Surviving victims and their loved ones lined up inside a California courtroom Tuesday to confront Joseph DeAngelo, the so-called Golden State Killer and East Area Rapist, who pleaded guilty in June to 13 counts of raping, kidnapping, killing and terrorizing people over the span of several decades.
DeAngelo, a former police officer who eluded capture for four decades, has publicly admitted guilt for a number of other crimes, some of which are past the statute of limitations and could not be tried in court.
Victim statements are expected to continue through Thursday and DeAngelo, 74, will be sentenced Friday. He is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, after entering a plea agreement in June that would spare him the death penalty.
On Tuesday, victims described enduring hours of torture while they were bound, blindfolded, gagged, beaten and raped during attacks that date back to 1975. They called DeAngelo a “sick monster” and a “horrible man” who robbed several people of their childhoods and permanently scarred, both emotionally and physically, countless others.
One woman detailed how she was further stigmatized by the rampant sexism of the 1970s when “women were treated more like suspects than victims when it came to rape.”
DeAngelo sat quietly next to his lawyers wearing an orange jumpsuit and a mask. Defense attorneys did not respond to requests for comment and did not file a response to the prosecutors’ outline of the case.
Rape survivor Patricia Murphy’s daughter gave DeAngelo an obscene hand gesture and cursed him as she recounted how her mother’s attack forever changed and, ultimately, tore apart the family.
“He and his knife had complete control over me for the next two hours,” Patricia Murphy said in a statement, which was read in court by her daughter, Patti Cosper. “He truly is an evil monster with no soul.”
Murphy was 29 years old and going through a separation from her husband when she was brutally attacked on Sept. 4, 1976. Earlier in the day, she had been doing laundry at her parents’ Sacramento-area home. She was loading her car with the clothes neatly stacked when DeAngelo suddenly came up behind her.
“That night forever changed me,” she said in the statement.
Over the course of several hours, Murphy’s attacker broke her nose, gave her a concussion, raped her and drank her father’s beer before leaving. Murphy turned to alcohol and drugs to “blot it out and numb my pain.” Still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, she had a mental breakdown after DeAngelo’s 2018 arrest and was hospitalized for several days.
“I pretended life was fine, but it wasn’t,” she said. “It was exhausting. It was hard to find joy.”
In her own statement, Murphy’s daughter said DeAngelo “can go straight to hell.”
“I haven’t been able to forgive,” she said. “I think maybe after Friday, I will.”
Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho previously said the scope of DeAngelo’s crime spree is “simply staggering, encompassing 13 known murders and almost 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986.”
All told, DeAngelo has admitted to harming 87 victims in 53 separate crimes spanning 11 California counties, prosecutors said.
Sixteen of DeAngelo’s Sacramento County rape victims were expected to speak Tuesday, with a similar number planned for Wednesday and Thursday.
Among them was Pete Schultze, who was 11 years old when he was tied to a bedpost so tightly that his hands turned blue while DeAngelo “performed horrific acts” against his mother. He called DeAngelo a “sick monster” with an “inadequate penis,” a recurring theme from several of the victims.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman referred to Schultze’s mother as Jane Doe No. 22, who was raped in October of 1976. But Schultze, speaking on behalf of his family, said his “mother is not Jane Doe.”
“We are the family of Wini Schultze and we have all survived because of her bravery and resolve to do whatever it took to save herself and her family,” he said.
According to prosecutors, DeAngelo’s crime spree started in 1975 while he was working as a police officer in Exeter, a northern California community in the San Joaquin Valley near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Over the years, his crimes escalated from peeping through windows to stalking to rape and serial murder.
He was also a police officer in Auburn but was fired in 1979 for shoplifting. DeAngelo went on to marry and raise his own family before being arrested in 2018 in Ventura County.
His attacks up and down California inspired nicknames such as the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer.
“His monikers reflect the sweeping geographical impact of his crime,” Ho said in June. “Each time, he escaped, slipping away silently into the night, leaving communities terrified for years.”
For decades, the blood trail had gone cold, but using genetic geneology, Sacramento authorities identified DeAngelo in 2018 as the person responsible for the heinous acts.
A recent HBO documentary, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” details the gruesome attacks, the media rush to uncover a suspect and a 40-year manhunt for the Golden State Killer. It is based on crime writer Michelle McNamara’s book of the same name. McNamara, wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, died in 2016, two years before DeAngelo’s arrest.
While the case has provided much fodder for true crime aficionados, victims said Tuesday they remain haunted and traumatized by what happened to them.
In her statement, Phyllis Henneman said she 22 years “young and carefree” when her life changed forever in June 1976. She was home alone with her sister while their dad was out of town when DeAngelo attacked.
“Joseph DeAngelo, henceforth called ‘the devil incarnate,’ broke into my home, blindfolded me, tied me up, threatened my life with a knife and raped me,” she said in a statement read by her sister, Karen Veilleux. “Life as I knew it irrevocably changed that day.”
Her sense of safety was shattered. Even the ringing of the phone scared Henneman, who worried that her attacker might call to taunt her as he did once in 1978. She said her health suffered over the years and she questioned her own sense of self-worth.
“The roles are now reversed,” she said.
With DeAngelo’s arrest and the upcoming sentencing, “his victims and their families are now free,” she said.