By | Rachel Brooks
Staff | Telegraph Local
Above, the Golden State Killer on True Crime Daily.
Justice has finally been served to Joseph James DeAngelo, more formally known by the moniker given to him by the late sleuth Michelle McNamara “The Golden State Killer.” The story of DeAngelo’s 1970-1980s reign in terror rises again in the wake of the HBO release of a commentary based on McNamara’s posthumous book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.”
The Rolling Stone reported on the docuseries that is set to premier on June 28. Paul Haynes stated via Twitter that the docuseries will be a six installment saga based on Michelle McNamara’s work. McNamara died of a pre-existing heart condition in her sleep in 2017. Her book was finished with the help of fellow DeAngelo investigators.
The FBI states that Joseph James DeAngelo has since been convicted for 12 murders, at least 50 rape victims, and over 120 residential burgarlies. Former FBI investigators who worked the case at the time of his killing spree stated that DeAngelo was a “textbook serial killer. Textbook due to the fact that he could completely compartmentalize his life, and keep his serial killer career “in boxes.” He was a former Vietnam Navy seaman and Exeter, California police officer.
DeAngelo’s criminal behavior
DeAngelo’s criminal behavior was calculated, sadistic, and knew no distinction between single and married victims. He famously chased down and murdered the married couple Brian and Katie Maggiore. If a victim was single, he would climb into her house wearing a ski mask. His first victim reported her assault as occurring June 18, 1976.
Audio retrieved from FBI archives gives the official statement of the victim from the case documented on June 18, 1976. Her name is not given on the FBI’s record. She stated that she believed he was her father in her home at first because her father worked odd hours and would sometimes come in late. She stated that DeAngelo was wearing a ski mask at the time of the attack. That he jumped onto her bed with a knife. She could not remember what the exact verbiage of his words were, but that he said something to the effect of “Don’t scream.” She says then that he tied her hands. He also placed a cut over her eye with the knife, although she did not realize she had been cut at that time. He then proceeded with the sexual assault.
This woman states that she laid in bed for “what felt like forever” after her attack because she never heard the door close after he was believed to be gone. Finally, she risked venturing into her home to see if he was gone in a “do or die” act as she describes it on the audio.
She states that she does not hold anything against her attacker because there is clearly something wrong with him to compel him to commit acts such as this continually. However, she did hope at the time of her statement that he was still alive because death for him would have been the easy way out.
Another woman stated that she actually physically fought DeAngelo when he came into her room. He started beating her. She pretended to be knocked out after a while so he would stop beating her. He tied her to the bed. She was laying on her stomach. He then told her words to the effect of “if you move I’ll kill you.”
This woman stated that DeAngelo raped her five times over the course of that night. She recalled thinking as she would wait for him to rummage through her house between the rapes that, if he were ever caught, law enforcement should allow his victims to do “whatever they wanted to” to him. She said in years to come that she would grow to where she no longer wished to hurt him in return, but that she does not sleep in peace anymore.
After the fifth rape, the woman says she heard a car leave her residence. She counted to 60 at least 30 times. Once 30 minutes had passed, she mustered the courage to check the premises and see if he was truly gone.
It is important to note that while DeAngelo was convicted of 50 rapes, as in the case of this victim, he may have raped the same victims multiple times. It is possible he was not convicted for the total number of rapes that he actually committed. It was not clearly stated on the record if he received counts for actual number of assaults or the number of rape victims.
DeAngelo’s criminal boldness escalated rapidly. His first assault was in 1976. By 1977, he was calling the homes of his recent victims. The FBI has archived a call made by what is suspected to have been DeAngelo. On the tape, one can hear the suspect breathe heavily three times. Then, he whispers “Gonna kill you,” at least three times before the audio cuts off. This audio has been archived to YouTube by the FBI.
DeAngelo’s burglaries also classified him as a kleptomaniac. The FBI archives that between 1976 and 1986 DeAngelo had committed at least 120 burglaries.
In all actions, the duration of the time his crimes went unsolved means that DeAngelo could be responsible for murders, rapes, or burglaries that went undocumented.
