Golden State Killer suspect cleared of 1978 slayings after DNA found at crime scene did not match his
Former police officer and suspected serial killer, Joseph James DeAngelo's DNA did not match the evidence found at the crime scene in Simi Valley
The man who was originally suspected of being the infamous Golden State Killer has been cleared of being involved in the cold case murders from 1978 of a woman and her young son. DNA samples that was taken from Joseph James DeAngelo has finally been examined by investigators who have been eager to close the cold case murders and, moreover, to see if the 72-year-old former police officer actually had anything at all to do with the murders.
LA Times reported that the test results indicated that DeAngelo had nothing to do with the killings of Rhonda Wicht and Donald, her 4-year-old son. The mother and son were found dead by a member of the family when they had gone to check on the two of them after they did not show up for a family gathering in Ventura County, California. Wicht was discovered beaten, raped, and strangled with a macrame rope. Donald had been asphyxiated in his sleep.
Police Chief David Livingstone, from the Simi Valley Police Department, told NBC that the reason why his department was eager to test DeAngelo's DNA in the murders of the mother and son was that the vicious killings showed signs of the Golden State Killer at work.
He said that the East Area Rapist, another name for the Golden State Killer, was famous for attacking single and young women in their homes. The serial killer would then tie up his helpless victims before brutally raping them and then beating them to death.
The police chief had said at the time: "Not that a lot of murders don't have some similarities, in terms of violence, but this one is close enough and with the time frame it's close enough to where we want to take a look at it and see if we can include or eliminate [DeAngelo] as a possible suspect in that case."
Wicht's previous boyfriend, Craid Coley, had been wrongfully convicted for the murder the mother and son. He had spent almost 40 years in prison for the crime that he did not commit. New evidence that came to light showed that Coley was innocent after all. The sheets from Wicht's house, that investigators thought were destroyed, were found and an unknown man's sperm, blood, and skin cells, were recovered from them. The investigators could not find Coley's DNA and the samples that were recovered from the sheets have not been matched to anyone yet.
Michael Bender, a former Simi Valley PD Detective, reopened the Wicht case when he discovered Coley's file in 1989. He looked through everything and realised that most of what was reported was not adding up. The innocent man had a solid alibi for the night the murders took place except for a 20-minute duration, which Bender said is too short a duration for the time that the murders would have taken place in.
Detectives on the case at the time had not followed any of the other suspect leads and fingerprints taken from the scene were not examined further.
Now 71 years old, Coley received a pardon from Governor Jerry Brown on Thanksgiving Eve 2017 and was released from prison after it was proved that he was innocent.
Former police officer DeAngelo was arrested in April this year after a search for an unknown man, responsible for the murders of 12 people in the 1970s and 80s, that lasted decades. He is being accused of being the Golden State Killer after investigators on the case sent DNA samples taken from the crime scene to online geneaology website, 23andme.com. They got a match on some of his family members and that's how they were able to catch him. The man is also a suspected serial rapist and is believed to have committed more than 100 burglaries.
Ivestigators have to start looking for the Simi Valley murderer from scratch now because a DNA comparison that was done with samples from DeAngelo and those found at the crime scene did not match. Chief Livingstone told the LA Times: "They conclusively eliminated him as a suspect. Once we follow and exhaust a lead, we move on."
The authorities admitted that the theory they had was a long shot but that it was possible. They had believed that the Golden State Killer had allegedly also committed the 1978 Simi Valley murders because it happened within the time frame he had killed 12 other people.
Chief Livingstone said: "We had no other reason to suspect he was the actual killer." He also said that the department is now looking at other possibilities. He said: "We don’t leave any lead unturned."
Investigators started covert surveillance on the 72-year-old man in an effort to collect DNA samples that came directly from him. The first opportunity came when he went shopping at a Hobby Lobby store one day and the officers took a sample from the door handle of his car. A few days later they were able to get another sample from a tissue DeAngelo had used and thrown into a trash can outside his house.
Ultimately, both the samples came back as a negative for his alleged involvement in the 1978 Simi Valley double murder.