SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Golden State Killer, a former police officer in California who eluded capture for four decades, faces his victims in court Tuesday on the first of four days of hearings before he is sentenced to life in prison.
Joseph DeAngelo has admitted to 13 murders and nearly 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986. All told, he admitted to harming 87 victims in 53 separate crimes scenes spanning 11 California counties in a plea deal that spares him the death penalty.
The reign of terror mystified investigators until they used a new form of DNA tracking to arrest him in 2018.
Sixteen of his rape victims and family members of the victims confronted him Tuesday.
"I am not what happened to me, but what I choose to become," read the statement of Phillis Vinnamen, who was raped by DeAngelo in 1976.
While Vinnamen was not in the courtroom, her sister read her statement on her behalf. Vinnamen said in her statement that she became suspicious and scared of a phone ringing after her attack.
Other victims recalled similar stories and feelings after their attacks as well.
Peggy, one of the other victims, said after 42 years, she still looks over her shoulder and has two phones and her keys on her bed when her husband is gone. She has to remind herself that she does not have to worry about him anymore.
"The East Area Rapist did not have the last word in my life," said another victim giving her statement.
"She will never be Jane Doe #22," said Pete Schultz, son of one of the Golden State Killer's victims.
Victims and families spoke one after the other all of Tuesday morning, describing how DeAngelo's attacks changed their lives.
Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo hears from his victims in court on the first day of hearings ahead of sentencing
Kris Pedretti talked about how she tried to act normal, but did not know what normal was anymore. She was told to not talk about the rape or get help and explained the difficulty of keeping jobs, friends and relationships.
"I knew I would never be a child again," Pedretti said of the night she was attacked by the Golden State Killer.
Watch Kris Pedretti's full statement to Joseph DeAngelo:
In the afternoon, more victims and families came forward, remembering what the Golden State Killer did to the victims.
"You took the sister I knew from me that night," recalls Sandy James. James' sister Debbie Strauss died before DeAngelo was caught. James says she went to her grave haunted by the "evil monster" that invaded her life.
"She said when he was caught, she would look him in the eyes and testify what he had done to her, my father and my family," said Courtney Strauss, daughter of Golden State Killer victim Debbie.
The last victim statement of the day came from Victor George Hayes, who said he was stalked by DeAngelo. He recalled many times where he believed DeAngelo and him crossed paths. Hayes wanted to make sure everyone knew why he wanted to see DeAngelo locked up.
"I want to tell you what makes this guy the worst of the worst. He’s a police officer. He swore to uphold the law. Every police officer ought to be enraged for defecating on that honor," said Hayes.
A similar amount of people will tell a Sacramento County judge on Wednesday and Thursday how DeAngelo’s crimes changed their lives before he is formally sentenced Friday.
FRAMED BY THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER? A young Exeter, California girl was brutally murdered in 1975. The jury convicted handyman Oscar Clifton of the crime, but did the real killer get away? Was Clifton framed by Joe DeAngelo, a local cop that police say was the Visalia Ransacker before later becoming the Golden State Killer?
Read More: Framed by the Golden State Killer?