A former US policeman who was dubbed the "Golden State Killer" pleaded guilty to 13 murders on Monday and confessed to dozens of rapes, robberies, and kidnappings.
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. admitted to being the notorious murderer and rapist who persecuted the state in the 1970s and 1980s when the horrific details of his crimes were read out at a Sacramento hearing.
"The scale of Joseph DeAngelo's crime is simply mind-boggling," prosecutor Thien Ho told the makeshift courtroom – a university ballroom that has been remodeled to allow victims to take part in social distance.
"Every time he escaped, he slipped into the night in silence, leaving the communities scared," added Ho.
A frail looking DeAngelo, 74, wearing orange overalls and clear face protection, just croaked "yes", "no", "guilty" and "I admit" to the judge's questions when he agreed to the terms of the plea .
Prosecutor Amy Holliday said the state is ready to lift the death penalty and secure eleven consecutive life sentences without parole for the former police officer and Vietnam veteran.
DeAngelo was arrested in 2018, three decades after the "Golden State Killer" last hit. The search ended after investigators successfully matched crime scene DNA evidence to a family genealogy database used by his relatives.
He was originally charged only with the murders of Brian and Katie Maggiore in 1978, a newly married couple who were shot in Rancho Cordova, a suburb of Sacramento, while walking his dog. At the time, he made no plea.
But prosecutor Ho said DeAngelo's crimes included "13 known murders and nearly 50 rapes" and dozens of robberies.
The statute of limitations for the rapes has passed, but all of the crimes were read out by prosecutors at a hearing that spanned seven gruesome hours.
In one case, the judge heard DeAngelo compel a victim to verbally copulate him by threatening to cut her boy's ear.
A prosecutor choked as he described how the heads of the murder victims were beaten to death with a heavy object.
The well-known attacks started in 1975 in the Sacramento region of central California before spreading across the state.
The killing spree apparently ended abruptly in 1986 with the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl.
Along the way, the meticulous masked attacker was given a number of other nicknames, including the East Area Rapist, the Diamond-Knot Killer, and the Original Nightstalker.
In 1979, DeAngelo was released by the Auburn, California police for shoplifting a hammer and a can of dog repellant.
He retired from a truck mechanic job in Citrus Heights in 2017, a short walk from Sacramento, where he has lived for more than 20 years.
"A man's zilch"
The cold DNA breakthrough that led to DeAngelo's arrest came shortly after the bestselling book "I will be in the dark" revived public interest in the notorious case.
Author Michelle McNamara – the wife of Hollywood actor and comedian Patton Oswalt – had died before it was released.
"The most important people in today's # GoldenStateKiller hearing are the survivors," tweeted Oswalt. "Everyone present, everyone stares directly at a person's zilch, and he can't look back. I concentrate on that."
After the hearing was over, songs by "bye bye" and "so long" could be heard in the room. The sentence and sentence should start on August 17.
According to the Holliday prosecutor, many victims and family members have died since the crime decades ago, and the coronavirus pandemic had threatened to further delay the trial.
Resolving the case with a deal "at this time" would allow the remaining victims and families "to hear the accused admit that he committed these acts and crimes".
In addition to his 11 consecutive life sentences, the deal includes 15 simultaneous life sentences for allegations of weapons.
"The family members of the murder victims have been waiting for justice for their relatives for decades," added Holliday. "Victims of sexual assault have been waiting for justice for decades."
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)