Although the Golden State Killer was finally caught in 2018, he was only just recently sentenced to life in prison in the summer of 2020. As we revisit his sentencing and finally close his case in an epilogue to the I’ll Be Gone in the Dark HBO series, we want to know who caught the Golden State Killer.
The crazy thing about this case is that it was cold for decades until Michelle McNamara revived public interest in it with her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.
She sadly passed away suddenly in 2016 before authorities finally caught up to Joseph DeAngelo in 2018, but her research and reinvigoration of public interest can’t be discounted in catching the Golden State Killer. But who actually caught him?
It was a combined effort among all the people who collectively caught the Golden State Killer.
If you ask Patton Oswalt, he would say his late wife was the driving force behind catching the Golden State Killer, but if you ask the Sacramento Police Station who caught him, they might disagree. However, before Michelle McNamara began her research, no one believed that the Golden State Killer was just one person.
DeAngelo is responsible for over 100 crimes, including break-ins, thefts, assaults, and murders all over California. But thanks to McNamara, she was able to connect the dots between all the crimes due to the similar MOs exhibited throughout them all.
Because of McNamara’s research, investigators were able to pull together DNA from evidence that had been sitting in the cold case files and start to piece together who the Golden State Killer really was. However, civilian tips and DNA research were the nails in the coffin for DeAngelo.
How did they catch the Golden State Killer?
Paul Holes, one of the main investigators on the Golden State Killer case, uploaded a DNA profile to a GED match program, which is a new type of DNA service that can match DNA through genealogy. One of the craziest parts of the Golden State Killer’s story is how it ends. Through DNA that was uploaded to a family genealogy service, investigators were able to narrow down suspects.
Then, within their pool of six suspects, they knew that whoever the Golden State Killer was had to have blue eyes and premature balding. The only suspect with blue eyes was Joseph DeAngelo. However, Barbara Rae-Venter’s involvement in catching DeAngelo shouldn’t be discounted.
She is the genealogist that worked with Paul Holes to narrow down the DNA. But she also found a 1979 newspaper clipping that said Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer, was caught stealing a hammer and a can of dog food. From there, Holes went down his own rabbit hole and started putting together the jigsaw puzzle of DeAngelo’s horrendous crimes.
The final straw was when investigators tailed DeAngelo and matched a current sample of his DNA to the old evidence. They arrested him, and he admitted to everything. “I did all that,” DeAngelo admitted, though he blamed an inner personality he called Jerry.
He confessed, “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.”
Today, DeAngelo is serving a life sentence without parole in the California State Prison.
The epilogue of I'll Be Gone in the Dark airs June 21 at 10 p.m. EST on HBO.