Joseph DeAngelo: The Golden State Killer (GSK)
Written By: Aurora Caskey
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
The Golden State Killer is a serial killer and rapist responsible for 13 murders and at least 50 rapes between 1974 and 1986 in California. He was given various nicknames over the years including the East Bay Rapist and The Original Night Stalker. In 2001, DNA was able to link those crimes together as being done by a single perpetrator. In 2018, Joseph DeAngelo, Jr. was arrested for the GSK’s crimes and is currently awaiting trial. The cold case was finally cracked when a detective uploaded DNA from a rape kit to a genetic testing website called GED Match.
Before DeAngelo’s arrest, there were various efforts over the years to catch the Golden State Killer. He left many victims alive after raping them, allowing law enforcement to put together a physical description. According to eye witnesses and victims, their attacker was a man in his early 20s, with light colored eyes and an exceptionally small penis. A psychological profile composed by criminologists included a propensity for deviant and brutal sexual acts, knowledge of police investigative methods, and an arrogant and domineering personality.
DeAngelo fits much of the profiles of the GSK formed over the years. He was born in Bath, NY in 1985 to a Joseph Sr., a US Airmen and his wife Kathleen. According to DeAngelo’s nephew, Joseph Sr. abused his wife. The nephew also claims that Kathleen sexually abused her children. That, combined with witnessing his 7-year-old sister’s rape by two airmen when he was just 9 years old, might have been the catalyst that caused Joseph Jr. to become a killer.
The family moved around for Joseph Sr.’s job before settling in the Sacramento area when Joseph Jr. was in junior high. After earning his GED, Joseph Jr. enlisted in the navy and served for 22 months during the Vietnam War. Upon returning home to California, he attended community college where he got an associate’s degree in police science. He then got a BA in criminal justice from Sacramento State University. In 1973, DeAngelo married Sharon Marie Huddle and began his career in law enforcement working as a police officer in the burglary unit of Exeter, CA. He was promoted to sergeant before moving to a different area and he was fired from the force following an arrest for shoplifting. In 1982 he began working as an attorney. He and Sharon had 3 daughters before the couple separated in 1991. From 1990 until his retirement, he worked as a truck mechanic.
Before moving on to murder, the GSK started out breaking and entering and then raping women in the Sacramento area. His preferred method was to break into houses and attack couples. He would force the women to tie up their partners and then take the women into another room where he would abuse them for hours. In 1978, the Golden State Killer shot Brian and Katie Maggiore outside while the couple was walking their dog. The motive for this murder is unclear but it occurred close to the scene of five of the East Bay Rapist’s crimes and followed a confrontation between the couple and DeAngelo.
In 1979, the GSK moved south, to Santa Barbara county and beyond, where his crimes continued to escalate. In 1980, he broke into the Ventura home of Charlene and Lyman Smith. Charlene was tied with a unique style of knot, which helped to link these murders to the Sacramento rapes. Both victims were bludgeoned to death with logs from the yard. Later that year, the killer struck a young newlywed couple that worked at a local hospital. The brother of one of the victims went on to spend $2 million to support legislation that would allow police to collect DNA from felons.
DeAngelo appears to have flown under the radar for years until Sacramento County DA Anne Schubert created a task force to find the GSK in 2016. Police used genetic information from GED Match combined with DNA from crime scene evidence to identify a narrow pool of suspects which they eventually whittled down to DeAngelo. His movements throughout the 70s and 80s closely match the crime sprees of the East Bay Rapist and Original Night Stalker.
Current State of the Golden State Killer Case
As of January 2020, DeAngelo has yet to be convicted of his crimes. He is currently awaiting trial in Sacramento, CA for 12 counts of murder and 13 rape-related charges. He cannot be tried for the many break-ins and sexual assaults committed in the 1970s because the statute of limitations for those crimes has expired. DeAngelo is 74 years old and has yet to enter a plea or speak openly about the charges.
As at-home DNA tests become more common, there will no doubt be many more cold cases solved using genetic material. As it stands now, law enforcement can use information from DNA tests without permission from the donor. The Pentagon recently issued a memo that urged military personnel not to participate in DNA tests because it might pose a threat to their security. True crime is also more popular than ever, which might lead to more people volunteering their DNA to solve old murders.
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