Joseph DeAngelo was sentenced to 11 consecutive life sentences in exchange for evading death penalty.
Trigger warning: Graphic details of murder and sexual assault.
The notorious Golden State Killer terrorized California between the 1970s and the 1980s. He committed multiple crimes ranging from burglaries to rape and murder. He was previously known as the East Area Rapist throughout the Sacramento area, and as the Original Night Stalker in Southern California, but he was finally arrested in 2018.
He evaded arrest for four decades and finally in 2016, there was new evidence found. The DNA evidence led to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, a 75-year-old former cop, in 2018. DeAngelo pled guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 50 rapes on June 29, 2020, and was sentenced to 11 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, the New York Times reported. In total, he admitted to victimizing at least 87 people at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.
He pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including those he was not charged for as some of it had passed the statute of limitations. In exchange, the death penalty was taken off the table.
However, just before the life sentence was announced, the criminal, who lived a double life until recently, spoke up. He rose up from a wheelchair he doesn't need, to break his silence, as per AP News. "I listened to all your statements, each one of them, and I’m truly sorry for everyone I’ve hurt," he said. He no longer spoke in the weak voice he had used to plead guilty.
The victims and the prosecutors didn't believe one bit of his performance and criticized him for continuing to show his manipulative side. He was caught only with the help of innovative DNA tracing, which has put more bad guys, who were going to evade justice, in jail. "I think that he is truly diabolical and he is constantly masked, whether it’s a physical mask, a disguise in the voice, the role of a decent guy in the community and having people around him who love him,” said Debbi Domingo McMullan, the daughter of murder victim Cheri Domingo.
"One hundred percent 'Jekyll & Hyde,'" added Jane Carson-Sandler, one of DeAngelo’s first rape victims. "It’s like he was living two completely different lives. ... He probably, somehow in his mind, didn’t feel that he was committing these crimes — it was someone else, almost compartmentalized," she added.
He was first written about in 1974 after he assaulted women when their husbands were absent throughout the Sacramento area. An article called him the East Area Rapist and described his methods, which made him change it up, as per Bustle. Instead, he started breaking into homes when the husband was present. He would tie up the man, balance a bottle on his back, and threaten to slice off the ear of the wife if the bottle rattled. He would then assault the woman again and again, and eventually let them go. Except, come 1978, he moved to Southern California and started killing the couples he would target.
"He was so in tune with what we were doing and what was in the media," former Sacramento sheriff's detective Carol Daly told NYTimes. "And every time we would say, 'Well, he didn't do this,' it was: 'Ha-ha. I gotcha. I could do it.'"
Who was Joseph DeAngelo?
Those trying to catch the criminal had correctly predicted that he was in law enforcement. He was a Vietnam War veteran, who graduated from Sacramento State with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, as per Sacramento Bee. He worked as a cop in Exeter, California, from 1973 to 1976. He also worked as a police officer in Auburn, outside of Sacramento. He was thrown out of the force in 1979 after he was caught shoplifting a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a local drug store, according to a local newspaper.
He stopped killing in 1986 and started working at a Save Mart distribution center until retirement in 2017. He was arrested a year later and will spend the rest of his life in prison. "I felt that something happened that he just wasn't able to do those crimes anymore," Daly theorized in her interview.
"I already feel relieved," one of his rape victims, Gay Hardwick, told the Times. "He's going away and never coming out and there won't be any appeals. He will die in prison."