Meet Joseph James DeAngelo – a former policeman, a loving husband and a dedicated father of three children. He is also a suspect in one of the biggest rape and serial murder cases of our time. Until his arrest in 2018, no one ever thought that a seemingly innocent 73-year-old, living in a small suburban city once may have committed nearly 200 senseless and heinous crimes.
With plenty of horrific facts and stories surrounding the Golden State Killer, there are at least five of them left untold.
1. DeAngelo Was Falsely Arrested For Attempting To Rob a Gas Station
On April 16, 1996, Joseph James DeAngelo, who was 50 at the time, was arrested in a sting operation that targeted individuals with outstanding warrants. All suspects have been told that they had won free Super Bowl tickets they could pick up at an office in Sacramento.
After DeAngelo and other arrestees were booked into the Sacramento County Jail, officers connected him to a gas station incident from July 28, 1995, where a store clerk mistook DeAngelo for a robber when he went inside the gas station seeking for a refund due to the gas pump malfunction.
According to a court file from February 20, 1998, “When the plaintiff attempted to inform the clerk that the pump was not working and asked for his change for the gas not pumped, the clerk became uncooperative, apparently not able to speak English well enough to understand plaintiff. Plaintiff left the premises peacefully and subsequently, the clerk called the police and reported the plaintiff as an attempted robber.”
Following the incident, DeAngelo filed a $1 million civil lawsuit against the gas station owner for “willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive” conduct. The court file indicates the case was settled and dismissed in March 1998.
The worst part? The collection of DNA samples from all detained suspects was not considered protocol back in 1996, meaning officers had no way of knowing that one of the nation’s most sought-after criminal suspects was in their grasp.
2. DeAngelo Once Planned to Kill Ex-Police Chief Who Fired Him
During an interview in May 2018, a former Northern California police chief Nick Willick, who fired Joseph James DeAngelo in 1979 for stealing a hammer and dog repellant, revealed that the accused serial killer once tried to kill him.
“The investigator told me that Joseph had gone to my house one night to kill me, and said that he walked around the house looking in the windows but couldn’t find my bedroom. I just never saw him as a person who could, you know, kill somebody. A short time after he had been fired, I woke up one morning. My 4-year-old daughter was laying alongside the bed. She said, ‘Dad, last night there was someone looking in my bedroom window with a flashlight,'” Willick said.
The former police chief told the reporters he feels guilt and embarrassment for letting a serial killer slip away after being right under his nose.
3. A Man Eerily Resembling DeAngelo Was Seen Prowling a Private Residence Ten Days Before His Arrest
On April 14, 2018, at 3:30 am, a security camera captured a man wearing a wig prowling around the private residence in Folsom, California. The prowler walked up to the front door, rang the doorbell, knocked, and walked around for about a minute before leaving the premises after noticing a security camera.
Months after Joseph James DeAngelo’s arrest, the Internet started to buzz with a creepy discovery – the man seen in the surveillance footage eerily resembles the suspected Golden State Killer, who lived only 15 minutes away from the house the Folsom Prowler tried to enter that night.
Things got even creepier when reports emerged that the woman living there was forty-something, petite, and brunette – all traits common to victims of the Original Night Stalker. The prowler also carried a bag similar to the black doctor’s bag often recalled by the East Area Rapist victims being present at the scene.
Although there is no further information regarding the incident, one thing is obvious – DeAngelo may have had way more dirty secrets than we all know.
4. The Taxpayers Will Pay a Fortune For DeAngelo’s Trial
In December 2018, a Sacramento County official Natasha Drane had estimated that Joseph James DeAngelo’s trial could cost taxpayers more than $20 million.
“While the current estimate is more than $20 million, it is impossible at this point to accurately estimate all costs. We anticipate the complexities of the case, including 40 years of evidence, to greatly affect the final cost,” said Natasha Drane of the county’s Office of Governmental Relations and Legislation.
The $20 million estimate includes the prosecution and defense of DeAngelo since he has been represented by a public defender since his arrest in April 2018.
5. DeAngelo Has Nearly Been Caught During His Burglarizing Spree
Between April 1974 and December 1975, a mysterious serial night-prowler, known as the Visalia Ransacker, slinked through the streets and alleys, burglarizing over 100 homes. In 1975, the Visalia Police Department decided to commit more resources to apprehend the serial burglar and posted an impressive $4,000 reward (around $25,000 today) for the information leading to ransacker’s arrest. Nighttime stakeouts were set up near houses that he had previously prowled, but the attacks continued.
On December 12, 1975, during one of the stakeouts, Detective William McGowen noticed a masked man entering the backyard of one of the houses in the area where the Ransacker had been reported to frequent. When McGowen attempted to arrest the prowler, a shadowy figure shrieked, removed his mask, and feigned surrender after the officer fired a warning shot.
What he did not expect was that the prowler would fire back with a revolver he had pulled out with his left hand. The bullet shattered the lens of McGowen’s flashlight and injured his eye. Nearby officers rushed to aid McGowen, and the Visalia Ransacker was able to escape, only to return six months later, but this time, as the East Area Rapist.
True Crime Magazine’s True Crime Factbook features 10 more exclusive stories and facts surrounding the case of the Golden State Killer.
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