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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Cipriano

Golden State Killer: CA's Deal with the Devil

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

UPDATE: After a multi-hour long Sacramento court hearing last Monday, June 29, Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, pleaded guilty to 13 murders, 13 kidnapping-related charges, and dozens of rape and sexual assault charges.

DeAngelo also admitted to 131 uncharged crimes — including more rapes — for which the statutes of limitations have run out, the LA Times reports.

Prosecutors suggest that DeAngelo should serve dozens of concurrent life sentences, be registered as a sex offender, and give law enforcement DNA, blood, saliva, and fingerprint samples in a deal to take the death penalty off of the table.

Judge Michael Bowman set the sentencing date to August 21, according to ABC News.

During the 1970s and 80s, there was a “violent and elusive individual” on the prowl in California — a shadowed predator who terrorized entire communities.

He was a vulture, praying on predominantly young women home alone at night, slipping into their homes before tormenting them awake with a bright flashlight and the vision of a barrel of a gun. He dominated and took advantage of them all, leaving lifelong scars — mentally and physically.

Some of the victims that survived his rapes say he tied them up so tightly that their hands were numb for hours even after escaping his binding.

On others, he used his power to brutally and senselessly take their lives.

This was a monster who had a seemingly nonexistent cooling-off period during the height of his criminality, as he committed at least 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in 12 years.

These are just the crimes we can tally...

This man was given many names by the media: the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, the Visalia Ransacker, the Diamond Knot, and most infamously, the Golden State Killer. 

Joseph James DeAngelo's 2018 Mugshot
Joseph James DeAngelo's 2018 Mugshot

After being identified through “sophisticated” DNA analysis using familial matching in 2018, the nation now knows this killer to be former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, 74.

DeAngelo is planning on pleading guilty to 88 criminal charges on Monday in a "deal" to avoid California's death penalty, the FBI, the Los Angeles Times, the Mercury News, and the Sacramento Bee report. 

Let’s look at the sheet.

The Sacramento Bee first reported on DeAngelo’s plea agreement earlier last week, noting that its details have not been released.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said there will be a court hearing in DeAngelo’s case at the Sacramento State University ballroom on Monday, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. PDT.

You can watch the hearing live here on the Sacramento Superior Court’s YouTube Channel. You know I’ll have popcorn ready!

Following that, there a joint press conference scheduled at 3:00 p.m. PDT featuring the district attorneys from Sacramento, Contra Costa, Orange Country, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura County where an “announcement will be made.”

This news comes on the heels of HBO's announcement that a six-part docuseries titled "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" detailing true crime writer and citizen detective Michelle McNamara's journey investigating the Golden State Killer will be premiering this Sunday, June 28.

If you ask me — the timing of these events couldn’t have been any more perfect. A day after a docuseries about a woman’s “obsessive search for justice” is made mainstream, the killer himself is said to plead guilty?

Wow, that’s powerful shit.

A Deal with the Devil

Sources have said the specifics of DeAngelo’s plea deal are “still in the works” and for many of the victim’s families, they say the upcoming hearing can’t come soon enough. 

One of the reported hallmarks in his plea agreement is that DeAngelo will admit to guilt in another 62 crimes across California, many of which the statute of limitations has expired on, all to avoid a death-penalty trial. He seeks a life sentence instead, the Sacramento Bee detailed. 

DeAngelo’s plan to admit to crimes in which the statute of limitations has expired has drawn attention, noting that due to California’s statute laws, DeAngelo cannot be charged with any rapes he committed pre-1970s, the New York Times reports. 

And this is not the first time the spotlight has been shone on the statute of limitations in DeAngelo’s case.

Back in 2018, when DeAngelo was first arrested, prosecutors in six different counties in Northern and Southern California needed to get creative with figuring out how to circumvent some of the obstacles and limitations that certain California statues hold on rape crimes, the Mercury News detailed. 

After poring over police reports, rape victim statements, crime lab materials, and any other evidence they could find from the nine Contra Costa rape cases from 1978 and 1979, Contra Costa prosecutor Paul Graves had an idea — and it’s a pretty genius one.

If they couldn’t nail DeAngelo for his rapes against the victims, they could nail him for robbery and kidnapping, noting that “the suspect threatened victims with a gun, demanded money or jewelry, took items and forcibly moved a female victim from one room to another,” the Mercury News reports. 

