Advertisement
California

Golden State Killer suspect would plead guilty if death penalty is off the table, lawyers say

Joseph James DeAngelo
Suspect Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. appears in Sacramento Superior Court in June 2018.
(Jose Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee)

Attorneys for the man accused of being the Golden State Killer said Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. would be willing to plead guilty if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, according to new court papers.

The statement from the public defenders representing DeAngelo appears as a footnote in a 41-page dismissal motion filed in Sacramento County Circuit Court late Monday night and obtained by The Times on Tuesday.

“Mr. DeAngelo is 74 years old. He has offered to plead to the charges with a lifetime sentence,” the statement says.

Assistant public defender Joe Cress did not respond to a request to clarify the statement. Nor did Sacramento County prosecutor Anne Marie Schubert respond to a request for comment. But victims in the case told The Times they had received a letter from the public defender asking them to tell an independent mediator what they think about resolving the case without trial.

Advertisement

“I would be OK with that,” said Kris Pedretti, who was 15 when she was raped in 1976. “But in exchange we want answers. Where he was. What he was doing. ... He owes us answers ... real answers.”

A second victim voiced a similar opinion. Victor Hayes, who was held captive and threatened with death while his girlfriend was raped, said he is more interested in knowing details of how the crimes would have been committed by DeAngelo, a patrol duty police officer for the small Northern California town of Auburn.

DeAngelo faces charges in 13 murders and 13 rape-related kidnappings in six counties. Beyond that, he is accused of some 50 rapes and scores of ransackings attributed to a serial predator who attacked women, men and children across a large swath of California in the 1970s and 1980s.

He was arrested in April 2018 based on genetic DNA tracing through his relatives. Prosecutors allege that DNA retrieved from DeAngelo the day of his arrest matches that from eight of the crime scenes, but they have so far been stymied in collecting additional DNA samples from DeAngelo so that crime labs in those counties can run their own tests.

Advertisement

A spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney, among those seeking the death penalty, called the public defenders’ efforts to talk to victim families about a plea deal “completely inappropriate.”

Such discussions are the purview of the prosecutor’s office, said Kimberly Edds, spokeswoman for District Atty. Todd Spitzer. She said Spitzer’s office is still in the process of meeting with family members of murder victims “to discuss how to proceed.”

Edds said some of those meetings are planned over the next few weeks.

Phyllis Henneman, whose 1976 attack is considered the first documented rape in the East Area Rapist crime series, said she would be satisfied with a guilty plea and life sentence — if victims who had questions about their attacks could get answers.

“I am not so sure there is anything I would ask for myself,” she said. “He would probably not be truthful anyway.”

She said her own desire is that DeAngelo would end up dealing with the dangers of life in the general prison population “and not housed away in solitary confinement.”


Newsletter
The stories shaping California

Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Advertisement