A former police officer confessed on Monday to being the serial killer known as the “Golden State Killer.” 74-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. pleaded guilty to 13 murders and admitting to dozens of rapes and break-ins that terrorized California during the 1970s and ‘80s.
DeAngelo entered the pleas as part of a deal with prosecutors, sparing him from the death penalty in return for his admission to all of the offenses he is accused of – both those he is charged with, as well as uncharged – in 11 California counties. The plea agreement was approved by Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman at Monday’s hearing. DeAngelo faces life in prison without the possibility of parole rather than a potential death sentence.
Prosecutors said the deal ensured that both survivors and victims’ relatives were able to live to see the case resolved, sparing them further legal proceedings that could have potentially dragged on for 10 years or longer. The hearing was held in a Sacramento university ballroom, rather than a courthouse, to allow for socially distancing.
DeAngelo sat in a wheelchair throughout the seven-hour proceeding, speaking only to give yes and no answers to procedural questions from the judge, and later to answer “guilty” when Bowman asked his plea to each of 13 counts of first-degree murder and kidnapping. He also replied “I admit” to dozens of allegations of rape, robbery, and other crimes. His admissions encompassed a total of 161 uncharged crimes.
The “Golden State Killer” crime spree spanned between 1975 to 1986, and began while DeAngelo was still a police officer. DeAngelo’s arrest in 2018 came after more than 40 years of investigations. Authorities were finally able to solve the case due to DNA evidence and data from commercial genealogy websites.
Formal sentencing is set to begin on August 17.