Golden State Killer Suspect Offers to Plead Guilty to 13 Murder Counts to Be Spared Death Penalty

New court filings claim Joseph James DeAngelo will cooperate if prosecutors agree not to seek the death penalty

Joesph James DeAngelo. Photo: Sacramento County Sheriff's Office

Court documents filed this week in California indicate the man accused of being the elusive Golden State Killer seems open to a plea deal — as long as the death penalty’s off the table.

Documents obtained by PEOPLE confirm that Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, would plead guilty to the numerous charges against him in exchange for a life sentence.

DeAngelo has been in custody since his arrest in a Sacramento suburb in April 2018.

A year after his arrest, prosecutors declared they would seek the death penalty against the former policeman and retired mechanic — who was taken down thanks, in part, to genetic genealogy.

The Golden State Killer, who has also been known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, was responsible for 13 murders, 45 sexual assaults and more than 120 burglaries across California — one of the longest and most vicious crime sprees in U.S. history.

DeAngelo has also been charged with kidnapping and weapons offenses.

“Mr. DeAngelo is 74 years old,” reads part of a motion filed by the accused serial killer’s public defenders. “He has offered to plead to the charges with a lifetime sentence.”

Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo galleryCredit: FBI

The Los Angeles Times reports DeAngelo’s lawyers also sent a letter to the victim’s families, detailing their client’s willingness to take a plea, therefore avoiding a costly, painful trial.

“This particular case is exceedingly complex due to the number of charged crimes and the diverse locations of the charged crimes,” reads the motion obtained by PEOPLE. “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.”

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office was unavailable for comment Thursday morning. But the office did issue a statement Wednesday to the New York Times, noting “nothing has changed” since their April 2019 announcement that the death penalty would be sought.

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The decades-long investigation into the crimes DeAngelo’s accused of came to an end in 2019, after law enforcement compared the Golden State Killer’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.

Prosecutors have requested five more swabs of DeAngelo’s DNA to compare with genetic material recovered from crime scenes in the counties of Contra Costa, Ventura, Orange and Santa Barbara.

In a recent filing, the prosecution listed 62 crime scenes across 13 counties it alleges are connected to DeAngelo through DNA evidence. The crimes committed in those 62 instances include murder, attempted murder, sodomy, rape, forcible oral copulation, burglary, assault robbery, false imprisonment, kidnapping and robbery.

During one of his hearings, the court entered not guilty counts on DeAngelo’s behalf.

The defendant’s next hearing is scheduled for March 12.

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