrogation room, DeAngelo began speaking to himself, seeming to address a voice within that he could not control.
According to Ho, DeAngelo said:
“I did all that. I didn’t have the strength to push him out. He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s a part of me.
“I didn’t want to do those things. I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I’ve got to pay the price.”
Prosecutors remain skeptical as DeAngelo’s web of lies and deceit has continued for more than four decades. They also noted he once faked a heart attack after he was sacked from his job in law enforcement for shoplifting.