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Golden State Killer suspect to admit guilt in 88 crimes

Sam Stanton, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Claude Snelling was the first, gunned down outside his Visalia home in 1975 as a man then known as the "Visalia Ransacker" was trying to abduct his daughter.

Brian and Katie Maggiore were next, a young couple walking their dog at night in Rancho Cordova in February 1978 when a man in a ski mask chased them down and shot them both to death.

Over the next eight years, 10 more people would be killed -- some of them raped -- and dozens of others would be sexually assaulted in a rampage that had remained a mystery for 40 years until the April 2018 arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo.

On Monday, the 74-year-old former police officer is expected to plead guilty to being the man known variously as the East Area Rapist, Golden State Killer, Visalia Ransacker and a number of other nicknames.

DeAngelo is scheduled to appear Monday morning in a makeshift courtroom set up in a ballroom inside the University Union on the campus of Sacramento State University.

His public defenders and prosecutors expect him to plead guilty to 13 murder counts, 13 counts of kidnap for robbery stemming from sexual assaults, and to admit to 62 other crimes that have been attributed to him. He faces sentencing in August in a deal that will see him get a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Prosecutors from the counties where the crimes occurred will take turns reading the details of the charged counts, and DeAngelo is expected to say "guilty" to each one. The 62 uncharged crimes -- sexual assaults and other incidents during the crime spree -- will be described using the date and name "Jane Doe" rather than the victim's name, and DeAngelo is expected to concede that he is guilty of each.

The guilty plea is part of a bargain worked out to let him avoid the death penalty and save the state the cost of taking him to trial in what would have been one of the largest prosecutions in California history.

The location of Monday's hearing is a testament to the international attention the case has garnered. With more than 150 people expected to attend -- victims, family members of victims, media and prosecutors from counties the length of California -- officials were forced to find a venue large enough to hold attendees and provide for physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ballroom, which can accommodate up to 2,000 people for some events, was set up Friday on campus by workers who erected a stage at one end of the room that appears as it will serve as a judge's bench and accommodate seating for DeAngelo, who is currently housed at the Sacramento County Jail.


Court officials would not allow access to the site Friday, but a Sacramento Bee reporter was able to watch from a doorway briefly as workers positioned chairs at various spots throughout the ballroom to accommodate at least 150 people and 21 news media outlets.

A video camera on a riser in the rear of the room will be used to provide a livestream of the event through the Sacramento Superior Court's YouTube page.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Pacific, with a lunch break from noon to 1:30 p.m. The hearing is expected to conclude by 3 p.m., when a press conference has been scheduled with Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward and Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten.

That press conference also will be livestreamed on the Sacramento County District Attorney's YouTube page.

Victims and family members of victims are expected to speak after that.

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