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Golden State Killer suspect to be tried on 13 murder charges in Sacramento

Golden State Killer suspect to be tried in Sacramento
Credit: Jose Luis Villegas, AP
Joseph DeAngelo appears June 1, 2018, in Sacramento Superior Court in Sacramento. DeAngelo, accused of being the Golden State Killer, will be tried in Sacramento County on more than a dozen murders committed up and down the state that terrorized residents during the 1970s and '80s.

SANTA ANA, Calif. — The man accused of being California’s Golden State Killer will be tried in Sacramento on 13 counts of murder, according to at least half a dozen district attorneys in attendance Tuesday at a news conference here in Southern California.

Joseph DeAngelo, 72, of Citrus Heights has been in Sacramento County jail in Northern California since his arrest April 24 outside his home. District attorneys in Contra Costa, Orange, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties have charged DeAngelo with the 13 murders.

"We've filed everything we need to, but we're not done," said Tony Kackauckas, Orange County district attorney who could not recall another case in the state in which several county prosecutors came together to try a case. "I can't rule out the possibility" of more charges.

► Aug. 13: Golden State Killer suspect faces new, 13th murder charge
► July 12: 1974 California cold case could be linked to Golden State Killer cases
► June 10: Cops searched alleged Golden State Killer's home for couple's jewelry

DeAngelo also will face numerous other charges, including 13 counts of kidnapping for robbery. An amended complaint was filed Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court.

DeAngelo has not yet entered a plea and a trial date has not been set. 

If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Special circumstances associated with some of the charges also mean that DeAngelo is eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not made a decision on seeking that punishment. 

► June 2: Police took DNA from car as Golden State Killer suspect shopped
► May 10: Four more murder charges filed against Golden State Killer suspect

"We are unified and we are committed to delivering justice to the victims of the Golden State Killer and their loved ones who for far too long have had justice elude them," said District Attorney Greg Totten of Ventura County. 

The Golden State Killer's brutal homicides were linked to one person through DNA evidence. DNA evidence also suggests the same perpetrator known as the Visalia Ransacker and East Area Rapist is responsible for dozens of sexual assaults and break-ins in 10 California counties from 1974 to 1986. 

Credit: Jae C. Hong, AP
Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County district attorney, answers questions from the media as District Attorney Gregory Totten of Ventura County listens Aug. 21, 2018, in Santa Ana, California.

DeAngelo's arrest marked an end to a decades-long wait for the homicide victims’ families. For Jennifer Carole, the daughter of Lyman Smith, it meant the start of a new chapter for her and her brothers. 

Lyman Smith, 43, and Carole’s stepmother, Charlene Smith, 33, were found in their bed bludgeoned to death on March 16, 1980, at the home they shared in Ventura, California. Charlene Smith also had been raped.

The DNA that her attacker left later would help investigators piece together the case. 

The next move was deciding where and how to prosecute a case of this magnitude. The case got bigger last week when the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office charged DeAngelo with the 1975 murder of Professor Claude Snelling in Visalia.

"This is not simply a Sacramento case. This is a joint case of six jurisdictions," said Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County district attorney.

Genealogical DNA using an ancestry website was used to narrow down the suspect to DeAngelo, a former police officer. And the DNA taken from Charlene Smith’s body was the profile that ultimately matched DeAngelo’s once the DNA from the sexual assault and homicide cases were connected, according to authorities. 

► May 2: Golden State Killer suspect fights DNA, photos collection effort
► April 28: The faces of the Golden State Killer's victims

According to warrants released in the case, DNA profiles were made from evidence found in three Contra Costa County sexual assault cases thought to be the work of the East Area Rapist. In 2001, DNA analysis linked the semen found on Charlene Smith’s body to the Contra Costa County cases.

Years earlier in 1996, DNA found on the Ventura woman matched semen found in four Orange County homicides. By 2011, the DNA on Charlene Smith matched a semen stain found at a Santa Barbara County double homicide. 

Follow Megan Diskin on Twitter: @megandiskin


► April 27: Golden State Killer suspect placed on suicide watch
► April 27: Former investigator recalls obsessive search for the Golden State Killer
► April 27: Took an ancestry DNA test? You might be a 'genetic informant' on relatives
► April 26: Break in Golden State Killer case came from DNA on genealogy website
► April 26: Family of accused California serial killer voices sympathy for victims
► April 26: Who is Joseph James DeAngelo, the accused Golden State Killer?
► April 25: Ex-cop Joseph DeAngelo arrested as suspect in serial murder-rapes


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