Joseph DeAngelo, a 74-year-old former police officer and mechanic, will be spared the death penalty for his guilty plea

By Christine Pelisek
June 29, 2020 01:28 PM
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Joseph DeAngelo
Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty

Joseph DeAngelo, the serial murderer known as the Golden State Killer, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 murders and other crimes, ending a horrific rape and murder crime spree that terrorized Californians in the 1970s and '80s.

DeAngelo, a 74-year-old former police officer and mechanic living in Citrus Heights, California, will be spared the death penalty for his plea.

He is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison. His sentencing hearing is in August.

DeAngelo, who has also been known as the East Area Rapist, the Visalia Ransacker and the Original Nightstalker, has been accused of 13 murders and 50 rapes.

Because of COVID-19 , the proceedings were held in the ballroom at Cal State Sacramento where DeAngelo received a criminal justice degree in 1972, the Los Angeles Times reports.

DeAngelo started his crime spree as a burglar in Visalia, Calif., where he is believed to be responsible for over 100 residential burglaries from April 1974 to December 1975.

His first known murder was of Claude Snelling, a journalism professor and public information officer at the College of the Sequoias. Snelling was fatally shot in September 1975 while attempting to stop the kidnapping of his 16-year-old daughter.

FBI

A few months after the Visalia crimes ended, police allege the man then-known as the East Area Rapist began his terror spree in Sacramento, where he allegedly sexually assaulted more than 40 women and girls. The attacker wore a ski mask and would pry open windows and doors of homes of single women or couples. Once inside, he would enter the bedroom and shine a flashlight into his victims’ eyes.

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“He would bring the shoelaces with him and then he would tie up the husband and put him on his stomach, and put teacups or plates on his back and take the woman off and rape her,” Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert previously told PEOPLE. “He did that with the man because he could then hear the guy if he moved. It was very distinctive.”

Joseph James DeAngelo
Sacramento County Sheriff's Office
FBI

DeAngelo was finally caught in 2018 after law enforcement compared the murderer’s DNA — found at one of the crime scenes — to the genetic profiles publicly available via a genealogical website.

The crime scene DNA sample matched that of one of DeAngelo’s relatives.