By EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Joseph DeAngelo, the man suspected of being the notorious Golden State Killer, has agreed to plead guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder at his court appearance, prosecutors said.
The death penalty will be taken off the table and he will serve life without parole, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday said at Monday’s hearing.
Instead of a courtroom, DeAngelo, in an orange jumpsuit and using a cane, appeared in a California State University–Sacramento ballroom. With over 150 victims and relatives expected to attend, prosecutors sought a room that would be large enough to accommodate them and promote social distancing,The Sacramento Bee reported. The ballroom can hold 2,000 people.
DeAngelo, now 74 years old, was accused of committing 13 murders as well as multiple rapes and burglaries in the 1970s and 80s, terrorizing communities from Northern to Southern California.
DeAngelo was a police officer during the crimes in the 1970s.
Among the survivors was Jane Carson-Sandler, who was home with her 3-year-old son when she was raped in 1976.
“He told us, with clenched teeth, ‘Shut up or I’ll kill you,” she told ABC News in 2018.
“After the rape was over, praise the Lord he moved my son back next to me. I could feel his body, and then I was relieved,” she said. “Then [the rapist] said, ‘Don’t move, or I’ll come back and kill you.'”
When the crimes escalated to murder, the “Golden State Killer” targeted couples and would rape the woman before killing them both.
The “Golden State Killer” crimes went unsolved until April 2018, when DeAngelo was arrested in Sacramento County.
DeAngelo became the first public arrest obtained through genetic genealogy, a new technique that takes the DNA of an unknown suspect left behind at a crime scene and identifies him or her by tracing a family tree through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to public genealogy databases.
This allows police to create a much larger family tree than using law enforcement databases, such as the Combined DNA Index System, aka CODIS, in which an exact match is usually needed.
To identify DeAngelo, investigators narrowed the family tree search based on age, location and other characteristics.
Authorities surveilled DeAngelo and collected his DNA from a tissue left in a trash. Investigators plugged his discarded DNA back into the genealogy database and found a match, linking DeAngelo’s DNA to that gathered at multiple crime scenes, prosecutors said.
Since DeAngelo’s arrest, over 150 suspects have been identified through genetic genealogy.
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