Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo pled guilty to 13 murders, numerous rapes, kidnaps and other crimes on June 29, 2020, in order to escape the death penalty. 

DeAngelo cut a plea deal with Sacramento prosecutors in order to spare his own skin, in return he will likely be ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars during his sentencing hearing in August.

The plea hearing was held in a large Sacramento, California university ballroom, in order to provide enough space for all the family members of his many victims to attend.

So, who is The Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo? And what did his horrendous crime spree entail?

Who is The Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo? The Early Years

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo reigned terror throughout California during the 1970s and ‘80s, committing an estimated 50 plus rapes, at least 13 murders and well over 100 home invasions and burglaries.

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The now 74-year-old originally hailed from Bath New York, where he grew up with his three younger siblings, two sisters Rebecca and Connie, and brother, John. His father, James DeAngelo Sr. was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, and his mom, Kathleen Louise Bosanko was a homemaker.

DeAngelo’s childhood involved a lot of moving around, as his father was assigned to various different bases throughout the U.S., in addition, to being stationed in Germany during 1954.

Did Sister’s Rape Spark Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Sexual Assault Spree?

It was during the family’s time in West Germany that the then-9-year-old witnessed his sister Connie be raped by two men, as the siblings played in an abandoned warehouse on their father’s Army base.

DeAngelo’s nephew, Jesse Ryland, one of Connie’s sons, told BuzzFeed about his mother’s assault, which was committed by two airmen also stationed on the base.

Many, including Ryland, point to the horrendous incident as possibly being behind DeAngelo developing a preoccupation with committing sexual assaults himself— an obsession that would result in the most awful rapes and escalate into a brutal murder spree.

“That’s pretty crazy for a kid to see his sister be violated… maybe that was the start of Joe going wacko,” Ryland told Buzzfeed.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo The All-American Kid

Despite having witnessed the violent assault of his sister, DeAngelo appeared to have buried the trauma deep down inside by the time the family returned back stateside and settled in California.

Unlike many of his fellow serial killers, such as Jefferey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy, DeAngelo has no record of juvenile delinquency or any known history of abusing animals during his childhood years. In fact, on the surface, it would appear he was the “all-American” kid.

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De’Angelo played on the junior varsity baseball team before graduating with his GED from Folsom High School in 1964. He immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he served during the Vietnam War.

DeAngelo enrolled at Sierra College to study for a bachelor’s degree in police science after finishing his enlistment in 1968, and following its completion, he went on to study post-grad criminal justice at Sacramento State. DeAngelo then interned at Roseville Police Department for 32-weeks before becoming a full-time cop himself in 1973. 

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Family Secrets & Violent Homelife

Despite, DeAngelo presenting as a “healthy and normal” teenager, he was hiding some deep secrets—the trauma caused by watching his little sister’s rape, and a violent and abusive childhood home life.

Jesse Ryland says DeAngelo’s father was physically abusive and often assaulted his wife, in front of their three children. Ryland also claims that when DeAngelo and his sister told their parents about her being raped, they were ordered to never discuss it again, to just forget about it and move on.

However, Ryland insists that his uncle appeared to be “a nice and seemingly normal guy” and that he never suspected DeAngelo was actually a highly dangerous and violent predator.

Initial Police Sketch of Joseph DeAngelo.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo First Love Goes Wrong, Very Wrong

DeAngelo’s student life may have appeared stable and regular, but his romantic relationships were oftentimes chaotic and violent. His first love was college classmate Bonnie Jean Colwell, whom DeAngelo became engaged to in 1970.

However, Colwell admits to noticing “many red flags” throughout their relationship, claiming in an interview with the LA Times that DeAngelo “was often controlling, enjoyed dragging her along on illegal hunting trips, and was ‘insatiable’ when it came to sex.”

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Colwell ended the engagement, after becoming sick of her fiance’s behavior, news that DeAngelo did not take well—and another incident that’s pointed to as a motivating factor for his rape and murder spree. 

DeAngelo wasn’t giving up on their relationship easily though, and after multiple pleas for her to reconsider failed, he decided to force Colwell to change her mind, at gunpoint.

Colwell reveals she was woken up by somebody tapping on her bedroom window, a few nights following their break-up. “And I just pulled the, just a thin cotton curtain on the window, and I pulled it back, and he was pointing a gun at my face,” she explains during the first episode of the podcast “Man in the Window”

DeAngelo ordered his former-fiancee to get dressed because they were going to Reno to get married “right now!” However, thankfully for Colwell, her father was home that night and he intervened to prevent the kidnap of his daughter, much to the anger of her defeated lover.

According to multiple reports, DeAngelo repeatedly shouted “I hate you, Bonnie” following the rape of one woman in 1978. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you,” he further lamented as he sobbed into his victim’s pillow.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Becomes Married With Kids

It didn’t take long for DeAngelo to find a new girlfriend. The aspiring cop started dating Sharon Marie Huddle, a law student who went on to become a divorce attorney, and the couple married in 1973.

Even though they had three daughters together, their marriage was far from happy, with a neighbor telling the San Jose Mercury News that he regularly overheard DeAngelo engaging in “epic shouting matches” with his wife, and a friend of the couple noting they slept in separate bedrooms. 

