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US 'Golden State Killer' pleads guilty

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Joseph James DeAngelo, center, charged with being the Golden State Killer, responds to one of the charges against him during a hearing in Sacramento Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif. Monday June 29, 2020. DeAngelo, 74, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of murder and multiple other charges 40 years after a sadistic series of assaults and slayings in California. Due to the large numbers of people attending, the hearing was held at a ballroom at California State University, Sacramento to allow for social distancing. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

An ex-policeman accused of being the "Golden State Killer" who terrorised much of California with a string of slayings, rapes and break-ins has pleaded guilty to multiple murder and kidnapping charges.

Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, entered the pleas as part of a broader agreement outlined by prosecutors at a court hearing on Monday.

Under the agreement DeAngelo admitted to all the offences he stands accused of, stemming from a crime wave dating back to the mid-1970s.

Under terms of the plea deal, DeAngelo will face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While sparing the defendant from a potential death sentence, the deal also saves a dwindling number of ageing survivors, victims' families, witnesses and investigators involved in the case from legal proceedings that would likely have stretched on for years, prosecutors said.

The plea hearing was held in a ballroom at Sacramento State University, rather than a courthouse, to allow for more socially distanced seating space amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The defendant and his lawyers all wore medical-style, clear plastic face shields.

DeAngelo, dressed in orange jail garb and slumped in a wheelchair with his mouth agape, answered "guilty" in a raspy voice when the judge asked his plea to the first of 13 counts of first-degree murder and kidnapping charges he faced, most of which also encompassed rape allegations.

He went on to plead guilty and admit to additional charges and allegations as prosecutors from 11 California counties took turns presenting statements graphically detailing every rape, murder, and home invasion with which DeAngelo was accused.

The hearing wore on for more than three hours before the it broke for lunch.

DeAngelo's arrest in 2018 capped more than 40 years of investigation in a case that authorities said was finally solved by comparing crime-scene DNA evidence to information on genealogy websites consumers use to track their ancestry.

The breakthrough came about two months after the case gained renewed national attention in the bestselling book, I'll Be Gone in the Dark.

In addition to 13 murders and kidnappings, prosecutors said DeAngelo was known to have committed nearly 50 rapes in all and more than 120 burglaries in and around Sacramento, the eastern San Francisco Bay area and Southern California.

The crime spree spanned an 11-year period - from 1975 to 1986 - and began while DeAngelo was a police officer, authorities said.

He served on two small-town departments during the 1970s.

The suspect, whom authorities also had nicknamed the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker, became notorious for creeping into the homes of couples at night, tying them up and raping the woman before killing both victims.

© RAW 2020