Kris Pedretti was a “normal 15-year-old kid” before Joseph DeAngelo entered her California bedroom just before Christmas in 1976.
“By the time that night came to an end, my world changed forever,” she said in a Sacramento County courtroom this week, describing how she was bound, gagged, and raped that winter night. “I sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ in my head as I waited—waited to die.”
Pedretti, now 59, was one of several women who DeAngelo terrorized during the '70s and '80s—and among more than three dozen survivors and family members of victims who gave emotional statements this week while demanding a maximum sentence against the 74-year-old man known as the Golden State Killer.
“You will forever be known as a repulsive coward who hid behind a mask of evil. The devil can keep you company in your prison cell as he gnaws away at whatever soul you have left, at whatever life you have left,” she said.
On Friday, after nearly four decades, 13 grisly murders, and nearly 50 rapes across California, DeAngelo, deemed one of the nation’s worst serial predators, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
“The defendant deserves no mercy,” Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman said as he handed DeAngelo 11 consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole, on top of another life sentence with eight additional years.
“I could not help but wonder, what were you thinking?” Bowman said, adding that he was moved by the “courage and strength” of the victims who spoke out, qualities he said DeAngelo lacked.
The courtroom burst into applause twice as DeAngelo was sentenced. The 74-year-old killer remained emotionless but, moments earlier, spoke publicly for the first time with a single-sentence statement.
“I sat and listened to each of your statements, every one of them, and I’m sorry to everyone that I hurt,” he said.
A three-day sentencing hearing came two months after DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges for crimes between 1975 and 1986. As part of a plea agreement that spared him the death penalty, the former police officer also publicly admitted to dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.
“The nightmare has ended. He is the one forever alone in the dark,” Carol Daly, one of the original detectives assigned to the case in Sacramento, said in a statement on behalf of victim Cathy Rogers.
In the earlier stages of his criminal career, DeAngelo was identified by several monikers, including the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Visalia rapist. Years later, when police departments across California belatedly began linking hundreds of chilling incidents through DNA and a similarities in modus operandi, the perpetrator became known as Golden State Killer.
The case went unsolved until 2018, when investigators used DNA tracking through a free genealogy database.
DeAngelo’s crimes began in Visalia in 1973 with multiple burglaries and the fatal shooting of journalism professor Claude Snelling, who confronted DeAngelo as he ransacked Snelling’s home. From 1976, he began randomly sexually assaulting women in their homes in the East Bay Area region of California near Sacramento. It escalated to the murder of three people who had tried to interfere with his assaults. The same person later began attacking women 400 miles away in Southern California, resulting in ten murders. The attacks mysteriously ended in 1986.
Dolly Kreis, the mother of rape victim Debbie Strauss, who died in 2016, said on Thursday, “You should be sent to the toughest prison in California. What a despicable piece of humanity you are.”
As victims described in searing detail the violence that left them afraid and traumatized, members inside the Sacramento County courtroom—and even the judge—wiped tears from their eyes. DeAngelo, who wore a white surgical mask and orange jumpsuit during the hearings, did not respond to any of the victims’ testimonies, according to local reports.
Susan Peterson, who was attacked by DeAngelo on July 17, 1976, when she was 16, testified that the attack left a “lifelong emotional scar.” “Although this emotional scar doesn’t surface much during the day, after so many years it comes back like clockwork every night when my head hits the pillow,” she said, according to KCRA. She added it wasn’t until she was 58, and DeAngelo was behind bars, that her “subconscious let me relax a little bit.”
Peggy Frink, Peterson’s sister, who was also raped by DeAngelo after he tied up Susan, said that over the last 42 years she had looked over her shoulder “when someone approaches me from behind.”
“I still sleep with two phones and the keys on the bed when my husband is away. And I still check windows and doors multiple times before going to bed when I am alone,” she said. “I still don’t feel safe inside a locked house."
According to the FBI, the Golden State Killer would prowl neighborhoods, often casing homes well in advance before he gained entry “by prying open a window or door while [victims] slept.” After initially targeting women alone, he progressed to targeting couples. Wearing a ski mask, he would often tie up the male, then assault the female. Before long, he progressed to killing people, mostly people who had either witnessed or tried to intervene in his assaults.
An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that more than 106 victims were bound, tortured, raped, or killed during the Golden State Killer’s spree.
Elizabeth Hupp, who witnessed DeAngelo fatally shoot her father Claude Snelling, recounted the Sept. 11, 1975 incident to the court on Tuesday. She said her father “caught him twice peering in my bedroom window when he came home from teaching night school, and tried to chase him down but wasn’t able to catch him,” according to ABC News.
Hupp, who was 16 at the time, said she was awakened by an intruder in a ski mask who pointed a gun at her head before telling her “he was taking me with him and if I made any noise he would kill me."
But as DeAngelo dragged her out of the house, the gun still pointed at her head, her dad charged at the intruder. Hupp said DeAngelo “fired two shots” at her father before kicking the teenager in the face and running off. DeAngelo was later dubbed the Visalia rapist for a string of similar incidents.
“Knowing that my dad's murderer was never caught... left us all feeling very vulnerable,” Hupp said. “Since I was the only living witness... there was a chance he could come after me. The police gave us extra security and patrolled our neighborhood... but I still lived in fear.”
“DeAngelo was able to live a normal life with his family for all those years while my family and I could not be with my dad,” she added. “I am so thankful that he will at least spend the rest of his miserable life in prison.”
Three years later, married couple Kate Maggiore, 20, and Brian Maggiore, 21, were shot dead when DeAngelo confronted them as they walked their dog through the Rancho Cordova neighborhood in Sacramento.
“You no longer live in the shadows, we all know who you are,” Ken Smith, Kate’s brother, said in court after recounting the Feb. 2, 1978 incident. “You lurked in the dark so you could prey on innocent victims. Well, now you are prey, DeAngelo, and you can look over your shoulder the rest of your life.”
Sacramento attorney Sharon Huddle, who married DeAngelo in 1973, broke her silence on Thursday afternoon in a statement submitted to the court describing how her ex-husband’s actions had “a devastating and pervasive” effect on her life.
“I now live every day 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,” she wrote in the statement in which she never mentions DeAngelo’s name, according to CNN.
“I have lost the ability to trust people. I trusted the defendant when he told me he had to work, or was going pheasant hunting, or going to visit his parents’ hundreds of miles away. When I was not around I trusted he was doing what he told me he was doing.”
DeAngelo’s lawyers read several statements from family members on Friday, all describing DeAngelo as a “loving” person. They spoke of being “crushed” and dumbfounded by his secret past as a serial killer and rapist.
DeAngelo’s fiancé from the '70s, Bonnie Ueltzen, whose name he sometimes uttered as he attacked women, also had a statement read out through a victim as she was not permitted to address the court.
“If Bonnie were able to speak, Joe, she would want you to know that as just a teenager 50 years ago, she broke her engagement to you when she realized you had become manipulative and abusive,” the statement said. “When you thought you could kidnap her and force her to marry you, even a gun pointed at her face could not make her choose you.”
Several victims testified that, since DeAngelo’s 2018 arrest, they have been able breathe, knowing the “bogeyman” who lingered in the shadows is finally getting justice.
“Finally the end of this trauma is here,” Peggy Frink said. “He’s a horrible man and none of us have to worry about him anymore.”