“THE TRIAL AND CRIMES OF THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and pleaded guilty; he received multiple life sentences, bringing the Golden State Killer trial to an end several decades after the murderer’s bloody reign began. But the most shocking part of his story for most, even more so than the brutal and monstrous crimes, was the fact that he was a trusted member of law enforcement – a man the public was expected to trust and depend on. We’ll look at the crimes he committed… and the trial that finally put him away for good. Plus… imagine being married to someone for forty years, only to find out that person is the Golden State Killer. We’ll look at the life of Sharon Huddle, who understandably wants nothing to do with the press. Was she fooled by her husband for all those years, or did she know all along that her husband was truly a serial killer?
(Dark Archives episode from September 28, 2020)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Trial And Crimes of the Golden State Killer” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting: https://tinyurl.com/y9xl3wuy, https://tinyurl.com/y9xl3wuy
“Married To The Golden State Killer” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting: https://tinyurl.com/y8ema7v4
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Golden State Killer trial to an end several decades after the murderer’s bloody reign began. But the most shocking part of his story for most, even more so than the brutal and monstrous crimes, was the fact that he was a trusted member of law enforcement – a man the public was expected to trust and depend on. We’ll look at the crimes he committed… and the trial that finally put him away for good.
Plus… imagine being married to someone for forty years, only to find out that person is the Golden State Killer. We’ll look at the life of Sharon Huddle, who understandably wants nothing to do with the press. Was she fooled by her husband for all those years, or did she know all along that her husband was truly a serial killer?
TRIAL AND CRIMES OF THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER
After decades of fruitless searching, the Golden State Killer who terrorized California in the 1970s and ’80s was finally caught in 2018. The perpetrator, former cop Joseph James DeAngelo, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder on June 29, 2020 and received 11 consecutive life sentences (plus an additional life sentence and a further eight years) on August 21, 2020 bringing the Golden State Killer trial to an end.
Let’s look at the over four-decades of crime and murder – and how he got away with it for so long.
The Golden State Killer didn’t get his nickname until true-crime writer Michelle McNamara coined it for him. The late author’s 2018 book about the serial killer, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, has since led to an HBO documentary series about the case — and helped solve it.
Identifying the Golden State Killer has been a decades-long challenge. Initially known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, his most prolific crime spree began in 1976.
Though he is now believed to be responsible for at least 50 rapes and more than a dozen homicides in California, the geography initially suggested that there were separate criminals involved. His crimes stretched across many counties in California, with a cluster in the north and a series in the south.
The Golden State Killer thus eluded authorities for decades, and even taunted past victims with threatening phone calls until at least 2001.
Only a 2016 reinvestigation centered on DNA evidence, which was virtually nonexistent during the 1970s and 1980s, spawned a promising new lead. Thanks to McNamara’s attention to detail and the tireless efforts of California authorities, resolution finally arrived.
Former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo has pleaded guilty to 26 charges involving rape and murder.
Though the statute of limitations for the many rapes he’s accused of have expired, he still received a total of more than 12 life sentences for his crimes in August 2020. Finally, the Golden State Killer’s victims can at least know that this man will never walk free again.
Before raping and murdering his targets, the Golden State Killer was believed to be a burglar who ransacked at least 100 homes in Visalia, California between April 1974 and December 1975.
Unfortunately, this also appeared to have served as a training ground for the man, then known as the Visalia Ransacker, as it’s believed he also committed a murder during this period.
In the beginning, the Visalia Ransacker mostly broke into the homes of his victims to simply rifle through their possessions. He commonly scattered women’s underwear around the house, stole small items as souvenirs, and actively ignored major valuables in plain sight.
Unfortunately, the robber and one-time killer soon allegedly became a prolific rapist. The ransacking from 1974 to 1975 no longer seemed to satisfy him. By the following year, citizens of California began to anxiously whisper about the one they called the East Area Rapist. At the time, no one could’ve guessed that he was the same man as the Visalia Ransacker.
But his experience in burglaries certainly came in handy. When approaching potential rape victims, he preferred single-story homes, typically near escape routes like large fields or forests. The East Area Rapist began to terrorize Northern California in 1976.
He often broke into homes beforehand, after conducting lengthy surveillance of his victims in order to memorize their routines. Inside, he’d unload any guns he’d find, unlock windows, and leave ligatures used to bind his subjects laying around for later.
He began with single women, or ones with small children, but eventually moved on to couples. His victims typically awoke to the glare of a flashlight, and a masked gunman in their faces. After tying up the man, he’d rape the woman repeatedly.
Sometimes, he stacked dishes on the man’s back and threatened to murder the couple if they fell off during the rape. During these macabre evenings, he sometimes ate food and drank beer in the kitchen. Some of the traumatized victims thought he’d finally left, only for him to “jump from the darkness” and continue.
