Joseph James DeAngelo: 'Golden State Killer' who raped 62 and killed 13 may plead guilty to avoid death penalty

The former cop will be spared the death sentence for his crimes spanning 11 counties over a period of 12 years

                            Joseph James DeAngelo: 'Golden State Killer' who raped 62 and killed 13 may plead guilty to avoid death penalty
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr (Getty Images)

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA: The "Golden State Killer" is expected to finally plead guilty on June 29 to a series of assaults and murders that menaced suburban California in the 1970s and 1980s.

Former cop Joseph James DeAngelo Jr will be spared the death penalty for 13 murders and 13 kidnapping-related charges spanning six counties, as part of a plea deal. In exchange, survivors of his assaults expect him to admit to up to 62 rapes "for which he could not be criminally charged because too much time has passed," Fox News reports.

"I've been on pins and needles because I just don't like that our lives are tied to him, again," said Jennifer Carole, whose father Lyman Smith was killed in 1980 at age 43 in Ventura County. 33-year-old Charlene Smith, his wife, was raped and also killed.

Early on in the investigation, detectives had linked a series of crimes to an armed and masked rapist who would break into suburban homes at night. During the attack, he would bind the man and pile dishes on his back while he raped the woman, threatening to kill both victims if he heard the plates fall.

Joseph James DeAngelo appears in court for his arraignment (Getty Images)

If DeAngelo pleads guilty, he would avoid a trial or even the weeks-long preliminary hearing. According to Fox News, relatives of his deceased victims are expected to be present at his sentencing in August, where "it may take several days to tell DeAngelo and Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman what they have suffered."

Investigators settled on the so-called Golden State Killer — whose crimes spanned 11 counties from 1974 to 1986 — after connecting a series of assaults over the years in central and northern California and later murders in southern California.

Authorities zeroed in on DeAngelo using pioneering DNA technology. They found he was previously with the Auburn Police Department, northeast of Sacramento, before they fired him in 1979 for shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer. Prior to that, he had worked as a police officer in Exeter from 1973 to 1976.

After considerable efforts, the investigators were able to build a family tree by linking DNA from a decades-old crime scene to a distant relative via an online DNA database. They were eventually able to trace DeAngelo down using standard investigation techniques.

Joseph James DeAngelo (Getty Images)

Since his arrest, DeAngelo's defense attorneys have been trying their best to strike a deal that would spare him the death penalty. While prosecutors originally sought the death penalty, they eventually agreed to consider the plea bargain citing the highly complex case and the advancing ages of a number of victims and witnesses.

Carole, who said neither her parents nor she believed in capital punishment, explained that "death doesn't solve anything. But, him having to sit through a trial or preliminary hearing, that would have helped."

However, she agreed that it "absolutely" made sense for prosecutors to agree to life without parole — thereby sparing old victims and witnesses from having to appear in court amid the pandemic, as well as saving taxpayers the projected $20 million cost of a trial.

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