Have you seen court photos of Golden State Killer suspect Joseph DeAngelo in a wheelchair and wondered how he could have committed murders and dozens of rapes?
That's the point, one investigator says.
Paul Holes, a recently-retired investigator with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, discussed the Golden State Killer case at a Crimecon panel in Nashville Friday.
He said the frail appearance of the 72-year-old DeAngelo, who is now a suspected serial killer, is all an act.
“I watched him for seven hours during [police] interviews,” Holes said. “He was catatonic and non-responsive during the times I saw him, but I started to see the his wheels turn. He’s the ultimate tactician, and his defense strategy is going to try and minimize what’s going to happen to him. He’s intelligent, and sophisticated. He realizes he’s not going to get out but he’s going to try and self-preserve. The wheelchair is part of that strategy.”
Holes said that while staking out DeAngelo, authorities realized he’s physically fit for his age.
“Don’t believe this guy that you see being wheeled into court. That’s not who he is,” Holes said. “He has numerous registered guns in his house and he’s been going to the range to keep up his proficiency.”
The panel also included Jane Carson-Sandler, who in 1976 was raped while her 3-year-old son was in the room by a man who authorities believe was the Golden State Killer. DeAngelo has not been charged for the crime.
Carson-Sandler told the audience of about 2,500 at Crimecon about her mix of emotions over his recent arrest, including anger at seeing him in court.
“I get emotional seeing him in that wheelchair because I just want to grab him and punch the crap out of him,” Carson-Sandler said. “I don’t know whether going to get that opportunity but I’m going to pray about that, just like I prayed about him getting apprehended.”
An audience member told Carson-Sandler she understood how she felt.
“I have also prayed about knocking somebody out,” the audience member said. “You gotta lay ‘em out on the ground before you can lay hands on them and pray for them.”
DeAngelo was arrested April 25 and has been charged with four murders, but he’s suspected by authorities of being responsible for a dozen killings and more than 50 rapes in the 1970s and '80s.
In his court appearances, DeAngelo appears weak, often squinting in the courtroom and answering in a voice barely above a whisper.
His appearance in court took those who knew him by surprise, the Chronicle reports, because neighbors have described him as “high strung” and always “talking or yelling," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Interesting to see Joseph James Deangelo in a wheelchair on Friday,” Pedro Rivera, a news reporter with Fox 40 in Sacramento tweeted. “From speaking with many people who knew him, they describe Deangelo as a ‘fit guy’, always working on projects in his front yard, recently helped put up a fence.”
In fact, he was working on a woodworking project and cooking a roast when authorities came to arrest him.
Gina Tron contributed to this report.