'Golden State Killer' victims address him in court: 'The devil can keep you company'

Joseph DeAngelo was arrested in 2018, decades after the crime spree.

August 18, 2020, 5:18 PM

Survivors of Joseph DeAngelo, the man now known as the "Golden State Killer," addressed him directly in court on Tuesday in powerful and emotional victim impact statements.

The three days of hearings, which includes statements from survivors and victims' family members, began Tuesday with victims of rapes in Sacramento County. DeAngelo, who was a police officer from 1973 to 1979, will be formally sentenced on Friday to life without parole.

One woman, who was a 22-year-old newlywed when she was raped in May 1977, told DeAngelo in court Tuesday, "I forgive you."

"Kindness is a sign of strength not weakness. This is for me -- not for you," she said. "You have lived over 70 years carefree, and the victims and the survivors have had long-lasting scars."

'Had complete control over me'

The daughter of rape survivor Patricia Murphy read a statement on her mother's behalf on Tuesday as DeAngelo sat silently in a white face mask and orange jail shirt.

Joseph James DeAngelo appears in Sacramento Superior Court on Aug. 18, 2020, in Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento Superior Court Department

On Sept. 4, 1976, Murphy, a 29-year-old single mother, was attacked outside her parents' house.

"That night forever changed me," the statement said. "I never felt safe for many years. It was hard for me to trust ... I was always looking over my shoulder expecting someone to jump out at me."

"I wonder why he picked me to be one of his rape victims? Did he know my name?" she said. "He punched me in the face and broke my nose. I had a concussion from falling backwards ... it soon became clear that he and his knife had complete control over me for the next two hours."

Joseph DeAngelo returns to Sacramento Superior Court in Sacramento, April 10, 2019.
Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

"The lump on my nose [from the punch] never went away," her statement said. "I learned to accept it was just part of my face."

Murphy later turned to alcohol and drugs to "numb my pain," she said.

Murphy, still suffering from PTSD, was hospitalized for several days after DeAngelo's arrest. She had trouble sleeping and had vivid nightmares.

DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder in front of dozens of victims and victims' relatives in June as part of a plea deal, which also required him to admit to multiple uncharged acts, including rapes, which were described in horrific detail by prosecutors.

The death penalty was taken off the table in exchange for the guilty pleas. DeAngelo will be sentenced to life without parole.

Joseph James DeAngelo, known as the Golden State Killer, arrives for the first day of victim impact statements at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse in Sacramento, Calif., Aug. 18, 2020.
Santiago Mejia/Reuters

'Whatever it took to save herself and her family'

On Oct. 18, 1976, Mini Schultze, a wife and mother of two, was raped in her home.

Her son, Pete Schultze, who read a statement on her behalf Tuesday, recalled how DeAngelo tied him to the bed until his hands turned blue.

His mother was bound, blindfolded and raped, and her wedding ring was stolen, he said.

"Our mother is not Jane Doe No. 22 and we are not just No. 37 uncharged offense. We are the family of Mini Schultze and we have all survived because of her bravery and resolve to do whatever it took to save herself and her family," Pete Schultze said.

He said his mother, now a breast cancer survivor and grandmother of four, is still married to his father after 55 years.

'I would never be a child again'

On Dec. 18, 1976, Kris Pedretti was 15 years old when she raped by a knife-wielding man who said he would kill her if she did not obey him.

"He tormented me. And he told me over and over again he would kill me. And I believed him," she said in court Tuesday.

Kris Pedretti reads her victim impact statement as Joseph James DeAngelo is in the court room the Sacramento County Courthouse, in Sacramento, Calif., Aug. 18, 2020.
Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

Pedretti said she thought she was going to die at three different times that night.

The next morning, "I woke up knowing I would never be a child again," she said.

Kris Pedretti reads her victim impact statement as Joseph James DeAngelo is in the court room the Sacramento County Courthouse, in Sacramento, Calif. , Aug. 18, 2020.
Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

Pedretti said her parents did not let her talk about that night, which forced her "to live my life like the rape never happened."

She said she struggled for 41 years with extreme panic attacks, failed relationships, unhealthy coping mechanisms, few friends and frequent job changes.

"Though I have found my way to a happy and safe life," she said, "DeAngelo deserves his sentence of life without parole in the most dark and lonely containment."

"Your secrets have been exposed. Your double life is over. The world, and I mean the entire world, knows who you are and what you did," Pedretti said. "You will forever be known as a repulsive coward who hid behind a mask of evil. The devil can keep you company in your prison cell, as he gnaws away at whatever soul you have left.”

Pedretti said she thinks the victim impact statements should be his only reading materials in his prison cell.

'She was a survivor'

Debbie Strauss Popado, who was raped on Oct. 29, 1977, died from cancer in 2016. Her daughter, aunt sister and mother spoke on her behalf in court Tuesday.

After her attack, Popado would get phone calls with "heavy breathing and evil threats," said her sister, Sandy James.

"My sister Debbie was never the same" and the rape "chipped away at her soul and her happiness," James said. She "lived with constant fear, always wondering, 'Was he living near by?'"

She had bouts of depression and was terrified of being home alone, her daughter said.

"You took the sister I knew from me that night," James said, overcome with emotion. "I have also been broken through this nightmare."

"After many decades of suffering, witnessing his capture, meeting so many other victims and survivors, would have been incredibly healing for Debbie," James said.

The arrest "brought about much pain and emotion as if it were happening all over again," James said. "I've begun a whole new cycle of grieving for my sister."

"Today is a day of celebration and a day of healing," her mother added. "Although my daughter passed away in 2016, she was a survivor."

Gay and Bob Hardwick who were attacked in their Stockton home in 1978 by Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, stand as the charges are read against DeAngelo during a hearing in Sacramento Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP, FILE

DeAngelo, now 74 years old, was accused of committing 13 murders as well as multiple rapes and burglaries in the 1970s and 80s, terrorizing communities from Northern to Southern California.

The "Golden State Killer" crimes went unsolved until April 2018, when DeAngelo was arrested in Sacramento County.

DeAngelo became the first public arrest obtained through genetic genealogy, a new technique that takes the DNA of an unknown suspect left behind at a crime scene and identifies him or her by tracing a family tree through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to public genealogy databases. This allows police to create a much larger family tree than using law enforcement databases.

To identify DeAngelo, investigators narrowed the family tree search based on age, location and other characteristics.

Authorities conducted surveillance on DeAngelo and collected his DNA from a tissue left in a trash. Investigators plugged his discarded DNA back into the genealogy database and found a match, linking DeAngelo's DNA to the DNA found at multiple crime scenes, prosecutors said.

Since DeAngelo's arrest, over 150 other crime suspects have been identified through genetic genealogy.

ABC News' Jenna Harrison contributed to this report.