Golden State Killer case to be tried in Sacramento County

- The man accused of being the Golden State Killer, who is charged with murders in Orange County and other jurisdictions around California, will be tried in Sacramento County, prosecutors announced Tuesday in Santa Ana.

During a joint news conference, prosecutors announced the filing of a consolidated criminal complaint in Sacramento County against 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo of Citrus Heights. The complaint charges DeAngelo, a former police officer, with 13 murders, including four in Orange County.

The murder charges include a variety of special circumstance allegations that open DeAngelo to a possible death sentence. The complaint also includes 13 counts of kidnapping to commit robbery.

The alleged crimes span an 11-year period from 1975 to 1986 and occurred in six different counties.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said the decision to try the case jointly in Sacramento County was made based on a variety of factors, including the availability of witnesses and consideration for victims' families and other concerned parties that would need to appear in court.

Rackauckas and other prosecutors have been holding discussions for weeks to discuss how to handle the prosecution of DeAngelo. Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten said prosecutors from all the affected jurisdictions would be working together closely on the case.

"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,'' he said.

Also taking part in the Santa Ana news conference were District Attorney Diana Becton of Contra Costa County, Anne Marie Schubert of Sacramento County, Joyce E. Dudley of Santa Barbara County and Tim Ward of Tulare County.

In Orange County, DeAngelo is accused of killing 24-year-old Keith and 28-year-old Patrice Harrington Aug. 19, 1980, in Dana Point; 28-year-old Manuela Witthuhn in Irvine on Feb. 5, 1981; and 18-year-old Janelle Cruz in Irvine on May 5, 1986.

The Harringtons lived in a single-story home in the gated Niguel Shores community when they were attacked in their bedroom, said Investigator Larry Pool of the Golden State Killer task force. Their bodies were found on their blood-spattered bed with ligature marks on their wrists and Patrice's ankles, Pool wrote in a probable cause declaration.

Their killer left the binds on the bed. It appears he tied their hands behind their backs, covered them in a comforter and slammed a blunt object over their heads, Pool said.

Investigators in 1996 matched semen at the crime scene to the killer in the two other Orange County cases, Pool said. The identity of the killer remained anonymous until this year when investigators used a public genealogy database with DNA recovered from an item discarded by DeAngelo, Rackauckas said in an interview in May.

Witthuhn was attacked sometime between 11 p.m. Feb. 5, 1981, and 2 a.m. Feb. 6, 1981, when investigators believe she died, Pool said. The cause of death was skull fractures from a beating, Pool said, adding that her parents discovered her body when they went to check on her.

Witthuhn's body was found in a sleeping bag investigators believe she was sleeping in, Pool said. There was no evidence of a struggle and she had ligature marks on her wrists and on her right ankle.

Cruz was killed about 5 p.m. May 5, 1986, in her bed in her Irvine home. Blood covered her head and neck and she was partially covered by her blanket, Pool said.

She had hemorrhaging in her eyes and bruises on the bridge of her nose, according to Pool. Her killer knocked out three teeth with two found in her hair. She had no ligature  marks on her wrists like the other victims, but there were abrasions, leading investigators to speculate her killer squeezed
her wrists so hard he left a mark, Pool said.

Her lower lip was swollen, her tongue bitten. An ultra-violet light spotlighted semen on the victim, according to Pool. No murder weapon was found, but a pipe wrench in the backyard was missing.

Her cause of death was ``crushing skull fractures,'' Pool said.

DeAngelo is also accused in the killings of Lyman and Charlene Smith in Ventura on March 13, 1980; Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez in Goleta on July 27, 1981; Robert Offerman and Alexandria Manning in Goleta on Dec. 30, 1979; Brian and Katie Maggiore in Rancho Cordova on Feb. 2, 1978; and Claude Snelling in Visalia on Sept. 11, 1975.

DeAngelo is also linked to the so-called Visalia Ransacker burglaries from April 1974 through December 1975, a spree that ended with the attempted murder of Visalia Officer Bill McGowan as he tried to apprehend the suspect, Pool said.

DeAngelo is also alleged to be the East Area Rapist who was suspected in 52 attacks in Contra Costa, Sacramento and Santa Clara counties from June 1976 through July 1979, Pool said.

DeAngelo attended the Kings County Public Safety Academy for 400 hours. He worked for the Exeter police department until 1976, when he went to work as an officer in Auburn until he was fired in 1979 for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellant, Pool said.

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