Golden State Killer sentenced to life in prison

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Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. is accused of being the notorious Golden State Killer, who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s. His attorneys say DeAngelo would plead guilty to the crimes if prosecutors agree not to seek the death penalty.

‘Defendant deserves no mercy,’ judge says while imposing 11 consecutive terms with no parole

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the 74-year-old former California police officer known as the Golden State Killer, was sentenced Friday to 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

During the proceeding, DeAngelo stood up from his wheelchair for the first time in the trial, peeled back his face mask and apologized to the court, saying “I’m truly sorry.”

In July DeAngelo pleaded guilty to a litany of charges, including 13 counts of first-degree murder, dozens of rapes, kidnapping, robbery and burglary, all which he carried out in numerous California communities in the 1970s and 1980s.

DeAngelo struck a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty, which spared nearly three dozen survivors and family members of victims from having to endure a lengthy and painful trial.

This week they gave statements in open court, verbally castigating the serial killer for three days before Friday’s final sentencing.

“I’ve listened to all your statements. Each one of them,” DeAngelo said Friday. “And I’m truly sorry to everyone I have hurt. Thank you, your honor.”

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman then said: “The defendant deserves no mercy. When a person commits monstrous acts, they need to be locked away so they can never harm an innocent person.”

The hearing lasted about 20 minutes, and DeAngelo was sent away forever.

Applause erupted as sheriff’s deputies led him from the courtroom.

» FROM MARCH: Serial killer known as the ‘Grim Sleeper’ found dead in prison

The judge even tacked on an additional life term plus eight years because DeAngelo used weapons while committing his crimes, according to reports.

During the sentencing, DeAngelo’s family expressed sympathy for him.

His sister read a statement in the courtroom that drew a connection between DeAngelo’s crimes and their father’s abuse and womanizing, according to reports. A niece said DeAngelo taught her how to drive and even described him as being loving and patient.

DeAngelo eluded capture for more than 40 years until DNA evidence led to his arrest in 2018.

Last month he pleaded guilty to 26 of 88 felony charges. He replied with a weak and raspy “yes” when asked by a judge if he understood the charges against him. When asked how he pleaded to the murders, DeAngelo responded each time by saying, “Guilty.”

The voluminous case of the Golden State Killer involves innumerable crimes committed over 12 years in Sacramento, Contra Costa, Orange, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.

Twenty-six of those charges were brought in Sacramento Superior Court, including 13 counts of murder — two killings in Sacramento, one in Tulare County, four in Orange County, four in Santa Barbara County and two in Ventura County, according to reports.

Former police officer

DeAngelo was a police officer when his crime spree began.

Around 1971 he completed a 32-week police internship at the Roseville Police Department. In May 1973 he joined the Exeter Police Department where he worked until August 1976 first as a burglary unit police officer and then as the sergeant in charge of the department’s “Joint Attack on Burglary” program. The killer’s early crimes, including his first murder, were known to have been committed during this time.

DeAngelo next worked as an officer for the Auburn Police Department from August 1976 to July 1979, a time period that coincided with multiple rapes in middle-class neighborhoods throughout the Sacramento area. In July 1979 DeAngelo was arrested for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent, for which he was fired the following October.

At the time, DeAngelo was never thought of as a suspect in the attacks, which inadvertently allowed his crime spree to continue, although he never worked as a deputy again.

Attacks happened at night

The elusive prowler relocated place to place, committing his crimes with renewed intensity. He started out burglarizing homes, then elevated to rape and eventually murder.

The perpetrator worked by night and would enter a home through an unlocked door or window. He wore a ski mask and would hold a gun to his victims as he tied them up and then rifle through their cabinets and personal belongings for trophies. He sometimes spent hours with his victims, terrorizing and assaulting them repeatedly. After the attacks he would simply disappear into the night.

He had a few close-calls when confronted by his victims but he always managed to escape the scene, and fired his gun twice to do so.

Some were lucky to survive the attacks, only to be later stalked and threatened by messages the man left on their answering machines. The suspect was also known to have taunted authorities at least once in the same way.

Through the years, news media in neighboring communities dubbed the culprit the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, the original Night Stalker and the Diamond Knot Killer — but no one knew at the time it was the same man.

Late in the crime spree, the killer went off the radar for five years before committing one final murder on May 4, 1986. Thirty-two years later, DeAngelo was arrested on April 24, 2018. He was living quietly in the suburbs of Sacramento, the very community of his most vicious attacks decades earlier.

The numerous rapes and murders around the state were linked to the same suspect in 2001 through DNA evidence, but DeAngelo had never been arrested for a felony, therefore his known genetic material was never collected to national law enforcement databases, and he remained unknown to investigators.

In early 2018, however, detectives came up with idea of uploading the killer’s DNA profile to the personal genomics website GEDmatch, which identified several distant relatives of the Golden State Killer. Investigators then worked with a genealogist to construct a family tree and narrowed down to one suspect.

— This is a breaking news development. Please stay with AJC.com for the latest updates.

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