Joseph James DeAngelo, the man suspected to be the Golden State Killer, may eventually be linked to the 50 rapes currently attributed to the killer, but it’s unclear if he can be prosecuted for them.
That’s because those crimes were committed in the 70s and 80s, when California’s statute of limitations for sexual offenses was either three or five years, depending on what year the crime was committed.
It’s thought that 13 slayings, 50 rapes and roughly 150 burglaries spanning a decade are associated with the killer, who is also popularly known as the East Area Rapist or Original Night Stalker.
Tulare County authorities believe he’s the man they know as the Visalia Ransacker. While the Ransacker isn't wanted locally on rape allegations, it's possible law enforcement may try to tie unsolved sexual assaults from between 1973-1976 to DeAngelo.
DeAngelo was an Exeter police officer from 1973 until January of 1976, about a month after he's accused of shooting at Visalia officer Bill McGowen. Three months earlier, DeAngelo is accused of killing College of the Sequoias professor Claude Snelling. Police believe DeAngelo may have been trying to rape or kidnap Snelling's daughter, who woke up to DeAngelo standing over her bed.
DeAngelo, who was arrested in late April after investigators used DNA and a genealogy website to link him to cases that had long gone cold, has been charged with 12 murders currently associated with the killer.
Tulare County hasn't been added to the list because police didn't collect DNA at the time of Snelling's death.
In Santa Clara County, where two of the rapes occurred, Deputy District Attorney Terry Harmon says prosecutors can’t file charges against DeAngleo simply because the crimes happened so long ago, despite the recent elimination of the state’s statute of limitations for sexual offenses.
“Those are good things, but it doesn’t do anything for these 1978 rape victims, so it’s bittersweet,” Harmon said.
California eliminated its statute of limitations for sexual offenses in 2016. But that change only affects crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2017 or within the last ten years, the state’s previous statute of limitations.
According to Harmon, who oversees the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office sexual assault unit, any changes made since would not have grandfathered those 1978 attacks in.
In Sacramento County, which had more than half of the 50 rapes committed within its boundaries, prosecutors wouldn’t say if the statute of limitations bars them from prosecuting the rapes.
Sacramento County Chief Deputy Attorney Steve Grippi would only say his office is “still evaluating what additional charges can and will be filed,” via an email.
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