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Golden State Killer: Prime suspect Joseph James DeAngelo to plead guilty to multiple murders and rapes, reports say

Former police officer was arrested in April 2018 after a decades-long search for a suspect in crimes that occurred across California between 1974 and 1986



Oliver O'Connell
New York
Monday 15 June 2020 23:10 BST
Sacramento DA: 'we found the needle in the haystack' after Golden State Killer caught in Sacramento

Lawyers in the case of the Golden State Killer, otherwise known as the East Area Rapist, believe they have reached a deal where the chief suspect will plead guilty to 88 charges of murder, rape and other crimes.

The Sacramento Bee reports sources saying that Joseph James DeAngelo Jr will enter the plea to avoid a death penalty trial, with a life sentence without parole imposed instead.

Mr DeAngelo’s attorney, Sacramento County Supervising Assistant Public Defender Joseph Cress says that the plea agreement would provide some finality for the victims, while avoiding a lengthy and expensive trial.

Details of the agreement are still being worked out, but a hearing could take place on 29 June.

The former police officer was arrested in April 2018 after a decades-long search for a suspect in the crimes that occurred across California between 1974 and 1986.

DeAngelo faces 26 counts in the Sacramento Superior Court, including 13 murder charges as the Golden State Killer — two in Sacramento, one in Tulare County, four in Orange County, four in Santa Barbara County, and two in Ventura County.

An additional 13 kidnap and robbery charges are attributed to the East Area Rapist — nine in Sacramento County and four in Contra Costa County.

The Golden State Killer and East Area Rapist were investigated as being believed to be the same individual for many years, but the agreement now being discussed sees DeAngelo also admitting guilt to a further 62 crimes.

These have in the past been attributed to various assailants known as the Visalia Ransacker, Original Nightstalker, and the Diamond Knot Killer.

Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo was charged with 13 murders (Hector Amezcua, Rex Features)

The defence team have argued from early on that they wanted to avoid a death penalty trial given the age of the defendant at 74 years old. California currently has a moratorium on the death penalty, which would have made it easier for the prosecution team to agree to other terms.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert declined to comment on Monday, according to The Sacramento Bee.

A preliminary hearing was set to begin in August and would have reportedly included 150 witnesses and lasted up to ten weeks.

It is expected that hundreds of survivors, and relatives of victims, will want to attend the newly planned hearing later this month, which will also attract a great deal of media interest from around the world. Officials are currently looking for a venue large enough to accommodate everyone, while allowing for social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reaction has been mixed from families of the victims, with some saying this does not feel like justice and others suggesting that it brings some degree of closure after such a long time.

DeAngelo was identified through a DNA sample from a genealogy website that was compared to evidence found at crimes scenes. A familial link led investigators to the former police officer who had since been fired from the force and become a truck mechanic.

The decades-long search for the Golden State Killer is the subject of podcasts and best-selling books, and an HBO documentary series is scheduled to begin at the end of the month.

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