A former police officer who terrorized California as a serial burglar and rapist and went on to kill more than a dozen people while evading capture for decades pleaded guilty Monday to murders attributed to the Golden State Killer.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. had remained almost silent in court since his 2018 arrest until he repeatedly uttered the words “guilty” and “I admit” in a hushed and raspy voice as part of a plea agreement that will spare him the death penalty for a life sentence with no chance of parole.
DeAngelo, 74, did not co-operate with authorities, but muttered a confession of sorts after his arrest that cryptically referred to an inner personality named “Jerry” that he said forced him to commit the wave of crimes that appeared to end abruptly in 1986.
“I did all that,” DeAngelo said to himself while alone in a police interrogation room after his arrest in April 2018, Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho said.
“I didn’t have the strength to push him out,” DeAngelo said. “He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s a part of me. I didn’t want to do those things. I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I’ve got to pay the price.”
The day of reckoning had come for DeAngelo, Ho said.
“The scope of Joseph DeAngelo’s crimes is simply staggering,” Ho said. ”Each time he escaped, slipping away silently into the night.”
There’s no escaping now. DeAngelo, seated in a wheelchair on a makeshift stage in a university ballroom that could accommodate more than 150 observers at a safe distance during the coronavirus pandemic, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of murder and dozens of rapes that were too old to prosecute.
The large room at Sacramento State University was made to look like a state courtroom with the seal of the Sacramento County Superior Court behind the judge’s chair and U.S. and state flags on the riser that served as a sort of stage for a daylong proceeding that had a theatre-like feel. Large screens flanked the stage so spectators could follow the livestreamed hearing.
Temperatures were taken of everyone in the room and even the judge wore a mask when he wasn’t speaking.
DeAngelo, who wore orange jail scrubs and a plastic face shield to prevent possible spread of the virus, listed to one side and his mouth appeared agape as prosecutors read graphic details of the crimes, where he raped and killed then snacked before leaving.
Family members wept as the proceeding went on most of the day. A pile of used tissues sat on the floor next to Jennifer Carole, whose father, attorney Lyman Smith, was slain in 1980 with his wife, Charlene Smith, who was raped before being killed.