Survivors seize chance to confront Golden State Killer

Posted at 6:50 AM, August 19, 2020 and last updated 2:53 PM, July 26, 2023

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Joseph DeAngelo’s victims are reveling in their chance to finally confront him in a courtroom, four decades after he committed 13 known murders and dozens of rapes that spanned much of California.

Many said they thought their opportunity would never come as the former police officer known as the Golden State Killer seemingly vanished after each crime, confounding investigators until he was identified and arrested in 2018 by using a new form of DNA tracing.

Among them were two sisters who took turns testifying Tuesday. Peggy was 15 when she was raped in 1976, and Sue was 16 when she was bound and gagged in another room. Neither gave their last names as they described the trauma that still haunts their otherwise successful lives.

Sue said she was stunned when her sister told her of DeAngelo’s arrest.

“After over four decades he was no longer a ghost, but a real living and breathing monster,” she said. ”After 42 years, there was finally a glimmer of justice.”

“Finally the end of this trauma is here,” Peggy said. “He’s a horrible man and none of us have to worry about him anymore.”

Others planned to tell Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman on Wednesday and Thursday how DeAngelo’s crimes changed their lives. He will sentence DeAngelo, 74, to life in prison on Friday under a plea agreement that allows DeAngelo to avoid the death penalty.

In June, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges between 1975 and 1986. He also publicly admitted dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.

“He truly is an evil monster with no soul,” Patti Cosper, the daughter of rape survivor Patricia Murphy, read from her mother’s statement.

Lisa Lilienthal described DeAngelo as a sadistic “boogeyman” as she testified by video about the attack she witnessed on her mother.

All told, DeAngelo admitted harming 87 victims at 53 separate crime scenes spanning 11 California counties in a plea deal that spares him the death penalty, prosecutors said.

His nicknames illustrated the sweep of his crimes: the Visalia Ransacker, thought to be responsible for about 100 burglaries and one slaying in the San Joaquin Valley farm town; the East Area Rapist; the Original Night Stalker; and finally, the Golden State Killer when investigators finally linked the crimes that stretched across much of the state.

The family of Debbie Strauss, who died in 2016, recounted what became the signature that marked DeAngelo’s crimes after he escalated to attacking couples instead of single women and girls.

He would force his victims to bind themselves with shoelaces then balance plates on the man’s back with a warning that he would kill both victims if he heard the plates rattle while he raped the woman.

“He spent hours raining his terror through threats and unspeakable abuse. He would leave his victims shaking in fright while he went to the kitchen to eat, only to return and then the abuse and vileness started all over again,” said Strauss’ mother, Dolly Kreis.

During the testimony, the killer sat in an orange jail jumpsuit, staring straight ahead and wearing a mask as protection against the coronavirus.

Kris Pedretti recalled being “a normal 15-year-old kid” before DeAngelo attacked her just before Christmas in 1976.

“I sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in my head as I waited — waited to die,” Pedretti said. “The knowledge that DeAngelo will spend the rest of his life in prison for his heinous acts has ended my dark journey so that I may begin a new one.”

Golden State Killer Day 1 of Victim Impact Statements: