Content warning: This article contains descriptions of rape, assault, and murder.
It's been a year since I'll Be Gone in the Dark, the HBO series that retold how late writer Michelle McNamara worked to identify the Golden State Killer, debuted. It's also been a year since Joseph James DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 counts of kidnapping to commit rape and 13 murders, finally allowing the world to learn who the Golden State Killer truly was.
The killer, also known as the East Side Rapist, terrorized California throughout the 1970s and '80s. McNamara, who coined the term "Golden State Killer," spent much of her professional life studying his attacks and compiling evidence, though she sadly died before seeing him brought to justice.
The Golden State Killer, at first, targeted single women whose homes he would break into to rape and assault them. He then moved on to couples. He would break in to first tie the man up before tying up and raping the woman. Though the Golden State Killer was active decades prior, it wasn't until 2018 when Joseph DeAngelo was arrested. Two years later, he admitted to his crimes and, shortly thereafter, was sentenced. But where is DeAngelo today? Is he still alive?
Joseph DeAngelo is still alive and, reportedly, at the Protective Housing Unit at the California State Prison.
ABC News reported that DeAngelo was moved to the Protective Housing Unit at the California State Prison in Corcoran, Calif., on Jan. 26, 2021. Officials claim that the unit is used for individuals "whose safety would be endangered by general population housing." Inmates with high notoriety and public interest often are placed within such units.
There has not been an update on DeAngelo's location since January of 2021, so most likely, he remains within the Protective Housing Unit. The now 75-year-old former police officer was sentenced to life without parole in August of 2020. Though he was notably almost silent throughout his trial, he did say the words "guilty" and "I admit" as part of a plea deal that would allow him not to be given the death penalty, receiving a life sentence instead.
He also claimed that, though he did admit to his crimes, they were the doings of "Jerry," an inner personality that told him to commit the acts. Sacramento County prosecutor Thien Ho cast doubts on this assertion, noting that he appeared to fake feebleness in front of detectives but was coherent under surveillance. He additionally pointed out that when DeAngelo was arrested for shoplifting three decades prior, he also acted unwell.
In addition to pleading guilty to the 13 murders, he also admitted to having committed dozens of rapes. However, due to the statute of limitations, they were too old to prosecute.
The newest special episode of I'll Be Gone in the Dark, which will address the aftermath of DeAngelo's sentencing, airs on HBO June 21 at 10 p.m. EST.
If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit RAINN.org to chat online one-on-one with a support specialist at any time.