Locations that DeAngelo terrorized
Throughout the entirety of the 70s and 80s DeAngelo terrorized key areas of Sacramento county and surrounding regions. The FBI archives state he specifically plagued Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Yolo. Investigators who worked on the force during DeAngelo’s criminal reign stated that locals were completely terrified. Locks were purchased in abundance as locals were frequently changing their locks to avoid break-ins. Some were sleeping with firearms on their person.
De Angelo’s murders were less frequent than his acts of sexual assault. USA Today reported in 2018 that he committed at least 12. USA Today shared their names. Cheri Domingo and her boyfriend Gregory Sanchez. Claude Snelling a College of Sequoias journalism professor that was trying to protect his daughter when he was shot twice.
Janelle Lisa Cruz
Then there was Janelle Lisa Cruz, the 18-year-old restaurant cashier. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported at the time of her death that the young lady had been alone in her parents’ Irvine, California home while they were on vacation. Her boyfriend had been visiting and had only left the house when the Nightstalker came for her. That was the night of May 4, 1986. It lives in infamy as the night that the doe-eyed dark beauty was raped and slaughtered by Joseph James DeAngelo.
If she had been alive today, Cruz would be 54. Her sister Michelle remembered her via a Facebook page dedicated to the honor of her memory. Her friends stated how they thought of her often, 34 years after she was brutally taken from the world.
USA Today reports that blood, hair, and semen samples were taken from the scene of her death. They were compared to samples from the murder investigations of Patti and Keith Harrington, and Manuel Witthun.
Some described the nature of Cruz’s murder as out of the ordinary for a DeAngelo killing. She was bludgeoned to death. The brutality of Cruz’s attack had Reddit wondering if DeAngelo had personally encountered her and knew her prior to targeting her.
Cruz’s killing shares one thing in common with the others. A good number of those that DeAngelo butchered were his young victims.
Cruz’s murder also stands out for one key reason. She was his last known victim, citing her sister Michelle via the official Twitter account dedicated to the memory of Janelle Cruz.
Brian and Katie Maggiore
He was a 21-year-old administrative specialist at the then-Mather Air Force base east of Sacramento. She was his 20-year-old beautiful wife. The Golden State Killer came for them, and they attempted to flee. Because they could identify him, he shot them down in cold blood in the backyard of a home as they fled. USA Today cited The Washington Post in this account. The couple died from their wounds at a Sacramento-area hospital. Young love cut short, a work of Shakespeare’s art unto the end. The end came on February 2, 1978.
DNA was obtained during the investigation of their killing. It linked their slaughter to other crimes committed in the Bay Area around the general time of the Maggiore’s deaths.
Lyman and Charlene Smith
He was a lawyer. She was an interior decorator. They were in their home in Ventura on March 13, 1980 when the Golden State Killer came for them. They were bound. Charlene was bound up with a drapery cord fastened in “an ornate knot” citing USA Today. She was raped. Then the couple was bludgeoned to death with a fireplace log.
Lyman Smith had a 12-year-old son from a previous marriage. That son found his father and stepmother dead three days later.
The Ventura County district attorney, Greg Totten, stated later that DNA was collected from the scene of this double murder. It was later used in the process taken to identify DeAngelo.
There is something quite fateful about the day of September 11. Long before planes brought down towers from their throne in the sky on the morning of September 11, 2001, Claude Snelling’s life ended on that calendar day. It was September 11, 1975 at roughly 2am and his 16-year-old daughter had just been taken by DeAngelo to die.
Snelling will forever be remembered as a hero among fathers. The College of Sequoias journalism professor confronted DeAngelo at the backdoor of his residence in Visalia, California. The Visalia Ransacker had just abducted his daughter Elizabeth Hupp and was about to take her away to a torturous death by rape and beating.
Snelling was shot in the wee hours of that morning by someone who is believed to have been DeAngelo, citing USA Today. He hit and kicked Ms. Hupp, and fled the scene. However, DeAngelo’s DNA was not connected to the Snelling case and so police have officially left Snelling off the 12-person death count.
