Home Culture Culture News

Joseph DeAngelo Pleads Guilty to Golden State Killer Murders, Kidnappings

DeAngelo admitted to 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges in the Seventies and Eighties in six California counties

Joseph DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 murders.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Shutterstock

Joseph DeAngelo, 74, waived the right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 kidnapping-related charges on Monday, crimes committed in the Seventies and Eighties in six California counties and attributed to the Golden State Killer. He also agreed to admit to dozens of rapes he cannot be charged with as too much time has elapsed.

This plea agreement would effectively help the ex-police officer avoid the death penalty; instead, he will likely be sentenced to several life sentences without parole. He was arrested in April 2018 on the strength of DNA evidence. He was located using databases established for genealogical research.

Given social-distancing concerns amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Monday’s hearing was held at Sacramento State University at the University Union Ballroom to better accommodate press, legal teams, law enforcement and victims’ families. DeAngelo and his attorneys wore face shields and temperature checks were administered.

A documentary centering on DeAngelo and his victims premiered Sunday on HBO: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The six-part series is based on late crime writer Michelle McNamara’s 2018 book by the same name. She is responsible for coining the name “the Golden State Killer,” and spent years hunting down the notorious serial killer who is believed to be responsible for at least 12 murders, 50 rapes and 100 burglaries in California between 1974 and 1986. The GSK was also suspected of being East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Visalia Ransacker. McNamara died in 2016 before she could finish her book — it was completed by friends and research partners and released in 2018 mere months before DeAngelo was arrested.

“Given how almost supernaturally elusive this offender was and how DeAngelo has seemed pathologically incapable of admitting guilt, it’s kind of surreal this day has finally come,” McNamara’s co-writer Paul Haynes tells Rolling Stone. “But what remains unclear is whether this plea deal will require DeAngelo to provide full transparency the way plea deals with other serial killers — like Gary Ridgway, Dennis Rader, and Roger Kibbe — have. If DeAngelo won’t be talking about his crimes and providing insights, and helping resolve the dozens of still-unanswered questions in this case, then this plea deal is really a squandered opportunity.”

In March, DeAngelo’s defense lawyers announced that he offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. “Mr. DeAngelo is 74 years old. He has offered to plead to the charges with a lifetime sentence,” read DeAngelo’s lawyers’ statement in a court motion filed at the time. His lawyers also wrote a letter to victims’ families and survivors: “This particular case is exceedingly complex due to the number of charged crimes and the diverse locations of the charged crimes. We would like to reach a resolution of the case that avoids a trial, satisfies all parties and provides a more immediate resolution of the case.”