Golden State Killer’ suspect appears in court after 40 year manhunt
A former policeman accused of being the “Golden State killer” has made his first court appearance, 30 years after the decade-long series of attacks.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, appeared before a judge in an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffed to a wheelchair.
He was formally arraigned on two murder charges dating back to 1978, and prosecutors said they expect more charges.
DeAngelo is a suspect in 11 other murders and 51 rapes committed across California between 1976 and 1986.
The father of three adult daughters was arrested on Tuesday at his home in Citrus Heights, a Sacramento suburb, after a 40-year manhunt.
DeAngelo spoke only briefly in court to confirm he had a lawyer. He did not enter a plea, and was denied bail.
Scott Jones, Sacramento county sheriff, said DeAngelo is on suicide watch in the psychiatric ward of the county jail. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
It emerged on Friday that police last year believed they had found the killer in an Oregon nursing home, after they used information from a genealogy website.
An Oregon police officer working at the request of California investigators persuaded a judge to order a 73-year-old man in an Oregon City nursing home to provide a DNA sample.
It is not clear if officers collected the sample and ran further tests, but it was not the man arrested this week outside Sacramento in one of the state’s most notorious string of serial rapes and killings.
The case of mistaken identity was discovered as authorities hailed the novel use of DNA technology.
Crime scene DNA from DeAngelo was matched with genetic material stored in an online database, GEDmatch, by a distant relative.
Police waited for him to discard items and then swabbed the objects for DNA, which proved a conclusive match to the evidence that had been preserved more than 30 years.
Curtis Rogers, who co-founded GEDmatch, said law enforcement’s use of the site raised privacy concerns. Police did not require a warrant, and Mr Rogers was unaware that his site had been used.
“This was done without our knowledge, and it’s been overwhelming,” he said.
DNA was just coming into use as a criminal investigative tool in 1986 when the predator also known as the East Area Rapist apparently ended his decade-long wave of attacks.
As a former police officer, DeAngelo probably would have known about the new method, experts said.
Police at the time suspected they were chasing a fellow policeman or armed services member because he was so methodical and meticulous, said Wendell Phillips, a former Sacramento deputy involved in the hunt.
All those involved in the search were asked to take DNA tests.
“Obviously, you didn’t want the East Area Rapist on the team,” said Mr Phillips. “That turned out to be a pretty good concern.”