Joseph DeAngelo, former police officer, pleaded guilty to a string of rapes and murders across California between 1975 and 1986.
In April 2018, we reported that investigators looking into the case of the “Golden State Killer,” believed responsible for 12 murders and 51 rapes carried out throughout California during the ’70s and ’80s, had a breakthrough. New DNA testing helped lead to the identification of a 72-year old Joseph DeAngelo as a potential suspect.
DeAngelo was was sentenced Friday to 11 consecutive terms of life without parole.
DeAngelo, 74, will die in prison after he pleaded guilty in June to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges stemming from crimes in the 1970s and ’80s under a plea deal that spares him the death penalty. He also publicly admitted to dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.
On Friday, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman handed down multiple consecutive life prison sentences under the plea deal.
Before sentencing, he took off his face-mask and stood up to address the court.
“I’ve listened to all your statements. Each one of them,” a gaunt-looking DeAngelo said, appearing to choke up.
He took a long pause before adding, “And I’m really sorry to everyone I’ve hurt. Thank you, your Honor.”
DeAngelo also confessed to 161 other crimes, for which he couldn’t be charged because they took place outside the statute of limitations.
Prosecutors called his more than decade-long spate of crimes ‘simply staggering,’ encompassing 87 victims at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.
The case set several hallmarks.
To finally identify and arrest him in 2018, investigators pioneered a new method of DNA tracing that involves building a family tree from publicly accessible genealogy websites to narrow the list of suspects.
They linked nearly 40-year-old DNA from crime scenes to a distant relative, and eventually to a discarded tissue they surreptitiously sneaked from DeAngelo’s garbage can in suburban Sacramento.
The same technique has since been used to solve 93 murders and rapes across the nation, said Ron Harrington, the brother of one of DeAngelo’s victims.
‘It is probably the most important (recent) advancement by law enforcement in solving cold case murders and rapes,’ he said.
The sentencing has brought some solace to Golden State Killer survivors.
Courtney Strouse’s mother was raped by DeAngelo in the 1970s, and until her death in 2016 she awoke repeatedly during the nights to check on her children and make sure all doors and windows were locked, Strouse said.
Strouse said she had learned to live in constant fear, but that Friday’s sentencing brought some relief.
“It’s nice to have the bogeyman gone,” she said. “It’s like a fable you’re told all your life about the bogeyman and now he’s gone.”
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