Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. plead guilty to over a dozen felony charges, and admitted to other uncharged crimes, on Monday, June 29.
The 74-year-old, who's also referred to as the Golden State Killer, admitted to committing a myriad of crimes in a Sacramento State ballroom—arranged to accommodate California's social distancing guidelines—in exchange for not being given the death sentence and living out the remainder of his days in prison. He also waived his appellate rights and agreed to pay to-be-determined restitution to his victims.
In attendance at the hearing were survivors and family members of DeAngelo's victims, in addition to prosecutors from each of the counties in which DeAngelo committed crimes.
One person who was unable to attend the hearing was Patton Oswalt, widow of the late Michelle McNamara. In the years preceding her death in April 2016, the true crime author thoroughly investigated the then-suspected crimes of the Golden State Killer, a moniker she established through her writing.
McNamara died before her book I'll Be Gone in the Dark could be published and before she could see the alleged serial rapist and murderer arrested in April 2018. However, her husband, Oswalt, has carried on her legacy and continues to speak on her behalf.
As news of DeAngelo's guilty plea made headlines Monday morning, the comedian wrote on Twitter, "The most important people at the #GoldenStateKiller hearing today are the survivors. All present, all staring directly at that zilch of a human being, and he can't return their gaze. That's what I'm focusing on."
In addition, Paul Haynes, who helped McNamara with her research into the Golden State Killer, shared, "There's something richly poetic in the image of Joseph DeAngelo, who committed all his crimes while wearing a mask to conceal his face, admitting guilt while wearing a mask that's transparent."
Among true crime aficionados, there's debate over how much of a role McNamara played in finding the sadistic serial killer who terrorized California from 1975 to 1986.
Investigators often credit an open-source genealogy website called GEDmatch, as well as their detective skills, as the reason why they were able to close the many cases tied to the Golden State Killer.
On the other hand, many believe that were it not for McNamara's dedication to obtaining justice, DeAngelo may never have been found. It's suggested that her blog True Crime Diary and her much-publicized book brought greater attention to DeAngelo's alleged crimes and put greater pressure on the detectives working the cases.
"No? I'll Be Gone in the Dark didn't help?" a fan tweeted to Patton. "YES, it did!"
"It did," he responded. "Bit Michelle McNamara didn't care about getting any shine on herself. She cared about the #GoldenStateKiller being behind bars and the victims getting some relief. She was Marge Gunderson in FARGO, not Chilton in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS."
Oswalt continued, "Also, the cops will NEVER and HAVE NEVER credited a writer or journalist for helping them solve a case. But every time they said #GoldenStateKiller they credited the work of #MichelleMcNamara and #IllBeGoneInTheDark."
McNamara's life and work are now the subject of a six-part HBO series named after her book I'll Be Gone in the Dark.
A complete list of charges against DeAngelo is forthcoming. Nonetheless, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.