(Santa Ana, Ca) District Attorneys from six jurisdictions came together in Orange County to announce their plans to prosecute jointly Joseph James DeAngelo, also known as the Golden State Killer, in Sacramento County, where the defendant is being detained after his arrest on April 24, 2018. The joint prosecution involves Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Orange County, Contra Costa County, Tulare County, and Sacramento County.
An amended complaint charging all crimes together in one case, as well as 13 count of kidnapping to commit robbery were filed on Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court.
DeAngelo now faces 13 felony counts of murder. Special circumstances sentencing enhancements include: multiple murders, murder during the commission of rape, robbery, and burglary, and personal use of a firearm. DeAngelo was charged on Tuesday with an amended complaint for 13 felony counts of kidnapping to commit robbery with sentencing enhancements for personal use of a firearm and personal use of a knife during the commission of the offenses. He faces a minimum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. DeAngelo, 72, is expected to appear in Sacramento County for arraignment, and the date is to be determined.
In what prosecutors called an unprecedented case, each district attorney’s office has united in their effort to prosecute DeAngelo, with all offices agreeing to prosecute in Sacramento County for many reasons including the impact and history in the community.
Background to the Golden State Killer
DeAngelo was a police officer from 1973-1979 according to archived newspapers. In 1979, he was dismissed from the police force after being caught shoplifting.
In what has suspected to have begun in 1974 and continued to the mid- 1980’s, a crime spree struck California that ravaged the state from north to south. A man was said to break into people’s homes, shine a flash light in their eyes, and sexually assault victims. After these assaults, some were killed, or robbed or both. In the event other members of the household were present, they would often be bound and victimized.
The crime patterns looked different over the years and originally had investigators believing the crimes were multiple different perpetrators. However, in time and through forensic evidence, the realization came that the suspect was the same in all.
Other known names include Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, The Diamond Knot Killer, and the Golden State Killer.
Ventura County Crimes
Of the charges brought against DeAngelo, two felony murder counts are related to crimes he is charged with committing in March 1980. Husband and wife couple, Lyman Smith, 43, and Charlene Smith, 33, residents of Ventura at the time of the crime.
On the evening of March 13-14, 1980 between approximately 9:00pm and 4:00am, DeAngelo is accused of raping Charlene Smith and leaving DNA on her body. In addition, DeAngelo is accused of bludgeoning the couple to death with a wooden log and leaving their bodies in their bed. He is accused of ransacking the couple’s home and stealing minor items.
Forensic Evidence Used in Finding DeAngelo
While DNA was found at many of the crime scenes, investigators could not make a match of the perpetrator’s DNA to anything found in the National FBI database.
However, investigators took a chance that the perpetrator might be available someplace else: online genealogy sites.
Investigators tracked the suspect through this family tree.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department announced on April 24, 2018 that they had identified Joseph James DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer suspect using a genealogy website. While DeAngelo himself had not uploaded DNA to the site, a family member did, thus linking investigators to a family line, that ultimately lead to DeAngelo. According to the New York Times, investigators used DNA from the crime scene (which was collected in 1980) and entered it into a free online genealogy database, called GEDmatch, which provides “genealogical analysis tools for amateur and professional researchers and genealogists,” according to the company’s website.
Improvements to California Law & Data Collection
Senate Bill 1242
With the crimes unsolved for so many years, the Golden State Killer was a strong incentive to work on developing the California State Database, which now contains approximately 2 million profiles. The Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) also started its own local DNA database and put about 170,000 DNA profiles of individuals who committed crimes in Orange County in its database.
In 2002, the District Attorney for Orange County, Tony Rackaukas assigned a deputy district attorney, a staff analyst, and an investigator to work on Senate Bill 1242, which permits prison officials to use “reasonable force” to collect DNA samples from inmates who refuse. The OCDA also initiated a letter-writing campaign by victims’ rights organizations and law enforcement to the members of the State Public Safety Committee, who heard the bill on April 9, 2002. In September 17, 2002, the bill was signed into law, which allowed the collection of samples that would be used to determine whether the inmates had committed other crimes and would be entered in a database run by the California office of Attorney General.
Orange County has been a statewide leader in the implementation of Proposition 69, passed by California Voters and implemented in 2004. The OCDA played a key role in drafting the proposition and Orange County was one of the first to implement the mandate, which required that all felony arrestees, and some misdemeanor arrestees, give a DNA sample. This substantially increased the DNA database of California. Orange County was the first to bring together a core workgroup to discuss the critical implementation issues and the only county to use data verification submission procedures, a process developed by OCDA’s TracKRS Unit.
Rapid DNA Program
The OCDA Rapid DNA Program merges the power of the OSDA Local DNA Database with cutting edge DNA technology to provide investigators with leads, including suspect names, within hours of a crime. The program launched in 2015 and is available to all law enforcement. The IntegenX RapidHIT 200 DNA instrument, which was validated for use with the assistance of the Orange County Crime Lab (OCCL), can generate a DNA profile from evidence collected at a crime scene in less than 2 hours. If suitable, that crime scene DNA profile is searched against the local OCDA DNA database, which was established in 2007 and is now the largest consensual DNA database in teh country. The Rapid DNA program is supported by prop 69 funding and is a collaborative effort among the OCDA, OCCL, and local law enforcement to harness the power of science and technology to promote justice and enhance public safety.
While none of these tools were used to capture DeAngelo, they remain a byproduct of the investigation.
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