Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo sentenced to life without possibility of parole

DeAngelo's crime spree started in 1975 while he was working as a police officer, authorities said. Over the years, his crimes morphed from stalking properties to serial rape and murder.
Image: Joseph James DeAngelo, known as the Golden State Killer, attends victim statements at court in Sacramento
Joseph James DeAngelo, known as the Golden State Killer, attends the third day of victim impact statements at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse in Sacramento, California, on Aug. 20, 2020.Santiago Mejia / Pool via Reuters
/ Source: NBC News

A former police officer known as the Golden State Killer for his crime spree across California in the 1970s and '80s was sentenced Friday to life without the possibility of parole.

Joseph DeAngelo, 74, who had eluded authorities for decades, pleaded guilty in June to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 rape-related charges in a deal that spared him the death penalty. As part of the plea agreement, he was required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution to the victims or their families, as well as any fees or fines.

He also publicly admitted to dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.

Prosecutors said DeAngelo admitted to harming 87 victims in 53 separate crimes spanning 11 California counties.

Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho has said the scope of DeAngelo's crime spree is "simply staggering, encompassing 13 known murders and almost 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986."

DeAngelo's crime spree started in 1975 while he was working as a police officer in Exeter, a northern California community in the San Joaquin Valley near the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Over the years, his crimes morphed from stalking properties to serial rape and murder.

DeAngelo went on to marry and raise his own family, escaping investigators' efforts to find him for decades, before he was arrested in 2018 in Ventura County. It is believed to be the first high-profile case to have been cracked with genetic genealogy. Authorities said they used "discarded DNA" to confirm that DeAngelo was the man generations of authorities and citizen sleuths had searched for.

His attacks up and down California inspired nicknames such as the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer.

"His monikers reflect the sweeping geographical impact of his crime," Ho said in June. "Each time, he escaped, slipping away silently into the night, leaving communities terrified for years."

Some of DeAngelo's victims are in their 80s and 90s. Some are dead.

But those who were willing and able spent the week addressing DeAngelo in court in anticipation of his sentencing.

Phyllis Henneman said she was 22 years "young and carefree" when her life changed forever in June 1976. She was home alone with her sister while their dad was out of town when DeAngelo attacked.

"Joseph DeAngelo, henceforth called 'the devil incarnate,' broke into my home, blindfolded me, tied me up, threatened my life with a knife and raped me," she said, describing DeAngelo's modus operandi, which also included tying up partners and spending hours in homes, leaving his victims wondering what terror would come next.

"Life as I knew it irrevocably changed that day," she said in the statement read by her sister, Karen Veilleux. But DeAngelo's arrest and upcoming sentencing meant "his victims and their families are now free."

A recent HBO documentary, "I'll Be Gone in the Dark," detailed the gruesome attacks and the desperate effort to find the killer, even as the years wore on.

The documentary is based on crime writer Michelle McNamara's book of the same name, in which she recounted her own obsessive effort to uncover the identity of the Golden State Killer and conviction that genetic genealogy would help her do it. McNamara, the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, died in 2016, two years before DeAngelo's arrest.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com.