For decades, the man known as the Golden State Killer seemed to have gotten away with it. In the 1970s and ’80s, the mysterious serial killer managed to evade police as he raped young women, killed couples, and terrorized suburban communities around California.
But on Friday, Joseph DeAngelo, 74, was sentenced to life without parole in a Sacramento court. In total, Judge Michael Bowman condemned DeAngelo to 11 consecutive life sentences — plus eight years, the New York Daily News reported.
Police finally caught DeAngelo, a former cop, in 2018 through DNA evidence that had been left at the decades-old crime scenes. Investigators searched an online genealogy database until they hit on a lead: DeAngelo’s relatives. Once police identified DeAngelo as a suspect, they used DNA that he’d left behind in a public area to confirm that he was indeed their man.
DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges. He also confessed to dozens of sexual assaults that had taken place too long ago to be prosecuted. As part of that deal, DeAngelo was spared the death penalty but had to register as a sex offender and compensate his victims and their surviving families.
In total, prosecutors said DeAngelo had confessed to hurting 87 people in 53 separate crimes, according to NBC News. The crime spree of the Golden State Killer, who was also sometimes known as the East Area Rapist or the Original Night Stalker, lasted 11 years, from 1975 to 1986.
Ahead of the sentencing, many of DeAngelo’s victims and their family members gave testimony about how he had radically reshaped their lives.
“After your sentence, you will be a nobody,” said Ken Smith, whose sister Katie Maggiore was murdered in 1978 alongside her husband Brian, the Guardian reported. “You are not worth any more of my family’s time.”
Even people who were not violently attacked by DeAngelo shared their experiences with him. Sacramento lawyer Sharon Huddle, DeAngelo’s ex-wife, said in a statement submitted to the court that she will “never be the same person.”
“I trusted the defendant when he told me he had to work, or was going pheasant hunting, or going to visit his parents hundreds of miles away,” she said in the statement, which was not read aloud, according to CNN. “When I was not around, I trusted he was doing what he told me he was doing."
“I have lost the ability to trust people,” she added.
Before his sentencing, DeAngelo told the court, “I’ve listened to all your statements, each one of them, and I’m truly sorry for everyone I’ve hurt.”
While the Golden State Killer has long been one of California’s most notorious serial killers, true-crime writer Michelle McNamara helped shine a renewed spotlight on the case through her 2018 posthumous book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” The book was adapted into a documentary series that aired on HBO this year.
McNamara, who was married to comedian Patton Oswalt, died in 2016.
Cover: Joseph James DeAngelo sits in court during the third day of victim impact statements at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)