US 'Golden State Killer' jailed for life for decade-long crime spree including murders and rapes

DeAngelo attends the third day of victim impact statements at a courtroom in Sacramento, California, Aug 20, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SACRAMENTO (AFP) - A US former policeman dubbed the "Golden State Killer" apologised to his victims on Friday (Aug 21) as he was jailed for life without the possibility of parole for a brutal decade-long crime spree that terrorised California.

Joseph James DeAngelo Jr, 74, who confessed to 13 murders and dozens of rapes in the 1970s and 1980s under a deal to avoid the death penalty, sat impassively behind a face mask in the Sacramento courtroom as his sadistic crimes were listed.

"I've listened to all of your statements. Each one of them. And I'm truly sorry to everyone I've hurt," said DeAngelo.

Judge Michael Bowman then handed down the "absolute maximum sentence the court is able to impose under the law."

DeAngelo, who has three adult daughters and grandchildren, was not arrested until 2018, three decades after the "Golden State Killer" had last struck.

The manhunt finally ended after investigators successfully matched DNA from crime scenes with a family genealogy database used by his relatives.

"The survivors have spoken clearly - the defendant deserves no mercy," said the judge, to thunderous applause in the courtroom.

DeAngelo's known attacks began in 1975, initially in the Sacramento area of central California, before spreading out across the state. The spree apparently ended abruptly in 1986 with the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl.

Along the way, the meticulous masked assailant was given a number of other nicknames including the East Area Rapist, the Diamond-Knot Killer and the Original Nightstalker.

Prosecutor Todd Spitzer told the court he wished DeAngelo had received the death penalty.

"Instead of (you) just staring straight forward in some glazed-over eyes, I wanted to stare at you, watch you, silently slip into the night," Spitzer said to DeAngelo, who was wheeled into the room wearing an off-white sweatshirt over his orange prison jumpsuit.

"But we met with our victims. We knew the age of the case. We knew how long it took to solve. And we knew that this was the right thing to do - so you could all be here today in your lifetime," he told the victims and families.

DeAngelo's lawyers attempted to paint a picture of their client as a family man, and said that "we hope that by admitting these offences, Mr DeAngelo has provided some peace to their survivors and their loved ones."

A statement read out from DeAngelo's sister blamed their father "in part" for "mental and physical abuse" but insisted she was not "searching for an excuse for it all."

"After today's sentencing, Mr DeAngelo will never threaten our victims again," said prosecutor Diana Becton.

"He will never harm another soul."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.