Former police officer Joseph DeAngelo, 74, was handed down 11 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole on Friday for 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 kidnapping-related charges. “The defendant deserves no mercy,” Judge Michael Bowman said after delivering the ruling, which is the maximum allowed and also includes another life sentence and eight years. The sentencing comes after a week of harrowing statements from survivors and victims’ families.
“I’ve listened to all your statements. Each one of them,” DeAngelo said before sentencing. “And I’m truly sorry to everyone I hurt. Thank you, your honor.”
The sentencing took place at Sacramento State University, where spectators were spaced according to Covid-19 prevention guidelines; DeAngelo heard the sentencing masked, as did the rest of the courtroom. There was also a temperature check administered to all attendants.
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DeAngelo pleaded guilty to all crimes attributed to the serial murderer/rapist known as the Golden State Killer in June in an effort to avoid the death penalty; he also admitted to dozens of rapes he cannot be charged with due to the statute of limitations. DeAngelo’s crimes were committed in the Seventies and Eighties across six California counties, whose District Attorneys all addressed the court before sentencing.
“Over four decades, that’s a long to wait for justice to be served,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said during her statement. “Finally, we have arrived at that day.” She then stressed the courage of DeAngelo’s victims, who came forward this past week to tell the court about the “trauma” and “pain” he inflicted. She also praised retired detective Paul Holes, who was on the GSK’s trail since the Nineties up until his arrest. Ventura District Attorney Gregory D. Totten and Tulare County DA Tim Ward also spoke to the bravery of the survivors, while Santa Barbra District Attorney Joyce Dudley implored victims’ family and friends to remember how their loved ones lived — not just how they died.
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Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer took the podium to deliver a darker message, telling the assemblage: “As he was destroying your lives he got to be on his boat, blow out birthday candles, hold his granddaughter…but in the back of his mind he knew, he knew we were coming for him.” Calling DeAngelo a “devil,” he added “you made it personal and it was personal for me. I honestly believe this person, this beast deserves the ultimate punishment of death.”
Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert counted down the thousands of days since DeAngelo’s crime spree began — and how Sacramento citizens who were alive during his reign of terror are still just that: terrified. At the end of her statement, she turned to DeAngelo directly, telling him that neither she nor anyone related to the case will allow him to seek better treatment in prison — to fool the department of corrections into thinking he is a feeble old man. The statement was met with applause, as the man’s recent displays of age have been hotly contested.
DeAngelo’s family members also delivered written statements to the court. “I feel moved toward writing this so that my brother Joe will know that my love for him will never go away,” DeAngelo’s sister said in a statement, blaming their military father and his abuse in part for her brother’s crimes. She also expressed remorse for his victims. DeAngelo’s niece then addressed the court via a statement, saying DeAngelo proved a stable father figure for her when her own proved abusive. “I’m thankful I had him in my life; I wouldn’t be here today,” she wrote. “I personally feel like there’s someone inside him that I do not know,” wrote another niece. Their names were not given.
The previous week of victim statements included a written statement from DeAngelo’s ex-wife, Sharon Huddle. “I will never be the same person,” she wrote (via CCN). “I now live every day with the knowledge of how he attacked and severely damaged hundreds of innocent people’s lives and murdered 13 innocent people who were loved and have now been missed for 40 years or more.”
A victim’s daughter told the court, “Monsters were real. The boogeyman had broken into my house,” while a victim who was raped by DeAngelo at age 15 said: “Finally the end of this trauma is here… He’s a horrible man. And now none of us has to worry about him anymore” (via the Washington Post).
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DeAngelo was arrested in April of 2018 on the strength of DNA evidence found using databases established for genealogical research. Also suspected of being the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Visalia Ransacker, the GSK had been accused of least 12 murders, 50 rapes and 100 burglaries in California between 1974 and 1986. A former police officer, DeAngelo was fired in 1979 for stealing dog repellant and a hammer — an ominous clue to his many crimes.
DeAngelo’s sentencing follows close on the heels of the premiere of an HBO documentary centering on DeAngelo and his victims: “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” a six-part series based on late crime writer Michelle McNamara‘s 2018 book by the same name. McNamara coined the name “the Golden State Killer” and spent years trying to track him down, but died in 2016 before could finish her book — or find out the serial killer’s identity. The book, finished by friends and family, came out in 2018, just a few months before DeAngelo was arrested.