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Golden State Killer pleads guilty to crimes that terrorized California

Paige St. John and Luke Money, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"We don't have anything to be ashamed of, so we can stand up and he can take a look at us," Pedretti said. "We're not afraid of him. I think that's more powerful than us staying seated and being a Jane Doe. Because, if he looks out, he doesn't know who is who. He will today."

Other victims silently cried, dabbing their eyes with tissue they had brought with them.

Because of COVID-19 spacing requirements, the proceeding was moved to the ballroom at Cal State Sacramento, the school from which DeAngelo received a criminal justice degree in 1972.

From beginning to end, the crimes involving DeAngelo played out in the public eye.

The East Area Rapist drew so much media attention that he caused a public panic, prompting citizen patrols, bounties and a run on sales of guns, door locks and guard dogs. Midway through the series of rapes, detectives believe, the attacker began to feed off that public hysteria, and he began to instruct victims to pass on death threats to the police and future victims.

DeAngelo was fired from his Auburn, Calif., police job in 1979 after he was caught shoplifting. The murders that ensued as he and his wife moved to Southern California -- again involving bedroom attacks and rapes -- at first went unconnected. The unknown assailant was given new local nicknames: the Diamond-Knot Killer and the Night Stalker, later changed to Original Night Stalker after another serial killer took that sobriquet.

Advances in forensic DNA changed the case dramatically. In 2001, detectives were able to link the attacks up and down the state.

The crime spree became media fodder again as a television series, then was picked up by a Los Angeles writer, Michelle McNamara, who re-branded the perpetrator as the Golden State Killer and marketed a book on her attempts to chronicle, and perhaps solve, the crimes.

 

A 2016 decision by unnamed investigators at the Orange County Sheriff's Department to break the chain of custody and allow McNamara to take home 37 boxes of case files and two bins of evidence has now become fodder for legal challenges against the law enforcement agency. The defense lawyer for a man serving life in prison for another DNA-solved rape and murder cited the evidence breach to support his own allegations of laxity and misconduct within the county crime lab.

The defense lawyer said McNamara's research assistant told him the case files were returned to Orange County after McNamara's sudden death in April 2016, before the release of her book, which has been turned into an HBO series. The first episode aired Sunday, and the series is to conclude just before DeAngelo's sentencing in August.

Victims have been told to prepare impact statements to be read aloud during proceedings expected to last a week before DeAngelo's sentence is declared.

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