By MICHAEL BALSAMO
A former police officer suspected of being one of California’s most elusive serial killers will face a trial in Sacramento County on more than two dozen charges, including 13 murder counts, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, is suspected of being the so-called Golden State Killer who terrorized residents of six counties during the 1970s and ’80s. He was arrested in April after authorities linked him to the cold case homicides using DNA.
DeAngelo, who remains jailed in Sacramento, will face trial there because of the complexity of the case, consideration of the suspect’s rights, the locations of the crimes and the hardship of victims and witnesses, officials told reporters.
Authorities have said DeAngelo is suspected of being the sadistic attacker who killed 13 people and raped nearly 50 women.
On Tuesday, prosecutors filed amended criminal complaint charging him with 13 counts of murder and 13 new counts of kidnapping for robbery. DeAngelo is set to be arraigned Thursday.
“This human predator, DeAngelo, took a path through all of these counties in our state and wherever he went he left the wake of terror in his path. He committed vicious, violent crimes in all of these jurisdictions,” Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.
DeAngelo’s attorney, Diane Howard, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday
His alleged crime spree had such an impact on residents that it made “opening the window or walking your dog through the neighborhood a terrorizing experience,” he said.
The new charges filed on Tuesday include four alleging that DeAngelo is suspected of “carrying away four women” to commit robberies in Contra Costa County in 1978 and 1979.
The nine other new charges are in connection with attacks committed in Sacramento County, said Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. While prosecutors don’t have DNA evidence in those cases, they are confident that DeAngelo is the suspect based on his “signature marks,” she said.
While prosecutors suspect he’s committed other crimes, the statute of limitations has run out, including for the crime of rape, the prosecutors said.
DeAngelo was arrested at his home in Citrus Heights in April after investigators matched crime-scene DNA with genetic material stored in an online database by a distant relative.
“We were looking for a needle in a haystack and we found it,” Schubert said.
Prosecutors want to move forward toward trial quickly because some of the surviving victims are older, but she said they have to be cognizant of DeAngelo’s right to a fair trial, Schubert said.
“We recognize this case will not be something that goes to trial very quickly,” she said.
Prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether they will pursue the death penalty against DeAngelo.
“It is a very serious, solemn process we don’t take lightly,” said Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten. “That process is quite a ways down the road on this case.”