SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Victims of California serial killer and rapist Joseph DeAngelo want him locked away in a distant maximum security prison with other inmates since he isn't going to spend the rest of his life on death row.
But they may not hold much sway over where the 74-year-old former police officer known as the Golden State Killer is imprisoned after he is sentenced Friday. State corrections officials said they must make their own evaluation about where and how DeAngelo can be housed.
Still, survivors and family members of victims have made recommendations during an ongoing sentencing hearing.
“You should be sent to the toughest prison in California. What a despicable piece of humanity you are,” Dolly Kreis, the mother of rape victim Debbie Strauss, who died in 2016, told DeAngelo in court.
Strauss’ sister, Sandy James, urged Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman to send DeAngelo to California’s notorious supermaximum Pelican Bay State Prison.
He “deserves the worst possible environment, where he can live in fear as his victims did,” she said.
Gay Hardwick, another rape victim, said in court Wednesday that she is certain DeAngelo is angling to be sent to “some prison nursing home for old murdering psychopaths.”
In June, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges between 1975 and 1986. He also publicly admitted dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired. After the hearing, where victims are describing how they were traumatized by DeAngelo, he will be sentenced to consecutive life sentences under a plea deal that will spare him the death penalty.
Considerations involving his imprisonment include his medical and mental health needs, notoriety and safety concerns — potentially key calculations given his age and headline-grabbing crimes. Prosecutors have been trying to counter DeAngelo’s courtroom appearance as a feeble man confined to a wheelchair, noting in a court filing that jail video shows him to be “healthy and physically active.”
DeAngelo won’t be going anywhere for a while because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has indefinitely halted transfers from county jails to prisons because of the coronavirus pandemic. When he is finally transferred, he will automatically be held at maximum security level, as are all those convicted of first-degree murder.
It will be up to prison officials to decide which prison and whether he must be housed in a protective custody unit.
“The court can make a recommendation, but ultimately, CDCR is the housing authority for the inmate population,” department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said in an email. The department “does consider these requests based on the nature of the case and out of respect for the victims as much as possible, but CDCR must follow its regulations to ensure safety and security within its institutions.”
The department has a special protective housing unit at Corcoran State Prison for high-profile inmates, though it’s not clear if DeAngelo would go there. Notable past residents have included Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan.
Pelican Bay has a maximum security unit, but most of what had been the supermax portion of the prison is now used for minimum security inmates under a court settlement.
Many victims want the harshest possible punishment.
”I don’t want to think of him breathing the same air and seeing the same sky as I do,” Hardwick said in an interview.
In court Wednesday, she described how he assaulted her in 1978. DeAngelo simply stared ahead with no response, as he has throughout the hearings. Except for his eyes, his face was hidden behind a mask designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“I’m certain that there is method in his madness and that his plan is to weaken himself in order to be assigned his life without parole sentence in some prison nursing home for old murdering psychopaths where he thinks he will be treated more like a patient than an inmate,” Hardwick told the judge.
When he spoke, her husband, who was bound by DeAngelo during the attack on his wife, spun what he acknowledged was an elaborate fantasy in which their assailant is repeatedly brutalized by other inmates in prison in a manner similar to his crimes.
“I would want Mr. DeAngelo to suffer for the rest of his life like the victims, the rape victims, have suffered the last 42 years,” he said.
Jane Carson-Sandler, who was raped in 1976 and also addressed the court on Wednesday, is among those asking for DeAngelo to be housed with other inmates and not in an isolation unit.
“lt’s going to cause him fear, because they don’t like rapists that go after young girls,” she said in an interview, “so he’d be looking over his shoulder.”
Carson-Sandler was accompanied by a woman she identified as DeAngelo’s one-time fiance, Bonnie, who broke off their engagement before his crime spree began. A woman named Bonnie Colwell appeared in the HBO documentary series “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” based on Michelle McNamara’s book of the same name.
Investigators have said one rape victim’s recollection that her assailant shouted “I hate you, Bonnie” helped lead them to DeAngelo.
“When she saw who you really were, she was done with you,″ Carson-Sandler told DeAngelo. “I can see that ’I hate you, Bonnie' was a result of your frustration, because you lost control over her. But she bears none, none of that responsibility for your violent choices, and we consider her one of us — the sister-survivors of your malicious attacks.”