How Golden State Killer could ‘cheat death’
Prosecutors are expected to strike a plea deal this month in the notorious Golden State Killer rape and murder case to avoid a death penalty trial, according to reports.
DNA and genetic genealogy led to the 2018 arrest of ex-cop Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 74, as the violent rapist and killer who terrorised dozens of women in northern California from 1975 to 1986. It was the first time the novel crime-fighting technique was used to solve a cold case.
DeAngelo is expected to cop to multiple charges, including rape and murder, on June 29 in exchange for a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
The sentencing will take place in August after surviving victims and relatives of those killed confront him in court.
"We are so totally supportive of the death penalty and yet we are totally supportive of this decision to let the Golden State Killer plead to life without possibility of parole," said Ron Harrington. His younger brother, Keith, and new sister-in-law, Patti, were beaten to death in their Orange County home in August 1980.
"Almost 40 years have passed and literally some of the victims have passed away. There are foundational issues from an evidentiary standpoint," he explained. "You've got victims who have now passed away, how are they going to testify?"
DeAngelo sought the plea to avoid facing a death sentence if convicted at trial, Fox 40 Sacramento reported.
A source told the station DeAngelo will "admit guilt" to 62 charges, including rapes that were past the statute of limitations.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said in a statement prosecutors assigned to the DeAngelo prosecution in Six Counties were "working closely with the victims in this case to ensure their statements are considered by the Court prior to sentencing," according to Fox 40.
DNA from a Golden State Killer crime scene was uploaded to the public genealogy website GedMatch. That led genealogists to a relative of DeAngelo's who had submitted DNA to the website.
District attorneys in Six Counties that had been seeking the death penalty issued a joint statement that did not address that issue, but noted the scope of crimes that started more than four decades ago and involved dozens of victims across 11 counties over more than a decade.
DeAngelo was identified only when investigators secretly collected DNA more than two years ago that they say proves he is the one who broke into couples' suburban homes at night.
The armed and masked rapist would tie up the man and pile dishes on his back, threatening to kill both victims if he heard the plates fall while he assaulted the woman.
"Victims of a crime are entitled to finality in their criminal cases, as well as the expectation that the person convicted of committing the crime will be punished," the prosecutors said.
The prosecutors said they "have a moral and ethical responsibility to consider any offer from the defence, given the massive scope of the case (and) the advanced age of many of the victims and witnesses." Governor Gavin Newsom has halted executions so long as he is governor, though the death penalty remains legal in California.
DeAngelo is suspected of at least 13 murders and more than 50 rapes across California. In many of the rapes, Harrington said, "the statute of limitations has run and he could not be formally charged with them, but it's my understanding he is going to formally acknowledge or plead to them as well." Sentencing may well span several days in mid-August, Harrington said, because each survivor or family member will have a chance to confront DeAngelo in person, by video or writing.
There was a consensus among survivors to go along with the plea deal, Harrington said he was told.
"We're getting closer to as much closure as we can obtain."
Originally published as How Golden State Killer could 'cheat death'