For decades a single man terrorized the state of California. Up and down the coast he was known in one area as the Visalia Ransacker, in another as the East Area Rapist, and in another as the Original Nightstalker. One crime writer, Michelle McNamara, posited that these three boogeymen were all one person, she called him the Golden State Killer. Just a few months after her book on the serial killer and rapist, I’ll be Gone in the Dark, was published, the identity of the Golden State Killer was discovered by uploading his DNA to an ancestry website. Joseph James Deangelo, a 74-year-old former police officer, was arrested and has been charged with the crimes he committed. He is thought to be responsible for 13 murders, 50 rapes, and 120 burglaries. He also had a habit of calling his previous victims and continuing to terrorize them:
Since Joseph James Deangelo has been in custody, he’s presented himself as a feeble old man who can barely stand out of his wheelchair or support the weight of his own head. He feigns incompetence, as if perhaps he is experiencing dementia in his old age. However, the week before his arrest while the police were surveilling him they saw Deangelo racing his motorcycle down the freeway, doing heavy lifting outside his home, and jumping in and out of his truck. On June 29, 2020 he plead guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty. In August 2020 Joseph James DeAngelo sat and listened to his victims read statements about how he has impacted their lives. What follows is a list of new information we’ve gotten from the court proceedings:
The Visalia Ransacker WAS EARONS
Years ago the East Area Rapist cases and the Original Nightstalker were linked through DNA evidence. Most people then referred the this killer as “EARONS”. However, some people familiar with the case also liked EARONS as the suspect for the Visalia ransackings. It was never confirmed these were all the same person until Joseph James DeAngelo plead guilty to murdering Claude Snelling, a victim of the Visalia Ransacker.
DeAngelo also plead guilt to killing Brian and Katie Maggiore, a couple who were gunned down while walking their dog. This case was not definitively linked to either the Visalia ransackings or the EARONS crimes, though some people wondered since it was in the area of many EARONS attacks. The couple may have confronted DeAngelo while he was prowling or peeping.
One of the most notable things about Joseph James Deangelo is that like many other serial killers, he tried to be a cop (with varying degrees of success).
From 1973-1976 Deangelo was a police officer in the burglary unit in Exeter, CA, a small town near Visalia. From 1976 until 1979 he worked as a police officer in Auburn, another small town near Visalia. In 1979 he was arrested for stealing a hammer and dog repellent and fired from the police department. He eventually began a new career as a truck mechanic.
What’s more frightening, he was actually on-duty as a police officer at the time he committed at least one of his crimes. One victim statement read in court revealed that while DeAngelo was an on-duty officer at the Auburn Police Department, DeAngelo parked in a church parking lot and then proceeded on foot to the victim’s house and assaulted the couple living there. The victim said that the Auburn Police Department has not cooperated with him in trying to match crimes to times that DeAngelo was on duty. This is a common tactic police use to cover up actions of fellow police officers. This is called the Blue Wall of Silence.
If you want to hear this victim’s story, you can watch him read his impact statement here, around the 46 minute mark:
The identity of “Bonnie”
One victim remembers laying quietly as her attacker sat in the corner after assaulting her and crying about someone named “Bonnie”. It is now known that he was referring to Bonnie Jean Colwell, a woman he was in a relationship with in 1970 at Sierra College.
Bonnie has since given an interview to the LA Times about her relationship with DeAngelo:
She also appears in HBO’s Golden State Killer documentary based around the book I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara:
DeAngelo’s unhinged “feeble old man” performance is a farce
Like many other evil men when they get caught, since being arrested Joseph James DeAngelo has feigned being old and feeble. He suddenly needs a wheelchair, has a limp, and appears out of it and unable to focus on what is being said to him.
Not only does this contrast with the condition investigators observed him in prior to his arrest, it doesn’t match up with his behavior when the cameras are off and he’s in jail. One complaint about DeAngelo’s jail time is that he has been masturbating to the female guards — managing to continue to be a sex predator while behind bars. Prosecutors wanted to show videos in court in order to demonstrate that DeAngelo is in fact acting when it comes to his perceived vulnerability, but the judge did not allow it.
What the people who knew him say
Joseph James Deangelo’s brother-in-law says he would steer the conversation towards the East Area Rapist when the killer was in the news.
One neighbor said Deangelo left him a threatening voicemail about how he would “deliver a load of death” to the neighbor because his dog was barking too much.
His ex-fiance (the infamous Bonnie) said that sex with DeAngelo was painful and exhausting. He would wordlessly exist the room when he neared orgasm, only to return and continue having sex with her a few minutes later. She said Joe was a poacher, a thrill-seeker and an illegal hunter. After they broke up in 1971, DeAngelo showed up outside Bonnie’s bedroom one night with a gun. Bonnie’s parents were home and her father got a gun only to discover DeAngelo was already gone. A call from Bonnie’s father to the police at this point could have saved lives as it would have prevented him from becoming a police officer.