In the 1970s and 1980s, the “Golden State Killer” committed several murders and dozens of rapes in California. Now the 74-year-old has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
By Marcus Schuler, ARD Studio Los Angeles
With the verdict, one of the darkest chapters in California criminal history comes to an end. The trial was a martyrdom especially for the survivors and the families of the victims. Still, dozens have testified against the ex-police officer in the Sacramento court in recent days. Jane Carson Sandler was one of Joseph DeAngelo’s first rape victims. That was in 1976. “First you blindfolded me and then choked me with a piece of cloth. You did the same with my three-year-old son. How dare you!”
Between 1975 and 1986 the DeAngelo had terrified California. First he went into houses to steal valuables. Then he broke into homes to rape. At least 50 women were his victims. He brutally beat family members. Then he started killing.
“May he rot in hell”
The 74-year-old has admitted 13 murders. One of his first murder victims was Claude Snelling, who wanted to help his then 16-year-old daughter Elisabeth in September 1975 when DeAngelo was trying to kidnap her. “The intruder woke me up at 2am. He was wearing a ski mask and had a gun pointed at me. He said he would take me with him and if I made a noise he would kill me.”
Karen Veilleux read the statement from her sister Phyllis, who was believed to be the first rape victim in the series of crimes: “It is inconceivable that such a creature could exist in this world. May it rot in hell.”
DeAngelo had hardly spoken in the whole process, he only said something twice. Once at the end of June when he admitted the crimes he was charged with. In return, the public prosecutor’s office decided against calling for the death penalty. The second time the defendant spoke up shortly before the verdict was announced. He made a brief statement through his lawyer: “I’ve heard all of your statements. Each one of them. I’m really very sorry for everyone out there.”
Most of the time DeAngelo sat listlessly in orange prison clothes in a wheelchair, and he wore a white cloth mask over his nose and mouth. He tried to make it seem frail. Only after the verdict was announced, the public prosecutor was allowed to publish secretly filmed video recordings of DeAngelo: They show a well-trained 74-year-old who is anything but frail and does gymnastics in his prison cell and climbs on the table to darken the lamp with cloths . Just as he had done in the homes of his victims.