Joseph DeAngelo, nicknamed the Golden State Killer, has pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder. The deal required DeAngelo to also admit to numerous crimes that were not charged, in order to bring closure to his victims and their families.
The so-called Golden State Killer has committed at least 50 rapes and 13 murders, as well as home invasions and robberies. His crime spree lasted thirteen years, from the 70s to the 80s, before suddenly going dark. It seemed until recently that the killer would never be caught.
Because of the wide geographic range of his crimes, as well as the variety of victims and methods, at first there seemed to be multiple criminals at work.
That changed with Michelle McNamara, a true-crime journalist who became obsessed with the case. Thanks to her high-profile work, police eventually reopened the case and found a DNA match via a genealogy website.
In April 2018, investigators arrested Joseph DeAngelo, a former California police officer. Now 74, DeAngelo is confined to a wheelchair. However, he is still going to be punished for his crimes. Experts expect him to be sentenced to life in prison. But first, he’ll have to face his victims in court.
DeAngelo’s grotesque crimes tortured the victims both physically and mentally. The hearing this week was held in a ballroom at California State University in order to accommodate those who wanted to attend with adequate social distancing.
Over 150 victims and families watched as prosecutors detail the crimes. His victims included newlyweds, young parents, teenagers, families. Although he pled guilty to 13 murders, the statute of limitations means that he will not be charged for the more than 50 rapes he committed. However, his deal requires that he confess to those crimes as well.
In August, his victims will have a chance to give statements before DeAngelo’s sentencing.
The six-part docuseries about the Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, just premiered on HBO. The book’s author, Michelle McNamara, is largely credited with bringing attention to the decades-long crime spree in California. She firmly believed that the Golden State Killer was still alive and that the cold case would one day be solved.
McNamara passed away suddenly two years before the book was eventually published. She would not live to see the arrest of DeAngelo in 2018. However, her husband–the comedian Patton Oswalt–famously said, “I think you got him, Michelle,” in an emotional social media post the day that DeAngelo was finally caught.