On the rare occasion when neighbors or police spotted the masked man, he eluded capture by scaling fences or taking off on a bicycle. Whoever he was, the man was clearly fit enough to escape. Tragically, this only helped him commit murders down the line.
By 1978, the Golden State Killer had committed his first two known homicides in Northern California. The victims, Brian and Katie Maggiore, likely witnessed him breaking into a home while he was still known as the East Area Rapist.
But the man did not gain a reputation for murder until he moved his crime spree to Southern California from 1979 to 1986. Since it was a different type of crime and location, the East Area Rapist was not linked to the Southern California series of attacks.
The press dubbed this seemingly separate killer the “Original Night Stalker,” meant to differentiate him from the “Night Stalker” serial killer Richard Ramirez who haunted the Los Angeles area in the 1980s.
As for the Original Night Stalker, at least 10 people were killed at his hands throughout his spree between 1979 and 1986. At many of the crime scenes, signs of binding or ligatures were discovered.
Briefly, this new killer was also dubbed the “Diamond Knot Killer” after two of his victims, Charlene and Lyman Smith in Ventura, were found bound with a diamond knot. This knot was seen as unusual as it was typically used in interior design or for nautical purposes.
Many of the Original Night Stalker’s murders had similar trajectories, though no modus operandi had yet been confirmed. He often tied his victims with ligatures and assaulted them before beating them to death. But sometimes he just shot them.
With imperfect communication between officials in California, and no clear motive for all the crimes (let alone the consideration that the East Area Rapist and the Night Stalker might have been the same person), police followed false leads and met dead ends.
Without the help of DNA evidence in a sprawling case of different crimes that detectives thought were committed by different people, solving the case was like finding a needle in a haystack. It didn’t help that countless pieces of evidence seemed to contradict others.
On the other hand, investigators did have a substantial trove of facts on their hands. From survivor testimonies, it was clear the perpetrator was a white male about 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10 and athletic in stature. Meanwhile, shoe prints at the crime scenes measured about size nine.
These helpful details, along with the criminal’s behavior, led criminologists to create a psychological profile on the man. They believed he understood the investigative methods of police as well as the concept of evidence. He was in decent shape and a skilled burglar who hated women.
A poem sent to The Sacramento Bee in December 1977 by someone claiming to be the East Area Rapist was the first promising lead. He called police and said he’d strike on Watt Avenue that night. Police nearly caught a man who fled via bicycle — but he eluded capture.
The next December, pages from a notebook were found near the reported sighting of a suspicious vehicle by investigators working on an East Area Rapist attack in Danville. The pages recounted a “dreadful” sixth-grade experience in which a boy was forced to write sentences repeatedly.
There were also phone calls — spanning from 1977 to 2001 — in which a man claimed to be the East Area Rapist and taunted investigators and victims. “You’re never gonna catch me,” he told the police.
Perhaps most horrific were the calls he made to surviving victims, wishing them a Merry Christmas, calling them whores, and threatening to kill them.
Nonetheless, each promising lead turned out to be fruitless. Brett Glasby from Goleta was a suspect of Santa Barbara County investigators — until he died in 1982 before other crimes occurred.
White supremacist Paul Schneider was suspected — until DNA evidence cleared him in the 1990s. Joe Alsip, a friend of victim Lyman Smith, was also suspected until his innocence was similarly confirmed. For decades, finding the Golden State Killer seemed impossible. Only in the new millennium did the tides seem to turn.
As recently as 2001, the killer phoned one of his surviving victims. Calling 24 years after his attack, he asked the woman, “Remember when we played?”
This was the same year that DNA evidence began to link the cases in the different parts of California State. In the decades since these sprees, many of the East Area Rapist attacks and Original Night Stalker murders have been linked by DNA.
Renewed momentum came in 2016 when the FBI publicly released a trove of information on the Golden State Killer, including sketches and intricate details about his countless crimes, and announced a $50,000 reward.
The FBI wrote: “If he is still alive, the killer would now be approximately 60 to 75 years old. He is described as a white male, close to six feet tall, with blond or light brown hair and an athletic build. He may have an interest or training in military or law enforcement techniques, and he was proficient with firearms. Detectives have DNA from multiple crime scenes that can positively link — or eliminate — suspects. This will allow investigators to easily rule out innocent parties with a simple, non-invasive DNA test.”
Finally, on April 24, 2018, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department arrested Joseph James DeAngelo and charged him with 13 counts of murder and several other charges including kidnapping.
McNamara, who died two years earlier but developed a vital rapport with detectives during her work, wasn’t thanked during the press conference, despite her coinage of “Golden State Killer” being used.
Her bestselling book, which posited DNA would nab the killer, undeniably renewed interest in the case. Former cold-case investigator Paul Holes‘ work with DNA technology certainly helped speed things up as well.
