In order to avoid the death penalty in 13 murders, including four in Goleta, Joseph DeAngelo struck a plea deal with prosecutors in which he affirmed his guilt to 26 charges of kidnapping to commit burglary and first-degree murder in exchange for consecutive life sentences in prison. DeAngelo’s plea deal also requires him to face his victims, many of them elderly, as is DeAngelo; his hundreds of crimes are believed to have begun in 1975. The victim statements, which started on Tuesday in the Cal State Sacramento ballroom where the charges were read and his guilty pleas taken in June, will be live-streamed by the Independent on Thursday morning. They have been intense.
Many expressed the trauma they have long suffered; one of the victims was 7 years old when she was tied up and helpless while her sister was raped in the next room. Most of them talked of losing their sense of self after the rape and how long it took to regain it, or the terror they felt being held at knifepoint or waking to the blade against their neck. DeAngelo’s response over the past two days has been to stare at the wall in front of him.
On Thursday, the survivors of DeAngelo’s murder victims will speak in the morning, including Debbi Domingo, whose mother, Cheri Domingo, was beaten to death along with her friend Greg Sanchez in 1981. DeAngelo’s other Goleta victims were Robert Offerman and Debra Manning, who were shot in 1979.
The ages of all involved was one factor pushing the plea deal in order to give the majority of victims an opportunity to confront their attacker. In addition to the guilty pleas, DeAngelo also admitted in court to dozens of rapes, which were not charged. COVID-19 and the difficulty of holding a trial with a hundred witnesses were additional issues propelling the week of hearings. DeAngelo’s trial culminates in sentencing on Friday before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman.
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