Santa Barbara County district attorney hopes for healing for victims and survivors
California’s most sought-after serial killer was sentenced to multiple life sentences Friday for a string of rapes and murders during the 1970s and ’80s.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., 74, was sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms without the parole for 13 first-degree murders — including four local murders — as well as an additional consecutive life term for 13 kidnappings to commit robbery with an eight-year sentencing enhancement for personal use of a firearm and personal use of a knife during the commission of the offenses.
Mr. DeAngelo was jointly prosecuted by the district attorneys of Santa Barbara, Contra Costa, Orange, Sacramento, Tulare and Ventura counties.
His sentencing Friday was held at the Sacramento State University ballroom. It was relocated to accommodate the large number of victims and their family members and to ensure social distancing due to COVID-19.
“This ‘cold case’ never went cold for the victims and survivors. It burned them to their very soul,” Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley said in a statement. “I respectfully hope today resulted in a step forward in their healing process.”
Mr. DeAngelo, also known as the Golden State Killer, among other monikers, was arrested in April 2018 after being identified through Investigative Genetic Genealogy.
A former police officer, Mr. DeAngelo admitted to committing crimes against 87 individual victims during attacks he committed at 53 separate crime scenes.
Charges were filed against him for offenses he committed against 26 of his victims.
He also admitted to committing crimes against 61 additional victims. Those offenses included attempted murder, kidnapping to commit robbery, rape, robbery, first-degree burglary and false imprisonment. The uncharged crimes occurred in Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Tulare and Yolo counties.
Mr. DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June and admitted to have committed 13 counts of murder, burglaries, kidnappings and dozens of rapes in the 1970s and 1980s. The decision by prosecutors to accept his offer to plead guilty to the 26 crimes and admit the uncharged crimes was made in consultation with the victims and their family members, authorities said.
He admitted to the following murders that occurred at the following times and locations: Claude Snelling, Sept. 11, 1975, Tulare County; Katie and Brian Maggiore, Feb. 2, 1978, Sacramento County; Debra Alexandria Manning, Dec. 30, 1979, Santa Barbara County; Robert Offerman, Dec. 30, 1979, Santa Barbara County; Cheri Domingo, July 27, 1981, Santa Barbara County; Greg Sanchez, July 27, 1981, Santa Barbara County; Charlene and Lyman Smith, on or about March 13, 1980, Ventura County; Keith and Patrice Harrington, Aug. 21, 1980, Orange County; Manuela Witthuhn, Feb. 6, 1981, Orange County; Janelle Cruz, May 5, 1986, Orange County.
Mr. DeAngelo’s crime spree began in 1975 when he was working as a police officer with the Exeter Police Department. The crimes, which continued long after he was fired from the Auburn Police Department in 1979, escalated from peeping through windows to stalking, to rape and serial murder.
According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, Mr. DeAngelo’s crime spree in Santa Barbara County is believed to have started in October of 1989. A couple was attacked while they slept in their home near Goleta. Both victims managed to escape, but the suspect fled the scene on a stolen bicycle and evaded capture.
Two months later, Dr. Offerman, an orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Manning, a psychologist, were brutally murdered in their condo near Goleta.
Two years later, Mr. Sanchez and Ms. Domingo were also found brutally murdered in a home in the 400 block of Toltec Way in Goleta where Ms. Domingo was housesitting. In 2011, DNA evidence linked this double homicide to other crimes committed by Mr. DeAngelo.
His crimes earned him the nicknames of the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer.
The case involved more than 1.3 million pages of discovery and “would have unduly burdened the victims with a lengthy prosecution that was anticipated to take as many as 10 years. The sentencing came after three days of victims and their loved ones describing the impact of the crimes to the court, community and defendant,” according to a statement from Ms. Dudley’s office.
Before being sentenced by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman, Mr. DeAngelo made a brief statement.
“I’ve listened to all of your statements, each one of ’em … and I am truly sorry to everyone I’ve hurt,” he said.
Immediately after Mr. DeAgelo’s remarks, Judge Bowman said he understood that prosecutors agreed not to pursue a death penalty trial so that aging victims could see him convicted. The judge clarified that “the court is not saying that Mr. DeAnglo does not deserve to have the death penalty imposed.”
“It merely means the court feels it would never come to pass,” he said. “Mr. DeAngelo will spend the rest of his natural life, and ultimately meet his death, confined behind the walls of the state penitentiary.”
The judge went on to explain that he has listened for the past three days from the people Mr. DeAngelo terrorized, as well as their friends and family, and the impact statements will always be with him.
“I know whatever words I say today will pale in comparison to the words the survivors have spoken, but they need to be said,” Judge Bowman said. “The fundamental principle of law that justice delayed is justice denied is no truer than in this case.
“As I listened to the survivors and watched you, I couldn’t help but wondering, ‘What are you thinking?’ ” Judge Bowman told Mr. DeAngelo. “Are you capable of comprehending the pain and anguish you have caused?’ ”
The judge then shared a quote from California author John Steinbeck and stated, in part, “You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.”
“Mr. Steinbeck seems to think that monsters are born and not created — I’m not so sure (of that) — but one thing I do know is when a person commits monstrous acts, they need to be locked away where they can never harm another innocent person,” Judge Bowman said.
“It is my sincere hope that with the opportunity to be heard these last few days and the sentence to be imposed, the survivors will find some resolution, find some peace, and hopefully find some justice, however imperfect.”