“The fact that he died saving my life means the world to me. My mom always said it wouldn’t have mattered if there were 20 guys outside with guns, he would have saved me,” said Hupp, as quoted by USA Today.
Manuela Witthun is remembered now as the 28-year-old wife of David Witthun. At the time of her murder on February 5, 1981, her husband was sick and in the hospital, citing USA Today. The belief now is that DeAngelo was surprised to find her by herself in the residence she had shared with her husband. This was reported by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
David Witthun outlived his wife all the way to 2008. He was a suspect in her murder for a time.
Dr. Robert Offerman and Debra Alexandria Manning
By way of DeAngelo killings, these two were a bit older. He did not seem to be preferential or discriminate against older victims, but many of his victims were younger than 30. Dr. Offerman was 44. Debra Manning was 35. He was an orthopedic surgeon. She was a psychologist. The two shared a condominium in the Goleta area. There had been another attempted killing in the Goleta area in October 1979, but that couple managed to escape with their lives.
Dr. Offerman and Debra Manning were killed on December 30, 1979 on the cusp of a New Year and the 80s which they’d never hope to see. Their death was the first of two double murders that would be successfully executed in that area.
Both Offerman and Manning are buried in the Santa Barbara Cemetery.
Keith and Patti Harrington
They were young, in love, and in a gated suburban community that would have to all intents and purposes appeared totally safe. Keith Eli Harrington was 24. Patti Briscoe Harrington was 27. They were newlyweds. Not yet 30, they had only just begun their lives together. He was a fourth-year medical student at University of California Irvine. She was a pediatric nurse. They’d met in the university’s Medical Center. They’d been married just a few months. They were living in a home in a gated community in Laguna Niguel, California that belonged to Keith’s father, Richard. A perfect place to build a nest. They were no turtledoves, but swans, and their last swansong was soon to be sung. How were they to know it could even happen? Nevertheless, the Golden State Killer came for them just as he did all the others that would follow.
On August 21, 1975, they were found bludgeoned to death. USA Today did not say whether or not rape also occurred.
The Harringtons were discovered by Keith’s father two days after they were bludgeoned to death. He was scheduled to come over for Thursday dinner.
Greg Sanchez and Cheri Domingo
Sanchez and Domingo were the other two victims of the Goleta area. Sanchez was 27. Domingo was 35. On July 27, 1981, Sanchez and Domingo were together at a Goleta residence Domingo was house sitting. That’s when the Golden State Killer came for them.
DeAngelo’s DNA has been linked to the murders here, citing local sherrifs as quoted by USA Today.
How he was caught
In the end, modern DNA technology brought down Joseph James DeAngelo. The Evening Standard reported on April 27, 2018 that investigators used DNA samples collected from the scenes of all the murders and rapes. Then, they compared that DNA to genealogy websites.
Evening Standard interviewed with Steve Mercer, the chief lawyer for the forensic division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. Mr. Mercer attested to the power genealogy sites can have in submitting DNA to public record,
“People who submit DNA for ancestors testing are unwittingly becoming genetic informants on their innocent family,” said Mercer as he was quoted by Evening Standard.
Jospeh James DeAngelo was arrested at last from his little suburban home in Citrus Heights, Sacramento, where neighbors said that he lived and seemed like a “grandpa” except for his terrible temper. This was reported by NPR on April 26, 2018. Locals say DeAngelo would become violently angry, shouting so loud he could be heard from within the house. He would likewise shout explict words at neighbors that offended him.
The Golden State Killer Trial is still ongoing. A website known as Golden State Killer Trial.com has been created dedicated to keeping those most avidly interested in following it informed. The trial’s hearings were recently postponed due to COVID-19. His next scheduled court date if confirmed for June 29, 2020.
De Angelo is currently in custody at the Sacramento County Jail awaiting his trial. Trial proceedings began immediately after DeAngelo was captured.
Exhaustive details of the crimes and investigation of the crimes of Joseph James DeAngelo will be available in “The Golden State Killer Part 2.”