For the first time, a former police officer pleaded guilty Monday to committing a series of rapes and murders across California in the 1970s and 1980s that were attributed to the elusive “Golden State Killer.”
Wearing a clear face shield and an orange jumpsuit, 74-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was wheeled into a makeshift courtroom Monday where he pleaded guilty to the first of 13 murders.
A plea deal will spare DeAngelo any chance of the death penalty for 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges throughout California. In partial return, survivors of the assaults expect him to admit to up to 62 rapes that he could not be criminally charged with because too much time has passed.
A guilty plea and life sentence avoids a trial or even the planned weeks-long preliminary hearing. The victims expect to confront him at a later date where it’s expected to take several days to tell DeAngelo and Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman what they have suffered.
Investigators early on connected certain crimes to an armed and masked rapist who would break into sleeping couples’ suburban homes at night, binding the man while he raped the woman.
It was decades before investigators connected a series of assaults in central and Northern California to later slayings in Southern California and settled on the umbrella Golden State Killer nickname for the mysterious assailant whose crimes spanned 1974 through mid-1986.
He was arrested in 2018 after authorities used DNA to track him through a popular genealogy website.
A prosecutor said Monday that DeAngelo Jr. made incriminating statements after his arrest and indicated he was driven by an internal force he couldn’t control.
Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho said DeAngelo was alone in a police interrogation room in April 2018 when he began speaking to himself.
“I did all that,” DeAngelo said, according to Ho. “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.”
Ho said the day had come for DeAngelo to pay that price.
“The scope of Joseph DeAngelo’s crimes is simply staggering,” Ho said, of the spree, which included nearly 50 rapes. “Each time he escaped, slipping away silently into the night.”
DeAngelo had remained almost silent in court since his 2018 arrest until he uttered in a hushed, raspy voice the word “guilty” to killing a community college professor in 1975, the first homicide in his decades of burglaries, rapes and other crimes that were later dubbed the work of the Golden State Killer.
DeAngelo’s defense attorneys have publicly lobbied since then for a deal that would spare him the death penalty, though they did not respond to repeated requests for comment before Monday’s hearing.
Prosecutors who had sought the death penalty cited the massively complicated case and the advancing age of many of the victims and witnesses in agreeing to consider the plea bargain.
“Death doesn’t solve anything. But him having to sit through a trial or preliminary hearing, that would have helped,” said Carole, who said neither she nor her slain father believed in capital punishment.
Fox News’ Michael Lundin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.