Survivors of one of the worst serial killers in U.S. history will come face-to-face with him on Monday in a ballroom, after officials in California decided that they had to abandon their usual courtrooms to allow safe social distancing for the expected large crowd.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, known as the Golden State Killer, is expected to plead guilty to 13 murder and 13 kidnap for robbery counts, as well as admit responsibility for 62 other rapes and crimes that prosecutors say were committed in 11 California counties from 1974 through 1986.
Authorities expect more than 150 victims, their relatives and media members at the hearing.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, pictured during his most recent hearing – in March. On Monday he is expected to plead guilty to 13 murder and 13 kidnap for robbery counts, as well as admit responsibility for 62 other rapes and crimes he committed from 1974-86
Gay Hardwick told CBS News she has waited forty years to hear him admit his crimes.
She was raped at her home in Stockton in 1978.
‘I won’t be able to relax until I feel it’s signed, sealed and put away,’ she said.
Jennifer Carole’s father and his wife were murdered by DeAngelo in Ventura County in March 1980.
‘We’ve been told we’re not going to hear the things we want to hear,’ she said.
‘So you’re going to have questions and this case will not go away just because he does.’
Gay Hardwick will be in Sacramento on Monday to see DeAngelo plead guilty
California State’s Sacramento campus ballroom will be turned into a courtroom on Monday
The hearings were previously heard in packed courtrooms in downtown Sacramento, but will now be held at California State University, in the University Union’s ballroom – a 150-foot by 97-foot room on the Sacramento State campus.
The ballroom can hold as many as 2,000 people when set up for receptions.
Guests will be required to wear masks, stay six feet apart and have their temperatures checked at the door.
The hearing is expected to be one of the last steps in a decades-old murder, rape and burglary case that began in the early 1970s and remained a mystery until his arrest outside his Citrus Heights home in April 2018.
Crowds of reporters, court staff and curious onlookers packed into court for previous hearings
DeAngelo has been held in isolation in the Sacramento County Main Jail since his arrest.
Victims and family members from around the state are expected to attend, but are not scheduled to speak during the hearing.
Instead, they will be given the opportunity to deliver victim impact statements when DeAngelo is sentenced in August to life without parole, part of a plea deal that prosecutors in six counties agreed to after originally saying they would pursue a death penalty case against him.
Facing the prospect of years of court fights and millions of dollars in expenses, prosecutors agreed to a deal that ensures DeAngelo will spend the rest of his life in prison and that will allow victims and witnesses — many of them in their 80s and 90s — the chance to see him admit guilt.
Before his arrest, the Sacramento Bee reported that DeAngelo lived a robust life, working as a truck mechanic and speeding down streets and through stop signs on a motorcycle.
A Sacramento County sheriff deputy stands guard in front of the DeAngelo’s home in 2018
Investigators searched through the house after his spectacular arrest in April 2018
But Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office used new DNA techniques to focus in on him as a suspect.
Following his arrest, he assumed the persona of a frail, old man who literally withered away during his 26 months in jail.
Sometimes he would show up in court in a wheelchair; at other hearings, he would stand silently, his mouth agape, appearing as if he were in a daze.
Law enforcement officials believe it was all an act, that at the start DeAngelo furiously paced his cell.
DeAngelo became increasingly frail as the case wore on, following his April 2018 arrest
The case has spawned worldwide interest, a best-selling book, HBO documentary series and countless websites exploring the origins of the former Auburn police officer who would go on to be known by a series of nicknames, including Visalia Ransacker, Diamond Knot Killer and Original Night Stalker.
DeAngelo is believed to have begun his crime spree while working as a police officer in Exeter near Visalia, where he has been named as the suspect who broke into numerous homes and killed journalism Professor Claude Snelling in September 1975 while attempting to abduct Snelling’s daughter.
From there, DeAngelo moved north to Auburn where he served as a police officer until he was fired after being caught shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from a Citrus Heights drug store.
His attacks are believed to have continued into the Bay Area, Yolo and San Joaquin counties and, eventually to Southern California, where he is accused of 10 other brutal rapes and slayings.