COVID may have changed the terms of the prosecution of 74-year-old Joseph DeAngelo, who was arrested in 2018 as the suspected Golden State Killer, an individual responsible for dozens of rapes and murders in the ’70s and ’80s — including four homicides in Goleta.
The terrifying crime spree spread across six counties, and district attorneys from those six counties turned down a plea bargain for DeAngelo’s admission of guilt in exchange for life in prison — instead of the death penalty — in early March. But on Monday, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley and the other DAs issued press releases stating “a moral and ethical responsibility to consider any offer from the defense, given the massive scope of the case, the advanced age of many of the victims and witnesses, and our inherent obligations to the victims.”
Two hours earlier, the Los Angeles Times published a scoop that a plea deal was on the table for DeAngelo’s life in exchange for a guilty plea. The preliminary hearings alone could reportedly involve more than 100 witnesses and take months — difficult in these COVID days for the health-vulnerable, elderly witnesses involved. Some victims assented to DeAngelo’s plea given the pandemic, while others objected that the details of the investigations decades ago would never be known.
DeAngelo had been a police officer in Auburn, CA, from 1973 to 1979, when he was fired after he was caught shoplifting in a hardware store. Part of victims’ concerns have been a lack of information on the steps investigators took, according to the Times. In Santa Barbara, in 2011, sheriff’s investigators had isolated the killer’s DNA from a 1981 crime scene in Goleta, where Cheri Domingo and Greg Sanchez were killed; this was two years after the murders of Dr. Robert Offerman and Debra Manning, also in Goleta. In 2013 and 2018, they asked for the public’s help in identifying a murderer who’d helped paint the Long’s drugstore in Goleta in 1979.
DeAngelo was finally tracked down through relatives who’d posted their DNA results at a public website. He is reportedly set to admit to many crimes, including rapes for which he has not been charged, in a Sacramento courtroom on June 29.