Graves attributed this idea to what it was like catching Al Capone on tax charges, saying, “It sounds on its face like we’re stretching it, but not in the eyes of the law.”

It’s this kind of ‘creative thinking’ that is going to let the scales of justice finally tip into the direction of the victims. It might not be a perfect solution, but anything is better than nothing.

Other Crimes 

DeAngelo’s plan to plead guilty to crimes the public may not be aware of has prompted many investigators to reexamine decades-old rapes and murders in their area, the Fresno Bee reports. 

John Vaughan, a retired detective sergeant in California who was in charge of investigating a string of 1970s burglaries as well as the 1975 murder of Claude Snelling, is doing just that. 

Snelling’s case has been officially connected to DeAngelo through DNA analysis, but now there are two other unsolved murders that Vaughan is digging into. 

Teenage girls Jennifer Armour of Visalia County and Donna Richmond of Tulare County were found dead in 1974 and ‘75, respectively. The evidence is eerily similar to DeAngelo’s known killing methodology, as their murders came at the end of a string of burglaries in the area.

Donna Richmond (left) and Jennifer Armour (right).

“I’d love to talk to the guy,” Vaughan told the Fresno Bee. “I would really listen to him. I have a lot of questions I’d like to ask him.”

It seems like Vaughan is not alone in thinking that DeAngelo is responsible for Armour and Richmond’s deaths, considering a two-year-old Reddit thread about their connection to the Golden State Killer is still generally active.

Vaughan is hopeful that in DeAngelo’s guilty plea, answers will come to light about Armour’s and Richmond’s cases.

I will be keeping an ear out for their names during Monday’s proceedings.

Finality and Closure

Sacramento County Supervising Assistant Public Defender Joseph Cress talked with the Bee about DeAngelo’s imminent plea on Monday, saying, “We feel this is a just resolution of this case and that the resolution provides some finality and closure for the victims.” 

In recent weeks, the families of victims have been “in close contact” with the six district attorneys involved in DeAngelo’s prosecution. The families will get their chance to speak before the sentencing, according to prosecutors interviewed by Fresno Bee reporters. 

For many, it’s an opportunity to reach the closest form of closure — even though we all know that closure is never perfect in these cases.

The sister of Janelle Lisa Cruz, the last known murder victim of DeAngelo, has been active online during the past few years.

Janelle Lisa Cruz

Janelle's sister, Michelle Cruz, took to Twitter last week after learning about DeAngelo’s upcoming plea deal, saying, “Soon I will be able to move on from this horrible nightmare you caused!! JOSEPH JAMES DEANGELO- you caused so much pain to so many people!!! JUSTICE COMING!”

Janelle was only 18 when she was raped and murdered in May 1986 in Irvine CA., a local CBS affiliate reported.

Janelle Cruz would have been 53 next month. 

“Our loss can never have total Justice but [the Golden State Killer] will die and everyone now knows who he truly is,” Michelle Cruz tweeted this week. 

“My sister is looking down from heaven saying, ‘Thank you for finding my killer and putting him away where he’ll NEVER be able to torture another again!’”

HBO's Newest Adaptation Crime Doc: 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark'

In 2013, true crime writer and citizen detective Michelle McNamara connected the dots to the string of burglaries, rapes, and murders back to one individual in an article for the Los Angeles Magazine. Michelle then began writing a book detailing her investigation, which was released posthumously in 2018.

Now, HBO’s is premiering their six-part adaptation of Michelle’s best-selling novel I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer on Sunday.

While writing her book, Michelle continued her blog, True Crime Diary, where she detailed her time spending years pouring over police documents and working with authorities and victims to cultivate a profile of the sadistic killer.

The book, and the new docuseries, details how Michelle would revisit crime scenes in person and on Google Earth while sitting in her bedroom away from familial eyes. Michelle would scour the internet for yearbooks, marriage certificates, mug shots, and autopsy reports to find links and clues to the suspect — all to help identify the Golden State Killer.

On such a monumental weekend with the developments in the case against DeAngelo, I’m looking forward to celebrating the advocates who helped in the crusade for justice.

Just as Michelle says at the end of her book, finally, the Golden State Killer will be forced to step into the light for all of us to witness.


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