District attorneys from throughout the state will convene in Orange County Tuesday to provide an update on prosecution of the Golden State Killer suspect, raising speculation the defendant’s first trial may be held in Santa Ana.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been in negotiations with prosecutors from various counties involved in the case to determine where to hold the first trial of 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo of Citrus Heights, who is charged in Orange County with four counts of murder with special circumstances allegations of multiple murders, murder by lying in wait, murder during rape, robbery and burglary.
Tuesday’s news conference is expected to include top prosecutors Diana Becton of Contra Costa, Anne Marie Schubert of Sacramento, Joyce E. Dudley of Santa Barbara, Tim Ward of Tulare and Gregory D. Totten of Ventura.
DeAngelo, a former police officer who is in custody in Sacramento County, has been twice scheduled for arraignment in Orange County — May 7 and May 30 — but both times the hearings were canceled.
DeAngelo is accused of killing 24-year-old Keith and 28-year-old Patrice Harrington Aug. 19, 1980, in Dana Point; 28-year-old Manuela Witthuhn in Irvine on Feb. 5, 1981; and 18-year-old Janelle Cruz in Irvine on May 5, 1986.
The Harringtons lived in a single-story home in the Niguel Shores gated community when they were attacked in their bedroom, said Investigator Larry Pool of the Golden State Killer task force. Their bodies were found on their blood-spattered bed with ligature marks on their wrists and Patrice’s ankles, Pool wrote in a probable cause declaration.
Their killer left the binds on the bed. It appears he tied their hands behind their backs, covered them in a comforter and slammed a blunt object over their heads, Pool said.
Investigators in 1996 matched semen at the crime scene to the killer in the two other Orange County cases, Pool said.
The identity of the killer remained anonymous until this year when investigators used a public genealogy database with DNA recovered from an item discarded by DeAngelo, Rackauckas said in an interview in May.
Witthuhn was attacked sometime between 11 p.m. Feb. 5, 1981, and 2 a.m. Feb. 6, 1981, when investigators believe she died, Pool said.
Her cause of death was due to skull fractures from a beating, Pool said. Her parents discovered her body when they went to check up on her, Pool said.
Witthuhn’s body was found in a sleeping bag investigators believe she was sleeping in, Pool said. There was no evidence of a struggle and she had ligature marks on her wrists and on her right ankle, Pool said.
Cruz was killed about 5 p.m. May 5, 1986, in her bed in her Irvine home, Pool said. Blood covered her head and neck and she was partially covered by her blanket, Pool said.
She had hemorrhaging in her eyes and bruises on the bridge of her nose, Pool said. Her killer knocked out three teeth with two found in her hair, Pool said.
She had no ligature marks on her wrists like the other victims, but there were abrasions, leading investigators to speculate her killer squeezed her wrists so hard he left a mark, Pool said.
Her lower lip was swollen, her tongue bitten. An ultra-violent light spotlighted semen on the victim, according to Pool. No murder weapon was found, but a pipe wrench in the backyard was missing.
Her cause of death was “crushing skull fractures,” Pool said.
DeAngelo is also linked to the murders of Lyman and Charlene Smith in Ventura on March 13, 1980; Cheri Domingo and Gregory Sanchez in Goleta on July 27, 1981; Robert Offerman and Alexandria Manning in Goleta on Dec. 30, 1979; Brian and Katie Maggiore in Rancho Cordova on Feb. 2, 1978; and Claude Snelling in Visalia on Sept. 11, 1975.
DeAngelo is also linked to the Ransacker burglaries from April 1974 through December 1975, a spree that ended with the attempted murder of Visalia Officer Bill McGowan as he tried to apprehend the suspect, Pool alleged.
DeAngelo is alleged to be the East Area Rapist who was suspected in 52 attacks in Contra Costa, Sacramento and Santa Clara counties from June 1976 through July 1979, Pool said.
DeAngelo attended the Kings County Public Safety Academy for 400 hours, Pool said. He worked for the Exeter police department until 1976, when he went to work as an officer in Auburn until he was fired in 1979 for shoplifting a hammer and dog repellant, Pool said.
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