In this June 29, 2020, file photo, Joseph James DeAngelo, center, charged with being the Golden State Killer, is helped up by his attorney, Diane Howard, as Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman enters the courtroom in Sacramento, Calif. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP.
Golden State Killer and former cop Joseph DeAngelo was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole this morning, bringing a decades-long quest for justice to a close.
Joseph DeAngelo, now 74, terrorized California in the 1970s and ’80s, killing at least 13 people, raping over 50 women and burglarizing over 100 homes. Because DeAngelo committed his crimes in various areas of the state, he received several nicknames including the East Area Rapist, the Visalia Ransacker and the Original Night Stalker.
It was author Michelle McNamara who called DeAngelo the Golden State Killer in a 2013 piece in Los Angeles Magazine. She wrote of his M.O., how he’d break into middle-class, suburban homes across the state, assaulting women in their bedrooms and stealing personal mementos — such as a pair of engraved cufflinks that McNamara traced to a vintage shop in Oregon. She was one part of a group set on tracking him down. Its unofficial members, she wrote, included “a determined investigator, a retired detective, and … online obsessives.”
DNA evidence would eventually link DeAngelo to his crimes. He was arrested in 2018 in Citrus Heights, where he lived with his daughter and granddaughter. He had worked for several California police departments, including one stint in Auburn. He was fired from that job in 1979 when he was caught shoplifting from a Pay N’ Save in suburban Sacramento.
Some of his crimes overlapped with time spent in law enforcement. The Sacramento Bee compiled a timeline of his many crimes, beginning with the rape of a woman in Rancho Cordova in June of 1976 and ending with the murder and rape of 18-year-old Janelle Cruz in Irvine May of 1986.
After his arrest, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder in a plea deal helped him avoid the death penalty.
Prior to his sentencing this morning, DeAngelo’s victims gave their statements. A woman said she was 7 years old when DeAngelo attacked her mother and threatened to cut off her ear if her mother made any noise. She said that she could “sense evil” in his presence.
Some victims said he had bound their wrists so tightly that they experienced numbness in their hands for months after their attacks.
Survivor Jane Carson-Sandler told him, “One-quarter of me, being a Christian, I want to say to you, ‘May God have mercy on your soul.’ Then there is another three-quarters of me that want to say to you, ‘Buddy, just rot in hell.’”
For his part, DeAngelo said, “I’ve listened to all your statements. Each one of them. And I’m truly sorry to everyone I have hurt. Thank you, your honor.”
McNamara never got to see DeAngelo brought to justice. She died in 2016 and her book, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer,” was finished by writers Paul Haynes, Billy Jensen and her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt. It has since been adapted by HBO as a documentary series. The title of her book and the documentary series refers to something DeAngelo once said to one of his victims: “You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”
At DeAngelo’s sentencing, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said to his victims that the greatest revenge would be for them to live their lives. “Know that the monster of your childhood or your younger years is gone forever and will die alone in the dark.”