The Golden State Killer, whose heinous spree of rapes and murders terrorized communities in California during the 1970s and ’80s, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a Sacramento court Friday. The serial killer, who presented himself during court proceedings as frail and disengaged, actually delivered a brief statement directed toward his victims and their families.
“I’ve listened to all your statements,” he said after rising from his wheelchair and removing his face mask. “Each one of them. And I’m truly sorry to everyone I’ve hurt.”
Before the sentencing, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman told the killer, “As I listened to the survivors and I watched you, I couldn’t help but wonder: what are you thinking? Are you capable of comprehending the pain and anguish you have caused?”
DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June to 26 murder, rape and kidnapping charges and admitted to 62 uncharged offenses that expired due to the statute of limitations; his plea deal allowed him to dodge the death penalty. In all, DeAngelo victimized 87 people at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.
Over the years, DeAngelo’s crimes were attributed to several shadowy figures — the Golden State Killer, the East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, and the Visalia Ransacker — as his crimes escalated from break-ins to a series of rapes to a murder spree.
His true identity wasn’t revealed until 2018 when genetic analysis pointed to the former police officer as the main suspect. What made his spree so shocking wasn’t just the sheer quantity of victims, it was also the gravity of the crimes. Not only did DeAngelo rape and murder, but he’d often target couples and families and break into their homes, tying up and psychologically torturing the men and children while raping the women. While holding his victims captive, he’d calmly raid their fridge and steal their most prized possessions; he tormented several with follow-up prank calls for years.
Still, he was largely unknown until crime writer Michelle McNamara wrote a longform article about the case in 2013. Her story introduced the nation to the “Golden State Killer,” a moniker she coined. She died prematurely in 2016, but her book on the case, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” was published posthumously in 2018, just two months before DeAngelo was captured.
“The Golden State Killer really is the worst of the worst.” Ron Harrington, brother of murder victim Keith Harrington said Thursday toward the end of the victim impact statement portion of DeAngelo’s sentencing process.
Harrington added, “His crimes were so brutal, so heinous, so sadistic.”
Aside from sharing their own personal stories of trauma and triumph, victims and survivors also taunted DeAngelo in the days leading up to his sentencing, often alluding to his reportedly small penis, calling him “weak” and “powerless” and “worthless scum.”
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