While many of the survivors of the Golden State Killer’s victims have bravely spoken out about what they've endured, what about his loved ones? Joseph DeAngelo, the former cop who killed 13 people and committed almost 50 rapes between 1975 and 1986, fooled authorities and his community alike. He also fooled his family.
While stalking, raping, and killing during the night, he put on the facade of being a family man during the day. He was married and raised three daughters. He was living with one of those daughters, along with a granddaughter, in a big house in California’s suburban Citrus Heights when he was arrested in 2018, KTVU reported at the time. Could his family, including members he lived with, have suspected he was a serial killer? As DeAngelo's nephew Wes Ryland said in the final episode of HBO's "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" — which chronicles author Michelle McNamara's quest to identify the Golden State Killer — DeAngelo was full of secrets.
Not only did DeAngelo torture women and couples for years — he'd put dishes on the backs of the men while he raped the women, telling them that if any dishes broke, he’d kill them both — but he seemingly continued to try and get twisted satisfaction out of his dark secrets even after he abruptly stopped killing. As the docuseries points out, he continued to make prank calls to some of the survivors for years.
As audio of a news report included in the docuseries stated, "It would be living hell to be related to this person." His arrest and the revelation of all the horrifying crimes he committed shocked several of his relatives. Here’s a breakdown of how his family members reacted to the news and the insight they offered into the case.
Sharon Huddle, Wife
Joseph DeAngelo married Sharon Huddle in 1973. They split up in 1991, but didn’t officially divorce for decades.
They were known to have marital issues. Nick Willick — who was the chief of the Auburn Police Department when DeAngelo worked for the force in the late 1970s — explained on the 2018 special “Golden State Killer: Main Suspect” that the couple slept in separate bedrooms back in the 1970s.
When they lived in separate homes in the 1990s, DeAngelo would come over often and the estranged couple would have “epic shouting matches,” a former neighbor told the San Jose Mercury News in 2018.
Huddle’s brother wrote in his book “Killers Keep Secrets: The Golden State Killer’s Other Life” that he once asked his sister about their deteriorating relationship.
“She didn’t give me any specifics, but I recall that she said he was manipulative,” he wrote.
Huddle, a divorce lawyer who is still active in the profession, filed for divorce from DeAngelo in 2018 following his arrest. She has only spoken out once, in the form of a statement released through the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
“My thoughts and prayers are for the victims and their families,” she stated in June 2018. “The press has relentlessly pursued interviews of me. I will not be giving any interviews for the foreseeable future. I ask the press to please respect my privacy and that of my children.”
DeAngelo’s daughters have not spoken out publicly about the case.
Lisa Ortiz, Cousin
While technically cousins by marriage, Lisa Ortiz explained in "I'll Be Gone in the Dark" that she knew the serial killer as simply “Uncle Joe,” a father figure for her.
“I still today have a hard time believing that he did it,” she told the docuseries’ producers. “I mean, Joe's like an amazing person. He was loving and nice and just the dad that I always wished that I had had.”
Ortiz actually lived with DeAngelo from 1982 to 1986, which was during the latter part of his heinous spree, as well as when he took a break from murder before his final known killing in 1986. Ortiz got married and moved out of DeAngelo’s home that year.
Six days after DeAngelo was arrested, she crafted a letter to him which she read in “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.” In that letter, she expressed her shock at his arrest. He taught her how to drive and how to shoot, she noted.
“You were a good dad,” she wrote. “That is the one thing I know to be true. I hope you did care about me because my heart is forever broken.”
Jim Huddle, Brother-In-Law
Huddle first spoke to Oxygen.com in the immediate aftermath of DeAngelo's arrest.
When Oxygen.com reached out to him, he replied, "Wow. I'll have to process this."
However, he did eventually divulge a bit about the relative he called a "good father." Huddle told Oxygen.com that DeAngelo once casually brought up the East Area Rapist case in the early 1970s. (The East Area Rapist, along with the Original Night Stalker, were monikers of DeAngelo's.)
"He actually asked me about it once," Huddle said. "He said, 'What do you think of that East Area Rapist? What would you do, Jim?'"
Huddle has since written a book about him entitled ,“Killers Keep Secrets: The Golden State Killer’s Other Life,” which came out in late June, a day after DeAngelo’s guilty plea.
In the book, he explained he was initially charmed by DeAngelo when they met in 1971; DeAngelo (then about 25) was dating his 17-year-old sister, Sharon Huddle. The two men soon became roommates, and Huddle noted during that time that DeAngelo bragged about hooking up with his sister and introduced him to shooting and hunting. After Huddle got married and moved into a place with his wife, he claimed he expressed concern to DeAngelo about the East Area Rapist — so DeAngelo checked his home security for him.
Huddle wrote that his brother-in-law yelled often and got irrationally upset about the little things, like misplacing his keys. He mentioned that once DeAngelo hassled all their kids for watching the slasher movie “Friday the 13th.”
“You guys are sick," he jokingly said, according to the book. “You like that stuff?”
Huddle also noticed a correlation between the killer’s attack patterns and important milestones in DeAngelo’s life. He observed that in 1981, when DeAngelo and his wife began having children, the killing halted for a bit.
Jim Huddle spoke out to the media again after DeAngelo admitted being the serial killer. He told ABC News that he was a “monster “ and an “evil person” who was “crazier” than he ever could have imagined.
Jesse Ryland, Nephew
A little less than a month after DeAngelo's arrest, his nephew Jesse Ryland spilled shocking personal details about the family to BuzzFeed News. He is one of the sons of DeAngelo's sister, who passed away from cancer in 2017.
Ryland explained that his mother revealed to him as she was dying that two airmen raped her in front of DeAngelo when she was 7 and when DeAngelo was around 9 or 10.
"That's pretty crazy for a kid to see his sister be violated," he told the outlet. "Maybe that was the start of Joe going wacko."
He claimed that the siblings were also abused by their own parents as they were growing up.
"She [DeAngelo's mom] would hit my mom all the time," Ryland said. "I'm pretty positive they were all abused like that."
Wes Ryland, Nephew
Wes Ryland is Jesse's brother.
“We had no clue," Wes noted in "I'll Be Gone in the Dark." Still, he revealed a childhood encounter with a masked man in his home who was very likely DeAngelo.
While Wes was growing up in Rancho Cordova, he said he awoke one night to see a man in a ski mask staring back at him.
“I always wondered all these years who was talking to me through his teeth, saying, 'Don’t turn around; go back to sleep,'" Wes revealed in the docuseries. He said for years he told nobody about the bizarre encounter. Then, when DeAngelo was arrested in 2018, he finally tearfully admitted to his wife what he had seen as a kid.
"I said, 'Wow, I wonder if he used our house as a safe haven,'" he described.
Their home was located near many of the houses that DeAngelo broke into.
He, like Jesse, spoke about trauma that DeAngelo endured during his own childhood. Like his brother, he mentioned the airmen and Wes' mother.
"He watched her getting raped," he said in the docuseries. "The very thing that happened to my mother is the very thing that my uncle went and did to other women. I don’t understand that. How sickening is that?"
Wes claimed that when his mom and DeAngelo were kids they would often go hungry. He said the siblings' dad would sometimes lock them in a closet before bringing them out and lining them up to induce corporal punishment on them.
“Guess who got the worst of the beatings?” Wes asked. "Joe."
Get all your true crime news from Oxygen. Coverage of the latest true crime stories and famous cases explained, as well as the best TV shows, movies and podcasts in the genre. And don't miss our own podcast, Martinis & Murder!