Joseph James DeAngelo confessed to 13 murders and to raping up to 50 women in California during the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. He got away with his cruel crimes for decades until investigators were able to finally arrest the former police officer and Vietnam Veteran thanks to advances in DNA technology.
DeAngelo was arrested in April 2018 at his home in Sacramento County, a 72-year-old man by then. According to ABC News, it’s the same county where he started committing the crimes he would eventually be convicted of— crimes that spanned from 1976 through 1986.
The then-unknown man who terrorized California communities was dubbed The East Area Rapist in Northern California and the Original Night Stalker in Southern California, but while investigators suspected the same person was perpetrating burglaries, rapes and murders around the state, they were unable to prove it.
According to Biography, “In 2001 DNA analysis revealed that these rapes and murders had been committed by the same perpetrator, whom crime writer Michelle McNamara labeled the “Golden State Killer.”
DeAngelo Admitted to the Crimes He was Accused of But Said His Alter Ego Made Him Do It
In court, DeAngelo plead guilty to killing 13 people and raping many more during his decade-long reign of terror. After listening to 45 different victim statements over a three day period, including family members of those he murdered, DeAngelo told the court, “I have listened to all of your statements, each one of them, and I am truly sorry to everyone I have hurt. Thank you, your honor.”
But before that, Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho said that DeAngelo blamed his violent crimes on an alter ego who he called, Jerry.
According to USA Today, DeAngelo talked about “Jerry” in the interrogation room after his arrest in 2018, saying, “I did all that. I didn’t have the strength to push him out. He made me. He went with me. It was like in my head, I mean, he’s a part of me. I didn’t want to do those things. I pushed Jerry out and had a happy life. I did all those things. I destroyed all their lives. So now I’ve got to pay the price.”
The Sacramento Bee reported DeAngelo had carried out his crimes all the while married and raising three daughters, yet none of them, ever encountered “Jerry.”
In 1986 DeAngelo seemed to stop his attacks and went on with his life as a family man.
Some are Skeptical That DeAngelo Had an Alter-Ego
James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, told USA Today, “It’s self-serving for someone to suggest that they did all of these things because of this voice: ‘Don’t blame me, blame the voice,’” he said.
According to Fox, someone who is seriously mentally ill likely wouldn’t be able to get away with the crimes they commit for decades if they weren’t “usually cunning and organized”, USA Today reported.
“Serial killers who blame an alter-ego for their crimes are usually faking it,” he said.
Yet mental illness diagnoses are found in many serial killers. Specifically, Forensics Colleges reported that several infamous serial killers were diagnosed with either Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder at some point in their lives, whether before or after their arrests.
Still, Fox thinks that lots of these murderers fake mental illness once they’re caught. He told Oxygen, “They’re more crafty than crazy, more bad than mad,” he said.
He told Oxygen claims by serial killers like Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, and the so-called “Hillside Strangler,” Kenneth Bianchi to have heard a voice or have something inside them that urged them to kill were all means to manipulate officials after they were caught.
Fox told Oxygen that as for DeAngelo’s claim to have an alter ego named Jerry, “I am very skeptical of this…I think in situations like this, you have to consider what advantage there might be for a perpetrator to make such a claim.”