Former police officer Joseph DeAngelo, 74, also known as the Golden State Killer, has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for several rapes and murders he committed throughout the ‘70s ad ‘80s.
DeAngelo, who wasn’t arrested for his crimes until 2018, pleaded guilty in June to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 rape-related charges as part of a plea deal to spare him the death penalty. Also as part of DeAngelo’s deal, he had to pay restitution to the victims' families, register as a sex offender, and publicly admit to 161 crimes involving 48 people, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s office.
Many of the sexual assaults he admitted to carrying out could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had passed by the time he was arrested.
This week before his sentencing, many of his victims spoke out in court against him. His ex-wife, attorney Sharon Huddle, talked about the “devastating” effects his actions have had on her life.
"I will never be the same person,” Huddle said Thursday. "I now live everyday with the knowledge of how he attacked and severely damaged hundreds of innocent people's lives and murdered 13 innocent people who were loved and have now been missed for 40 years or more.”
She continued on to say, "I have lost the ability to trust people. 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. When I was not around I trusted he was doing what he told me he was doing.”
One woman, Patricia Murphy, who was a 29-year-old mother of two at the time she was raped by DeAngelo, had her daughter read her statement in court.
DeAngelo attacked Murphy in her parents’ home and then stole her car. She now suffers from PTSD.
“I never felt safe for many years. I was always looking over my shoulder expecting someone to jump out at me,” her statement read. “He punched me in the face and broke my nose. I had a concussion from falling backwards and hitting my head on the pavement … I did what I had to do to stay alive.”
DeAngelo addressed the court on Friday after listening to days of statements from victims.
"I've listened to all your statements. Each one of them," he said. "And I'm truly sorry to everyone I have hurt. Thank you, your honor."
Over the decades of his crime spree, DeAngelo was known as the Original Night Stalker, Visalia Ransacker and East Area Rapist. Writer Michelle McNamara dubbed the then-unidentified serial killer "The Golden State Killer" in 2013 and her posthumously published "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" shined a light on the series of unsolved crimes.
In the 1990s, detectives realized through DNA that the crimes were being committed by the same person. Among DeAngelo’s murder victims were Charlene and Lyman Smith, a Ventura couple found bludgeoned to death in the bedroom in March of 1980. Charlene was also raped. It was DNA from that case that eventually led to DeAngelo’s arrest.
In their search for the Golden State Killer, investigators uploaded DNA left at crime scenes to GEDmatch and looked at the connections that popped up. From there, authorities probed the connections and ultimately obtained a direct DNA sample from an unidentified object discarded by DeAngelo, authorities said. They plugged DeAngelo’s DNA back into the genealogy website and found a match, officials said.
"My greatest hope for all of these victims and their families perhaps is best put in their own words as we heard this week,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said Friday. “The greatest revenge is to live your lives. Paint your children's and your grandchildren's rooms again with hearts and rainbows. Water ski again. Know that the monster of your childhood or your younger years is gone forever and will die alone in the dark."