“The nightmare has ended. He is the one forever alone in the dark,” Carol Daly, one of the original detectives assigned to the case in Sacramento said in a statement on behalf of victim Cathy Rogers.
Over the course of his crime spree that spanned California, Joseph James DeAngelo has been known as the Golden State Killer, the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Visalia rapist. Last year, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to raping more than 50 women and murdering 13 people in the 1970s and 80s. As part of a plea deal, he also admitted to crimes he has not been charged with.
One by one, victims and family members took the stand, describing in unpalatable detail, the horrors inflicted upon them by the former police officer.
One woman, who was just seven years old and asleep when her mother was bound and raped by DeAngelo, described him threatening her mother not to make a sound lest it wake her.
“He threatened to cut my ear off and bring it to her,” she said. When she woke, “I could sense evil, then all hell broke loose.”
Comparing him to the fictional cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, she said DeAngelo was “proof monsters were real. I had met the boogeyman.”
Others told of numbness in their hands that lasted for months because their wrists were bound so tightly in the attacks.
More than 40 years after the fact, most victims spoke of lifelong scars. Many also showed defiance and testified about not allowing their lives to be defined by these incidents and finding their way to happiness despite the indelible damage left by DeAngelo.
Anger simmered throughout the statements. “May he rot in hell,” Karen Veilleux said on behalf of her sister Phyllis. Another woman punctuated her statement by calling DeAngelo “subhuman” and aggressively showing him her middle finger.
DeAngelo made his plea to avoid the death penalty. One man speaking on behalf of his mother said that effort was futile.
“A lot of people might wish to carry out the death penalty themselves, but can’t you see? The sentence has already been given. You have been robbed of your entire life, yet you are too stupid to notice,” he said.
A long time coming
Though he avoided the death penalty, DeAngelo will likely serve 11 consecutive terms of life without parole with 15 concurrent life sentences and additional time for weapons charges.
Victims in one of the six counties that brought charges against him voted unanimously to accept his guilty plea.
“Today’s plea will never bring the loved ones back or restore the sense of security that was shattered, but today, after 40 years of uncertainty, dozens of victims and a nation heard the person responsible for this reign of terror finally admit that he — and only he — is responsible,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at the time of the plea deal.
Victims and their families waited for decades to get justice and unmask the man who made a pattern of sneaking in to attack first women alone or with their children and then couples in their homes.
His crimes spanned the 1970s and 1980s. A free genealogy database finally gave authorities the break they needed to arrest DeAngelo in 2018.
“In this case justice did not move swiftly, it was a long time coming. However, our victims remained steadfast and brave throughout this entire process,” Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton said in a news release in June.