by Don Thompson
SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — Victim after victim lined up on Tuesday to describe Joseph DeAngelo as a “sick monster,” “horrible man” and “subhuman” who stole their innocence and changed their lives during a more than decade-long reign of rape and murder that earned him the nickname Golden State Killer.
The daughter of one rape victim gave him an obscene hand gesture and cursed him during the first of four days of hearings in Sacramento County Superior Court before he is formally sentenced to life in prison on Friday.
Some read statements on behalf of their loved ones who could not testify in person, while others proudly gave their names now that DeAngelo, 74, is heading to prison.
“He and his knife had complete control over me for the next two hours,” Patti Cosper, the daughter of rape survivor Patricia Murphy, read from her mother’s statement. “He truly is an evil monster with no soul.”
DeAngelo is a former police officer in California who eluded capture for four decades.
Sixteen of his Sacramento County rape victims began confronting him in a courthouse that is otherwise still sealed from the public because of the coronavirus. A similar number of people planned to tell Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman on Wednesday and Thursday how DeAngelo’s crimes changed their lives.
“I was a normal 15-year old kid. I loved going to school, having sleepovers and going to church,” Kris Pedretti told the court. “My world was small, predictable and safe.”
Then DeAngelo attacked her just before Christmas in 1976.
“By the time that night came to an end, my world changed forever,” she said. “I sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in my head as I waited — waited to die.”
Pedretti told the judge she finally “found freedom from his evil” after he was captured.
“The knowledge that DeAngelo will spend the rest of his life in prison for his heinous acts has ended my dark journey so that I may begin a new one,” she said.
Lisa Lilienthal described DeAngelo as a sadistic “boogeyman” as she testified by video about the attack she witnessed on her mother. Until his arrest, she said, “something lingered in the shadows — our sense of normalcy, our sense of safety had been raped too.”
Pete Schultze recalled how DeAngelo “performed horrific acts against our mother while she was tied and blindfolded.” He himself was tied to a bedpost at age 11, while his 7-year-old sister was locked in her room during the attack on Wini Schultze.
Pete Schultze called DeAngelo a “sick monster” as the killer sat in an orange jail jumpsuit, staring straight ahead and wearing a mask as protection against the coronavirus.
In June, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges between 1975 and 1986. He also publicly admitted dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.
All told, he admitted harming 87 victims at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties in a plea deal that spares him the death penalty, prosecutors said.
That’s more victims than prosecutors cited after his admission in June to 161 crimes involving 48 people. Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said the higher number includes those who chose not to participate in having DeAngelo publicly admit to crimes in which he could not be formally charged.
His nicknames showed the escalation and geographic sweep of his crimes: the Visalia Ransacker, thought to be responsible for about 100 burglaries and one slaying in the San Joaquin Valley farm town; the East Area Rapist; the Original Night Stalker; and finally, the Golden State Killer when investigators finally linked the crimes that stretched across much of the state.
DeAngelo was identified and arrested in 2018 by using a new form of DNA tracing.
Several survivors of his crimes said they believe he is merely masquerading as a feeble old man, a front that prosecutors in court papers said is belied by video of his “agile movement and behavior in his jail cell.”
Some said they believed his day of reckoning would never come.
Among them were two sisters who took turns testifying. Peggy was 15 when she was raped, and Sue was 16 when she was bound and gagged in another room. Neither gave their last names as they described the trauma that haunts their otherwise successful lives.
“My God, we were just high school kids,” Peggy said, noting that she was stunned when DeAngelo was arrested.
“After over four decades he was no longer a ghost, but a real living and breathing monster,” she said. ”After 42 years, there was finally a glimmer of justice.”
“Finally the end of this trauma is here,” Peggy added. “He’s a horrible man and none of us have to worry about him anymore.”
– – –
Don Thompson is a reporter at The Associated Press.
About the Headline Photo: Joseph James DeAngelo looks away from the podium as people who DeAngelo victimized make their statements during the first day of victim impact statements at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif. DeAngelo will be formally sentenced to life in prison on Friday. The former police officer in California eluded capture for four decades. He has admitted 13 murders and nearly 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986. (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)