As for Joseph James DeAngelo, a mountain of evidence was stacked against him — but did cops truly catch the real Golden State Killer?
DeAngelo’s DNA was obtained from a swab on his car door handle, and was matched to DNA taken from victims Lyman and Charlene Smith — who were murdered in 1980. Police used a genealogy website to confirm the match.
Ventura County’s Chief Deputy District Attorney said, “It is our burden to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In June 2020, DeAngelo finally faced trial, a seemingly more frail man than when he was first caught in 2018. Covered in an orange jumpsuit and a plastic face shield to ward off COVID-19, DeAngelo was no longer the spry man who vaulted fences and snuck into women’s homes.
During the June proceedings, DeAngelo finally admitted to his crimes in a plea deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty for the 13 first-degree murders in question. Holliday announced DeAngelo’s plea agreement in front of survivors and the families of his victims.
The agreement also saw DeAngelo admit to numerous rapes that he couldn’t be charged for. Many of these assaults weren’t able to be prosecuted due to statute of limitations issues. All told, DeAngelo admitted to hurting 87 victims across 57 incidents in 11 different California counties.
In August 2020, victims and their families made statements before the Golden State Killer’s sentencing, recounting DeAngelo’s crimes in graphic detail. One woman, who was just seven years old when DeAngelo attacked her mother in their home, recalled, “He threatened to cut my ear off and bring it to her.”
The women who survived DeAngelo’s horrifying attacks characterized him in their testimony as “subhuman” and monstrous. Victims recalled numbness in their hands lasting for months after their attacks from how tightly DeAngelo bound them and shared that the trauma of their experiences had never left them.
One woman whose sister was killed by DeAngelo simply said, “May he rot in hell.”
Carol Daly, one of the original detectives who worked on his case, read a statement on behalf of victim Cathy Rogers, saying, “The nightmare has ended. He is the one forever alone in the dark.”
For victims and their families who have waited decades for justice, the relief during DeAngelo’s admissions and then his sentencing was palpable. Some had been waiting for justice for more than 40 years.
Starting in the 1970s, DeAngelo had committed his gruesome crimes as he pleased — from California’s southern coast and the Central Valley to the Bay Area and neighborhoods of Sacramento and he was known by different names in different areas. The East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, and Visalia Ransacker, for example, were all him.
All told, he killed at least 13 people and raped about 50 over the course of at least two decades. All the while, he eluded police again and again.
“The fear in the community was like something I had never seen before,” said Carol Daly, former Sacramento sheriff’s detective. “People were afraid wherever they went.”
By the 1990s, it seemed as though he’d vanished — though he taunted one of his victims in 2001 by giving her a phone call to ask if she remembered, “when we played.” That same year, DNA evidence linked the East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker cases to one singular perpetrator.
Around this time, the late true crime author Michelle McNamara took it upon herself to piece the decades-long puzzle together. Her efforts reinvigorated the efforts of cold-case investigator Paul Holes to find the man.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are still unsure as to why the man Schubert called the “real-life version of Hannibal Lecter” suddenly stopped committing crimes in the first place. The killer ceased killing when he was in his 40s as DeAngelo worked at a Save Mart grocery store and lived a traditional suburban life in Sacramento.
The fact that he walked among regular citizens, even victims such as Gay Hardwick — who was raped in 1978 as her husband Bob was helplessly tied up — is deeply unsettling. However, Hardwick now says she finally feels a sense of peace.
“I already feel relieved,” she said. “He’s going away and never coming out and there won’t be any appeals. He will die in prison.”
It has not been confirmed that DeAngelo is responsible for every single crime that was ever connected to the Golden State Killer. Some people may also argue that there could have been more than one criminal on the loose during certain time periods.
But in the end, due process has finally brought us closer to the truth. And in August 2020, DeAngelo received multiple life sentences for his crimes. The victims and family members who spoke in court during the sentencing hearings can finally rest in the knowledge that at least the Golden State Killer will never be able to attack anyone else ever again.
Up next, Sharon Marie Huddle was married to Joseph James DeAngelo for more than 40 years while he killed over a dozen people. But it remains unclear whether she knew he was the Golden State Killer. We’ll look more closely at her life when Weird Darkness returns.
MARRIED TO THE GOLDEN STATE KILLER
“My thoughts and prayers are for the victims and their families. The press has relentlessly pursued interviews of me. I will not be giving any interviews for the foreseeable future. I ask the press to please respect my privacy and that of my children.”
This statement is currently everything Sharon Marie Huddle has publicly said about her ex-husband Joseph James DeAngelo, better known as the Golden State Killer. As the former wife of a man who pleaded guilty to 26 charges in a raping and killing spree, it’s only natural to avoid further publicity.
DeAngelo was ultimately charged with 13 counts of murder, with additional special circumstances, as well as 13 counts of kidnapping for robbery. He received a combined 12 life sentences in August 2020.
