SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In a moment his victims have long awaited, a 74-year-old former police officer who terrorized California as the Golden State Killer began pleading guilty to a long list of charges Monday in a university ballroom turned courtroom.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., clad in orange jail clothing and wearing a clear protective face shield, sat onstage at Cal State Sacramento, with cameras projecting his face onto the ballroom wall so all could see -- bringing the Golden State Killer case to a close with more spectacle than court decorum.
DeAngelo scarcely spoke during the early part of the hearing, only answering questions from Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman in a shaky "yes" or "no."
The plea hearing was scripted, allowing no room for ad-libbed confessions. DeAngelo is expected to admit guilt to 13 murders, 13 charges of kidnapping for purposes of robbery -- the only crimes he is charged with -- as well as some 62 other crimes of rape and abduction for which the statutes of limitations long ago expired.
The crime spree ran from at least 1973 to 1986 and involved attacks on some 106 children, men and women. Fifty women were raped. Thirteen people were killed.
Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho called the crimes "simply staggering" in scope.
"His monikers reflect the sweeping geographical impact of his crime," Ho said, adding, "each time, he escaped -- slipping away silently into the night, leaving communities terrified for years."
Detectives did not have a final named suspect until 2018, when they used crime-scene DNA and genealogy services to identify the killer's cousin and then, finally, DeAngelo.
Sitting in a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department interview room hours after his arrest, Ho said DeAngelo spoke to himself, saying: "I did all those things. I've destroyed all their lives. So now, I've got to pay the price."
Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty -- the main request made by DeAngelo's public defenders. In return for his guilty plea, DeAngelo will be sentenced to prison for the rest of his life.