The sentence was expected after DeAngelo reached a plea deal with prosecutors in six California counties in June that required him to plead guilty or admit his guilt in dozens of crimes in exchange for being spared the possibility of a death sentence.
DeAngelo showed little emotion as the sentence was read by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael G. Bowman. He sat between his public defenders wearing a white sweatshirt and a surgical mask.
Bowman praised the victims and the detectives who worked to bring DeAngelo to justice but wondered if DeAngelo understood the enormity of his crimes.
“When a person commits monstrous acts, they need to be locked away so they don’t hurt other people,” Bowman told the defendant.
The two-hour sentencing hearing followed three days of chilling testimony from dozens of victims, who described in horrific detail attacks that left them scarred, and robbed them of innocence and loved ones. DeAngelo was alternately described as “subhuman,” a “sick monster” and a “horrible man.” The daughter of one victim raised her middle finger and told DeAngelo he could go to hell.
Another woman talked about waking from a nap as a 7-year-old in the mid-70s to find a masked DeAngelo standing near her mother, who had been gagged, bound and raped on a bed in their Sacramento-area home. The woman, who compared DeAngelo to fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter, said he had told her mother at one point he might cut off her daughter’s ear and bring it to her if she woke the girl.
“That was the day I knew I had proof,” the woman testified. “Monsters were real. The boogeyman had broken into my house.”
DeAngelo’s victims were so numerous the sentencing hearing was staged in a Sacramento State University ballroom to accommodate them and offer social distancing to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. They erupted in applause at various points as prosecutors thanked the judge and denounced DeAngelo.
DeAngelo, who had never publicly addressed his crimes, rose and offered an apology before he was sentenced.
“I’ve listened to all your statements. Each one of them,” DeAngelo said. “And I am really sorry to everyone I’ve hurt.”
The rapes and killings of which DeAngelo was convicted stretched from 1975 to 1986 and spanned such a wide geographical area that authorities initially thought multiple people were responsible. He was alternately known as the Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker and finally the Golden State Killer.
He began with home burglaries and a single murder in the San Joaquin Valley, before committing many rapes in and around Sacramento and the Bay Area. He then killed several people across Southern California. DeAngelo often broke into people’s homes in the middle of the night and bound them with shoelaces before carrying out his rapes and killings. The crimes mysteriously ended in 1986.
They might have gone unsolved but for investigator Paul Holes and his team experimenting with a groundbreaking genetic technique that was developed to reunite adoptees with their birthparents.
The team members fed DNA recovered from one of the crime scenes into a public DNA database to find relatives of the killer. They found a common ancestor among them and then created family trees down to the present day. DeAngelo emerged as a possible suspect.
Investigators eventually got an item containing DeAngelo’s DNA and tested it against the DNA recovered from the crime scene, producing a match. DeAngelo was arrested in April 2018.
The six prosecutors on the case each addressed the court, taking time to admonish DeAngelo and praise the bravery of the victims who shared their trauma during their testimony.
“By their courage they shined a very bright light on the magnitude of crimes before this court,” Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten said. “In a sense, they’ve also brought to life their loved ones. . . . They’ve honored their memories as people of purpose.”