SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Tearful family members of people killed by Joseph DeAngelo assailed him Thursday for stealing away their loved ones as he escalated his attacks from burglaries and rapes to a series of horrific murders that terrorized California four decades ago.
“Today the devil loses and justice wins,” Debbi Domingo McMullan, the daughter of one victim, said during the third day of a sentencing hearing for the 74-year-old man known as the Golden State Killer.
Earlier in the week, a judge heard testimony from rape victims who endured sadistic, hours-long assaults by DeAngelo, a former police officer whose serial crimes began in Northern California. He later moved to Southern California, where his rapes followed the same pattern of binding couples he surprised while they slept and assaulting the woman as the man lay helpless.
By then, his assaults routinely ended in murder and his identity — hidden behind a ski mask — remained a mystery until investigators used a new form of DNA tracking to arrest him in 2018.
DeAngelo’s ex-wife broke her silence in the case when she submitted an impact statement to the court saying she had been deceived by her husband and that living with the knowledge that his attacks harmed so many people has “had a devastating and pervasive affect on my life and my family.”
Many victims have wondered how Sacramento attorney Sharon Huddle could not have known about her husband’s double life, but she said he simply lied to her.
“I trusted the defendant when he told me he had to work, or was going pheasant hunting, or going to visit his parents hundreds of miles away,” Huddle wrote.
DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges stemming from crimes in the 1970s and 1980s. A plea deal with prosecutors will spare him the death penalty when he is formally sentenced Friday to consecutive life prison sentences.
The sentencing will follow days of excruciating testimony from his victims and their loved ones.
Prosecutors walked through his slayings in near-chronological order on Thursday in what one relative called a “timeline of horror” — from three early Northern California victims killed when they interfered with his assaults on women, to his 10 known Southern California murders.
DeAngelo was dubbed the Visalia Ransacker when he killed 45-year-old Claude Snelling on Sept. 11, 1975. The journalism professor in the San Joaquin Valley was slain while thwarting the attempted kidnapping of his 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Hupp.
“My dad died saving my life that night and he is my hero,” Hupp said as she broke down in tears.
DeAngelo was known as the East Area Rapist by Feb. 2, 1978, when he fatally shot Katie Maggiore, 20, and Brian Maggiore, 21, as they walked their dog around their Rancho Cordova neighborhood in Sacramento County.
“You lurked in the dark so you could prey on innocent victims,” Katie’s brother, Ken Smith, told DeAngelo. “Well, now you are prey, DeAngelo, and you can look over your shoulder the rest of your life” in prison.
Debra Manning, 35, was raped and killed along with 44-year-old Robert Offerman on Dec. 30, 1979, in Santa Barbara County.
In a letter to the court, Manning’s friends Natasha Holliday and Roseanne Howard remembered her as a “beautiful and brilliant” doctor while blasting DeAngelo for the “’obsessive madness” that led him to beat and shoot the couple before he bizarrely ate some of their Christmas turkey leftovers.
Cheri Domingo, 35, and Gregory Sanchez, 27, were killed on July 27, 1981, also in Santa Barbara County.
“I had watched my mom and Greg dance carefree across our living room for the last time,” Domingo’s daughter, McMullan, who was just 15 at the time, recalled through tears while DeAngelo sat expressionless, as he has throughout the hearings.
The bodies of Charlene Smith, 33, and Lyman Smith, 43, were found March 16, 1980, in their Ventura County home.
They are part of DeAngelo’s “legacy of sadism, cruelty, moral and physical depravity,” Jennifer Carole, the daughter of Lyman Smith, told the court even as she urged people to focus on making positive changes.
Finally, there were four slayings in Orange County.
Keith Harrington, 24, and Patrice Harrington, 27, were young newlyweds living in Dana Point when his father found them bludgeoned to death on Aug. 21, 1980.
Ron Harrington, a brother of the victim, called DeAngelo “the poster child for the death penalty” and criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom for imposing a moratorium on executions.
The slayings led Bruce Harrington, another brother, to champion Proposition 69, passed by California voters in 2004, that expanded the collection of DNA samples from prisoners and those arrested for felonies and has since led to more than 81,000 suspect identifications.
In DeAngelo’s case, however, investigators pioneered a new technique that builds family trees from publicly available DNA websites as investigators try to identify a suspect.
Manuela Witthuhn, 28, of Irvine was raped and murdered on Feb. 6, 1981. Her brother-in-law, Drew Witthuhn, said in court that DeAngelo pounced on the tiny woman in her bed “as if she was nothing more than prey to the predator.”
DeAngelo’s last and youngest known murder victim was 18-year-old Janelle Cruz of Irvine. She was raped and killed on May 5, 1986, after a five-year gap that DeAngelo has never explained.
Michelle Cruz recalled that DeAngelo beat her sister “beyond recognition,” forcing a closed casket funeral.
“He’s a selfish, sadistic, calculating, cruel, pathetic piece of scum,” she said.