The former police officer accused of terrorizing California during a series of rapes and murders attributed to the Golden State Killer is expected to plead guilty later this month in a deal that will spare him the death penalty, according to multiple sources.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 74, is set to enter a guilty plea to 13 murders and kidnapping charges from as many rapes in a yet-to-be determined Sacramento County courtroom on June 29.
Many sources who were notified about the legal arrangement said they were specifically required to not disclose the deal to the media. Nor are any legal motions outlining the plea deal required to be filed in court prior to the June 29 court date.
Sources said DeAngelo has also agreed to admit to scores of crimes for which he is not charged, including rapes, for which the statute of limitations has expired.
Victims of some of the crimes in the case voiced both relief and pain, and frustration bordering on anger.
“It’s pragmatic. This makes sense. It is efficient. It is cost-effective. It is ultimately where we were going to end,” said Jennifer Carole, whose father, Lyman Smith, was among those murdered.
But Carole has been in tears since learning there will be no chance to see DeAngelo face evidence against him in court. “So what is justice for that? I’m sitting with that [question] every damn day,” she said.
“It’s a step forward ... but it’s not what I was hoping for,” said Kris Pedretti, one of the earliest victims who was 15 when she raped in 1976.
“I already know he raped me, that he was guilty,” Pedretti said, “but my deeper feeling is, ‘Why?’ What is so important that he does not want shown in trial that he is willing to do this?...What is it that he doesn’t want to be known?”
“I’m grateful he’s been caught, but the fact of the matter is he’s already lived a full life,” said Victor Hayes, who was 21 when he and his 17-year-old girlfriend were attacked while in bed one night in September 1977, in a suburb east of Sacramento.
A masked intruder bound and threatened to kill Hayes and pulled his girlfriend into another room and raped her multiple times before fleeing. At the time, DeAngelo was working full time as a police officer for the Northern California foothill town of Auburn, about half an hour away.
Auburn fired DeAngelo in 1979 after he was caught shoplifting a hammer and dog repellent from a hardware store. Months later, the Golden State Killer began a series of murders in Southern California.
Hayes said authorities need to explain how DeAngelo was able to elude detection for so long.
“I’m very frustrated. ... Somebody needs to be held accountable,” Hayes said.
DeAngelo is accused of crimes that extend from 1973 through 1986 across more than a dozen California counties, starting with early bedroom ransackings and a murder in Visalia. The attacks included a series of rapes and two more murders in the Sacramento and Bay regions, and then culminated in another 10 home invasion murders in Southern California.
Many of those targeted were couples. An investigation by The Times documented more than 106 victims who were bound, tortured, raped or killed.
For more than a decade, police failed to link the crimes to a common attacker. The evolution of forensic DNA changed the case dramatically in the early 1990s, connecting what had become known as the Original Night Stalker to Central California’s East Area Rapist.
But detectives made no more progress until early 2017, when law enforcement realized they could use DNA recovered from old rape kits and search for relatives of the unknown killer on family tree genetic databases. In early 2018, a Northern California team including agents from the FBI and detectives from Sacramento and Contra Costa counties used the controversial familial search method to trace a genetic path to DeAngelo.
Full details of that investigation, and the police legwork that ensued after DeAngelo’s April 24, 2018, arrest have never been disclosed. DeAngelo had never been a suspect in the long-running cold case.