They separated in 1991 and Huddle finally filed for divorce in 2018, following her husband’s arrest, when she learned he had begun his violent and gruesome crime spree during the time they were still living together.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Police Career Comes To Abrupt End

Officer DeAngelo’s college studies and police career would prove to be very handy throughout his crime spree—with his extensive knowledge of investigative procedures and science, in addition to the criminal justice system as a whole.

Ironically, DeAngelo served as an officer in the burglary unit initially, before being promoted to sergeant and put in charge of heading up the Exeter Police Department’s “Joint Attack on Burglary” program. It was during this time that DeAngelo began his spree of home invasions that would, over time, develop into way darker and violent crimes.

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In August 1976 the sergeant transferred to Auburn PD, where he served until July 1976 until October 1979 when he was fired. DeAngelo’s law enforcement career had come to an abrupt end after he was arrested for attempting to steal dog repellent and a hammer from a store.

The disgraced former-cop went on to work a number of lowly paid menial jobs, before finally becoming a truck mechanic at Save Mart Supermarkets distribution center in 1990, a position he held up until his retirement in 2017.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Becomes The Visalia Ransacker

DeAngelo had launched his criminal career sometime around 1973, with a number of home invasions committed while residents were away and their houses were unoccupied. It quickly became an obsession, and it didn’t take long for authorities—whom he was employed by at the time—to realize they had a serial offender on their hands.

DeAngelo, who is believed to have committed around 120 crimes from 1973-75, was dubbed the Visalia Ransacker, due to his repeated M.O. of breaking into properties located in the Sequoias College, Visalia area, vandalizing and tearing the interiors to pieces, while stealing just a few small items, like coins from a piggy bank.

The “Visalia Ransacker” quickly became bored with invading empty homes though and moved on to become a voyeur, a “hot prowler” as cops refer to burglars of occupied homes, and eventually, a murderer.

DeAngelo was also a “Peeping Tom” and would spend hours staking out and watching the movements of his intended prey. Several victims reported hearing a tapping at their window, one of the women recalled seeing a man, naked from the waist down, with an “empty expression, smirking” when she looked outside. Another woman told police that she was woken-up one night by a semi-naked man “touching her breast.” 

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The crimes of the “Visalia Ransacker” were clearly escalating in gravity, in addition to frequency—by 1974 multiple offenses were being committed in one day, with a total of 12 different crimes occurring during the day and night of November 30.

Well, DeAngelo certainly can’t be accused of being lazy or having a lackadaisical work ethic.

The nearly two-year-long crime spree culminated in the shooting death of Claude Snelling, who had previously reported chasing away a prowler lurking under his daughter’s bedroom window. 

Sadly for Snelling, the “prowler” returned to the house days later and when the father confronted the masked intruder, who was now attempting to kidnap his daughter, DeAngelo murdered him.

And, just like that, the “Visalia Ransacker” was gone—but not without leaving several traces of evidence behind, that would later prove essential to his conviction.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Becomes East Area Rapist 

DeAngelo upped sticks and fled to the Sacramento area, following his first (known) murder. It didn’t take long before he was back to his old tricks though—however, by the summer of 1976 he’d inevitably progressed even further in his deviancy.

DeAngelo committed a slew of rapes in the East Sacramento area, initially all involving middle-class women, living alone in a one story-house that provided an easy and quick means of escape. Over time, DeAngelo moved on to targeting couples, tying them up with ligatures, gagging them with towels, beating the male victim, then raping the female “repeatedly, sometimes for several hours.”

It didn’t take long for SPD officers to link all of the attacks to one offender, and DeAngelo had earned himself a new nickname, the “East Area Rapist”. It also didn’t take long for him to widen his prowling area, going on to commit yet more crimes in Modesto, Stockton, San Joaquin County, and Contra Costa County, before disappearing in July 1979.

Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Morphs Into Original “Night Stalker”

DeAngelo had decided to take his crime spree down south, and in no time at all, he had earned himself yet another nickname, “The Night Stalker”. 

SoCal authorities invented the moniker because of DeAngelo’s newly acquired habit of taunting and threatening his victims with calls and letters, following his violent attacks and rapes, and for stalking his prey for up to months at a time prior to striking. He also made obscene phone calls to the police too.

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However, it took until 2001 for cops to discover that all three suspects were in fact just one man, thanks to advances in DNA testing, and DeAngelo was finally given his most famous nickname of all, the “Golden State Killer”.

The Capture Of Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo 

Police now knew they were looking for one man, the problem was, they didn’t know who that man was. It would take a total of four decades before they eventually managed to learn of DeAngelo’s identity and apprehend him.

DeAngelo had previously been arrested in 1996, following an altercation at a gas station, but because the charges were ultimately dismissed there was no record of him entered into the national database. However, in 2018, thanks to the wonders of genetic genealogy, investigators hit gold by linking DNA from an old crime scene to DeAngelo using the website GEDmatch. 

Finally, on April 24, 2018, DeAngelo was arrested, at the house that he was living in, with one of his daughters and her child. The granddad was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, but because of California’s statute of limitations on sex crimes, he couldn’t be charged with any of the rapes he committed in the 1970s and 80s.

But, he was charged with 13 related kidnapping and abduction attempts, and as part of the plea deal his attorney negotiated, DeAngelo was forced to admit to all of his crimes in open court.

At the time of posting, Joseph DeAngelo is behind bars and awaiting sentencing.

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