National News

In wheelchair, suspect makes first court appearance in Golden State Killer case

Posted April 27, 2018 7:49 p.m. EDT

SACRAMENTO -- Joseph James DeAngelo hunched in his wheelchair, his 72-year-old body looking pale and feeble in an orange jumpsuit inside the courtroom.

In a barely audible voice, the man police say was a prolific serial killer and rapist who terrorized California in the 1970s and '80s, spoke just briefly, his eyes hanging heavily, his wrists handcuffed to his wheelchair.

The brief arraignment on Friday in a courtroom at the Sacramento County Jail gave the public its first look at the person accused in the Golden State Killer case since police revealed the stunning news of the suspect's arrest Wednesday. DeAngelo looked confused at times as television and news cameras focused in on him.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet asked DeAngelo a handful of questions during the minutes-long hearing on the first floor of the jail. DeAngelo said little other than he wanted a public defender to represent him going forward. A temporary attorney appointed by the court appeared to help DeAngelo, who sat stone-faced, while listening to the judge.

His weakened appearance took some by surprise, particularly since investigators who had tailed DeAngelo prior to his arrest described him as active. Neighbors described him as ``high-strung'' and always ``talking or yelling.''

The courtroom was packed with reporters, relatives of victims, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and other investigators who had worked on the case, and people with no other reason to be there than sheer interest.

Not everyone trying to get into Courtroom 61, on the ground floor of the Sacramento County Jail building in which DeAngelo is being held, made it inside. It was too full.

After a follow-up court date was scheduled for May 14, he was wheeled out. He did not enter a plea to the two murder charges he faces in Sacramento County, which stem from the shooting deaths of a young couple near their Rancho Cordova home in 1978 as they walked their dog.

Prosecutors in several other counties said they plan to file additional charges attributed to the East Area Rapist, Golden State Killer and the Original Nightstalker.

The ex-police officer allegedly committed 12 murders and dozens of rapes -- some during the time he was a cop -- from 1976 to 1986.

The long sought capture of a suspect in the case came after detectives used DNA evidence found at a murder scene and plugged it into an open-sourced genealogy website to identify relatives. Investigators then narrowed the possible suspects based on the presumed age and geography of the suspect they were hunting.

DeAngelo had been a police officer in Placer and Tulare counties at the time some of the crimes were committed.