As chronicled in true-crime author Michelle McNamara’s book I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, the Golden State Killer raped and murdered countless California women for years, and was never caught. Meanwhile, the Golden State Killer’s wife raised three children with him.
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to be married to a serial killer — look no further.
Not much is known about Sharon Marie Huddle, other than her being born in 1953 and practicing family law as an adult. A quick internet search yields critical reviews of her law firm and complaints about her allegedly cruel interpersonal behaviors. Objectively, one is left with only the facts.
As a student at California State Sacramento, Huddle laid the academic foundation of her career in family law. It was here that the 20-year-old aspiring attorney met her future husband, a dashing Vietnam veteran and former Navy officer studying criminal justice.
Huddle and DeAngelo tied the knot in 1973, the same year he joined the Exeter police force. The Sacramento Bee profiled him as a promising new police hire, and cheerfully announced his fall wedding at Auburn First Congregational Church.
It only took a year for unsolved burglaries in Visalia, a town 11 miles from Exeter, to start terrorizing the people who lived in the area. And the marriage between DeAngelo and Huddle had only just begun.
Dubbed the Visalia Ransacker, the criminal robbed about 100 homes in Northern California from 1974 to 1975. The following year, a meticulous criminal nicknamed the East Area Rapist used similar methods to break into suburban homes to rape 50 women across a three-year period.
As his crimes escalated to murder in Southern California, so did the confusion amongst authorities. The serial killer was dubbed the Original Night Stalker as he targeted couples, tied them up with ligatures, and often raped the women before shooting or bludgeoning his victims.
Since the burglaries, rapes, and murders were spread out geographically, authorities attributed the varying crime sprees to different people. But it was one person all along — and Sharon Huddle was living with him.
DeAngelo was, by all accounts, a trustworthy and reliable man. He’d been awarded numerous medals for his 22-month service in Vietnam, where he purportedly lost a finger. He was educated and respected authority, as evidenced by his job as a cop.
Huddle didn’t know it, but investigators and true-crime author Michelle McNamara always reckoned the killer was a police officer.
“It was a lot more than a hunch,” said Wendell Phillips, a former Sacramento sheriff’s deputy involved in the case. “There was no doubt he was either military or law enforcement or both.”
By the time the couple’s first daughter was born in September 1981, the East Area Rapist had already committed 50 rapes — and the Original Night Stalker was steadily racking up his body count. He’d terrorize Southern California until 1986.
Huddle’s husband began working for the Save Mart grocery chain in 1989, and held the job for 27 years. The FBI publicly announced its renewed efforts of tracking the Golden State Killer in 2016.
“He was a mechanic,” said a Save Mart company spokeswoman. “None of his actions in the workplace would have led us to suspect any connection to crimes being attributed to him.”
Huddle and her husband reportedly slept in separate bedrooms by the 1970s and separated in 1991, though they remained technically married for years. Huddle had apparently purchased a second home in Roseville, but the pair appeared to share parenting duties amicably.
Today, one of their three daughters is an emergency room physician, while another daughter is a graduate student at University of California in Davis. The third daughter and Huddle’s granddaughter were both living with DeAngelo when he was arrested.
Joseph James DeAngelo reportedly told officers raiding his home on April 18, 2018 that he had a roast in his oven before he was taken into custody. Prior to the arrest, investigators had used DNA from his car door handle and discarded tissues to match him to the crimes using an online genealogy database.
McNamara’s true-crime book I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, which has since been made into an HBO documentary, posited accurately that DNA would help crack the case. Huddle, meanwhile, either remained unconvinced of her husband’s guilt or made a curious decision not to divorce him until a year after his arrest.
“The DA’s office can subpoena her,” said attorney Mark Reichel, explaining that dissolving the marriage union rids Huddle of previous legal rights. “She loses her right to say no. She can’t talk about communications but she can talk about observations. ‘He wasn’t home this night. This night he came home with these clothes.’”
“She can really be a domestic diary of daily activities of this person.”
DeAngelo’s sister described him as “the kindest, gentlest man with his children,” and said she was shocked and in disbelief, hopeful investigators were wrong about him. His neighbors, meanwhile, had long thought of the man as “cantankerous,” with some even dubbing him “Freak” for his outbursts.
Sharon Marie Huddle, however, long remained silent even after DeAngelo was arrested. She only truly broke her silence after DeAngelo pleaded guilty in June 2020.
For the subsequent sentencing hearings in August, Huddle submitted a written statement:
“I will never be the same person. I now live everyday with the knowledge of how he attacked and severely damaged hundreds of innocent people’s lives and murdered 13 innocent people who were loved and have now been missed for 40 years or more.”
But not once during the statement did Huddle refer to DeAngelo by name. Surely, even after decades, Huddle can’t bring herself to fully confront the terrifying things her husband did.