Author Michelle McNamara wrote the expansive book I'll Be Gone in the Dark that HBO has now turned into a documentary series about the search for the Golden State Killer. McNamara passed away in 2016 before she got to see where the Golden State Killer is now, but her legacy lives on as she's the one who gave the Golden State Killer that name in the first place.
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, originally, a series of California rapes in the '70s and '80s was thought to be attributed to one man, nicknamed the East Area Rapist. Several Southern California murders around the same time were attributed to another, nicknamed the Original Night Stalker. The Diamond Knot Killer was a nickname given to a supposed third criminal who used complicated knots to tie his victims up. DNA testing of crime scene samples eventually revealed that the three men were one in the same, per the Sentinel. McNamara then nicknamed the California criminal the Golden State Killer, and he's been known as that ever since.
In 2018, 40 years after some of the crimes had been committed, the police believed that they had found their man. They arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, a former Auburn, California police officer. And they way they tracked him down was truly impressive.
How was the Golden State Killer found?
Because investigators had DNA samples taken from the Golden State Killer's crimes, they used that to their advantage. According to the New York Times, investigators set up a fake profile on the genealogy website GEDmatch and submitted the Golden State Killer's DNA. Their search turned up several distant relatives as well as some character traits for which to be on the lookout. A second New York Times article reported that the GEDmatch site had an eye color and hair predictor tool that led investigators to believe that their suspect had blue eyes and was balding. Using that and the distant relatives from the genealogy site, investigators were able to narrow down the Golden State Killer's family tree to the man they suspected: Joseph James DeAngelo. From there, officials gathered his DNA from DeAngelo's car door handle and a used tissue that he'd thrown away. His arrest followed shortly after in April 2018.
The Golden State Killer recently pleaded guilty
Although the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that the Golden State Killer's DNA links him to over 175 crimes spanning between 1976 and 1986, DeAngelo faced trial for 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges. The first aforementioned NYT article reported that DeAngelo could not be charged for a series of rapes that the Golden State Killer is believed to have carried out in the '70s, due to the statute of limitations expiring.
The Sacramento Bee reported that DeAngelo's was expected to take a plea deal to avoid the death penalty. Prosecutors reportedly agreed to the plea deal to avoid a lengthy and expensive trial that likely wouldn't see 74-year-old DeAngelo making it to an execution anyway. It was also a way for his living victims to see him confess.
Per CNN, on June 29, DeAngelo followed through with the expectations and pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of kidnapping. He was also asked to say "I admit" in order to acknowledge the rapes and crimes he could not be charged for. He did admit to them.
How long will the Golden State Killer be in prison?
Since his arrest in 2018, DeAngelo has been jailed at the Sacramento County Jail. CNN reported that his sentencing is in August, after which he'll be transferred to a state prison to serve his sentence. According to CNN, he's expected to be sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. At the same time, he'll be serving 15 life terms for various weapons charges. He will also waive his right to appeal his charges and sentence. In short, he will never leave prison. And his dozens of victims and their families will finally have a little closure.