Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., the man accused of a slew of rapes and murders attributed to the Golden State Killer throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, is expected to plead guilty this month in a deal that will get him off the death penalty.
The Los Angeles Times reports that DeAngelo is preparing to enter a guilty plea on June 29 for 13 murders and kidnapping charges, and that he’ll also admit to numerous crimes with expired statutes of limitations for which he hasn’t been charged.
While prosecutors originally declined DeAngelo’s offer to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, coronavirus is partly responsible for changing their minds. According to the Times,
Most witnesses and victims in the case are elderly, and some of them are grappling with health problems. The logistics of how to arrange for their testimony, and provide defense lawyers with the ability to cross-examine those witnesses without exposing them to the coronavirus, were problematic, said one of the sources familiar with the decision.
DeAngelo’s alleged crime spree began in 1973 and stretched through 1986, and included rape and murder everywhere from Sacramento and the Bay Area through Southern California. The Times says its documented more than 106 victims who were “bound, tortured, raped or killed.”
Police struggled for years to identify a suspect, and only made a breakthrough in 1996, when advances in forensic DNA allowed them to link what had been though to be separate murders. But it wasn’t until 2017 that a team of FBI agents and detectives used DNA from old rape kits to search for relatives on family tree genetic databases, creating a path that in 2018 led to DeAngelo.
The Sacramento county district attorney declined to confirm the Times’ report, saying in a statement:
“We have a moral and ethical responsibility to consider any offer from the defense, given the massive scope of the case, the advanced age of many of the victims and witnesses, and our inherent obligations to the victims.”