SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – District attorneys from six counties around California said Tuesday they will jointly prosecute the accused Golden State Killer on 13 counts of murder in Sacramento County, one count for each of the murders he’s suspected of committing during a statewide spree decades ago.
In a new criminal complaint filed Tuesday against Joseph J. DeAngelo Jr., prosecutors added 13 counts of kidnapping to commit robbery.
Officials believe DeAngelo committed a string of terrifying murders and rapes from the Sacramento area down to Orange County from 1975 through 1986. Police arrested DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, in April based on DNA evidence.
Because the murders were committed across several counties, it was not certain where or in how many jurisdictions DeAngelo might face trial.
Orange County District Attorney Anthony M. Rackauckas announced the combined prosecution, the new charges and the single trial venue during a press conference at his offices Tuesday morning alongside the district attorneys of Contra Costa, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.
“This human predator DeAngelo took a path through all of these counties in our state, and wherever he went, he left a wake of terror in his path,” Rackauckas said.
He added that he did not know of any other case in the state for which so many district attorneys’ offices worked together.
“We are unified, and we are committed to delivering justice to the victims of the Golden State Killer and their loved ones, who for far too long have had justice elude them,” Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten said.
Totten added the new complaint “reflects the sheer criminal breadth, the geographic scope and the generational impact of this very significant case.”
Rackauckas said he and the other prosecutors jointly decided to try DeAngelo in Sacramento because many of his crimes were committed in Northern California, where many victims and witnesses still live.
“It’s a statewide case, and Sacramento is the capital of the state,” he added.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said the long series of rapes and murders attributed to the Golden State Killer in the late 1970s “changed our community.”
“Everyone has a story” about the case, said Schubert, a Sacramento native.
Schubert acknowledged that due to statutes of limitations and changes in the law, many of the approximately 50 rapes DeAngelo is believed to have committed cannot now be charged.
But he has now been charged with nine counts of kidnapping to commit robbery in Sacramento County and four counts in Contra Costa County. Those charges carry potential life sentences.
Totten noted that 10 of the 13 murder charges also include allegations of special circumstances, such as murder committed during a rape or burglary. Prosecutors therefore may seek the death penalty on those counts, though he said any decision on that is some time off.
Asked if more charges would be filed against DeAngelo, Rackauckas said he could not predict. He said the investigation is ongoing, including comparing DNA from other unsolved rapes and murders around the state to DeAngelo’s.
Schubert and others praised the teamwork of the investigators and prosecutors in the six counties. She said they came together as a team in September 2016, after DNA evidence demonstrated that crimes many years and many miles apart in the state were likely committed by the same man.
Investigators finally were able to narrow their search for the killer when they determined that DNA from the crime scenes bore a familial similarity to a sample one of DeAngelo’s relatives submitted to a genealogy service.
“We were looking for a needle in a haystack, and we found him,” Schubert said.
She, Totten and others praised Rackauckas as a national leader among prosecutors in DNA collection and analysis. The Orange County DA created its own database of DNA samples from local suspects about a decade ago.
Other district attorneys speaking at the press conference Tuesday included Diana Becton from Contra Costa County, Joyce E. Dudley from Santa Barbara County and Tulare County’s Tim Ward. Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett also spoke.
Schubert said DeAngelo will be arraigned Thursday at 1:30 p.m. He is being represented by Diane Howard from the Sacramento County Public Defender’s office. Howard declined to comment Tuesday, according to press accounts, but reportedly has said that her concern is for her client to receive a fair trial.