For more than 40 years, law enforcement looked for the Golden State Killer, a man they believed was responsible for more than 100 break-ins, 50 rapes and 12 murders in California during the 1970s and 1980s.
In April, they believe they finally found their suspect — Joseph DeAngelo, 72, who was quietly living in the Sacramento suburb Citrus Heights.
DeAngelo currently awaits trial for the 12 murders and has not been charged with the rapes. He has not yet entered a plea on the murder charges.
When Stephanie Gosk, the host of Oxygen’s special “Golden State Killer: Main Suspect” traveled to California to learn more about DeAngelo from former neighbors and coworkers, they painted a contrasting picture of the man.
Richard Mangang met DeAngelo in 2007 at a Save Mart distribution center in Roseville, California. Mangang is a driver for the grocery store, and DeAngelo worked as a mechanic until his retirement in 2017.
They bonded over their love of fishing, and developed a friendship, fishing together at least once a week.
“If you fish you have one thing in common,” Mangang said. “I showed him how to fish with live bait, he showed me how to fish with lures.”
[Photo: Richard Mangang]
The fishing trips turned into a time for DeAngelo to give the younger man advice.
“[He] taught me to be a better man for the family,” Mangang told Gosk.
DeAngelo also gave Bill Helms, another coworker at Save Mart, advice.
“When I became a diabetic, he would tell me what I should eat and stuff, and I think he cared,” Helms told Gosk.
Helms saw DeAngelo as a devoted father of three adult daughters and grandchildren. Helms said DeAngelo kept working for years past his retirement to pay bills and help support his family.
“If he did this, there was two Joes,” Helms told Gosk. “There was Joseph DeAngelo and Joe DeAngelo. And the Joe that we knew in the shop, none of us think that he could have ever done anything like that.”
Other people who encountered DeAngelo in daily life saw a different side of him.
Jim Stancil befriended DeAngelo when Stancil was a teen and DeAngelo was a police officer living in Auburn. Their houses had adjoining backyards. Stancil and his friends would help DeAngelo around the house and in the garden, and DeAngelo would show off his model boats and motorbikes. DeAngelo even took him to get ice cream a few times.
“Most of the time he was a pretty nice guy — very comfortable with us. But whenever he would lose his temper, he would lose his temper,” Stancil said.
Stancil described an incident to Gosk where he and a friend of his were in DeAngelo’s garage, and his friend knocked over a soda.
“He just literally started screaming, ranting and raving. We were just taken aback by it,” Stancil said.
[Joseph DeAngelo when he was an Exeter, Calif. police officer. Credit: Oxygen via The Sun Gazette.]
Stancil’s sister Cheryl Brown called DeAngelo “Crazy Cop Joe” because of yelling matches Brown would get in with her mother over the family poodle.
“He would come out yelling and screaming and cussing, ‘Shut that effing dog up,’” Brown told Gosk.
At one point, the family’s dog was poisoned.
“My mom accused him of it because he was constantly yelling about the dog,” Brown said. “My mom didn’t want us to be around him because I think she had that sense as a mom that something wasn’t right, that he was not safe.”
Years later, the family moved from Auburn to Citrus Heights, another Sacramento suburb.
There, his yard abutted the Gorman family. The family had a Rottweiler that “irritated” DeAngelo, Sonja Gorman said.
“One time I was in the backyard, doing my gardening, and all of a sudden he came around the corner. He had come through the front gate and came into the backyard and he scared me,” Gorman told Gosk about one confrontation. “I get goosebumps right now just talking about it because it scared me. It scared me really bad.”
Her son Grant also remembers clashes over the dog.
“We came home from church one weekend and there was a message that said ‘If you don’t shut that dog up I’m going to bring a load of death to your house,’” Grant Gorman said.” My dad immediately recognized the voice as Joe.”
According to Grant, DeAngelo admitted to the answering machine message after Grant’s father confronted him.
“That year we had the death threat left, the dog started to have serious medical issues,” Grant said. “We had to put the dog down, and our family is suspicious that Joe might have poisoned the dog and it went undiagnosed.”
There is no evidence to connect DeAngelo to the suspected dog poisonings.
While living in Citrus Heights, DeAngelo separated from his wife Sharon Huddle in the early 1990s. Despite Huddle practicing as a divorce attorney, the couple has never divorced, but remain estranged.
Accounts from other community members also portray DeAngelo as volatile.
In recent years, DeAngelo would frequent Charlie’s Café, a breakfast and brunch diner in Citrus Heights. He earned the sarcastic nickname “Mr. Happy” because staff saw him as a moody customer who could be difficult if he didn’t get exactly what he wanted.
Manager Julie Campbell waited on DeAngelo several times, and found him to be “very grumpy, very grouchy, [and] very loud.”
After a while, Campbell got used to his unusual requests: Tuna salad with lots of extra onion. A large glass of water, no ice.
“You better not even have a sliver of ice or he’d yell very loud and let you know,” Campbell said.
On one of his early visits to the café, owner Charlene Carte served him a tuna salad.
“When I came up, there was cheese all over the table. He took it off the salad and threw it all over the table,” Carte said.
She asked him what was wrong and didn’t remember him mentioning not liking cheese or being allergic.
“There’s cheese all over my salad! What are you trying to do? Kill me?” Carte says he shouted at her.
But one incident in particular left both Carte and Campbell very creeped out.
About two or three weeks before Christmas, Campbell was wearing a pair of pants that got loose and she had to hike up.
“He asked me, ‘What did you forget your belt? Can’t afford a belt?’” Campbell said. “He was joking around and said ‘I’ll bring you one.’”
A week later, DeAngelo brought in a gift bag and a belt from Hot Topic.
Campbell thought it was unusual that an older man was shopping at Hot Topic. Then it went from weird to scary.
“He said you can wear it around your waist or around your neck, whatever fits best,” Campbell said. “I thought it was his mean way of being funny or sarcastic.”
The incident came to mind for Carte and Campbell once DeAngelo was arrested, as well as another time that he pinched Carte above the waist and she admonished him for being inappropriate. But they are both still grappling with the litany of crimes he’s suspected of committing, including 12 murders and more than 50 rapes, with the man they used to see in the diner.
“He didn’t have the look of a killer,” Carte said. “Even when he touched me that doesn’t make you a rapist. It just makes you a creep.”
[Joe DeAngelo in his Aubrn Police Department uniform Credit: Oxygen via Auburn Journal]
Robert Brown was DeAngelo’s boss since the early 1990s at Save Mart. He recalled a few personality conflicts and blow-ups over the years, but nothing out of the ordinary for a workplace.
“It’s difficult to imagine the Joe that I knew being that same person,” Brown told Gosk. “If he’s worn a mask, he’s done it very well.”
That’s exactly what some law enforcement and criminal experts think DeAngelo, did, however.
“I think with those conflicting aspects of his personality, in part, I believe he has that ability to compartmentalize,” Paul Holes, a long-time investigator on the case, told Gosk.
Dr. Judy Ho, a forensic psychologist, speculates his family and work life provided him cover.
“He could have seen his family as another way to hide from law enforcement,” Ho said. “Because it’s really hard to arouse suspicion when you live in suburbia and you have three children and you have a wife and you seem to just have normal activity every day.”