The man accused of being the Golden State Killer, who terrorized suburban California neighborhoods in a spate of brutal rapes and slayings in the 1970s and '80s before leaving a cold trail that baffled investigators for decades, was arraigned in Sacramento court Friday.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, made his first court appearance Friday. Handcuffed to a wheelchair in orange jail scrubs, he looked dazed and spoke in a faint voice to acknowledge he was represented by a public defender. He did not enter a plea.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones has said DeAngelo was in a psychiatric ward of the county jail and has said little. Jones says there's been "quiet reflection" and mumbling.
DeAngelo was charged with eight counts of murder in three counties after being linked to the crimes through his DNA. The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office on Thursday confirmed a relative's DNA on genealogy websites helped them track down DeAngelo.
Lead investigator Paul Holes told the Mercury News that one of his team's biggest tools was GEDMatch, a Florida-based website that pools DNA profiles that people upload and share publicly.
GEDMatch is a free site where users who have DNA profiles from commercial companies such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, but the free site doesn't require a court order to access the genetic database like the commercial sites do.
Most of the crimes, predominantly sex assaults but also two slayings, occurred in the three years he was an Auburn police officer in the Sierra foothills outside Sacramento.
DeAngelo's six-year career as a cop came swiftly to an end after being busted for shoplifting a can of dog repellant and a hammer from a Pay N' Save store in a Sacramento suburb in 1979.
Authorities are now wondering if the items he snatched were intended as tools for the sinister rash of crimes he's suspected of carrying out.
Until a week ago, DeAngelo, who lived in a neatly kept home in the Citrus Heights suburb where many of the attacks went down and where he was caught stealing, was not in their sights.
For 27 years, he worked in a cavernous Save Mart Supermarkets distribution warehouse in Roseville, a Sacramento suburb, before retiring last year, company spokeswoman Victoria Castro said.
"None of his actions in the workplace would have led us to suspect any connection to crimes being attributed to him," she said in a statement.
DeAngelo built remote-controlled model airplanes and took meticulous care of his house and manicured lawn, neighbors said.
Natalia Bedes-Correnti said DeAngelo appeared to be a "nice old grandpa" who lived with an adult daughter and granddaughter. But he also had penchant for cussing loudly when he was frustrated.
"He liked the 'F-word' a lot," Bedes-Correnti said.
Deputies kept watch on the house and his comings and goings for several days and took him by surprise Tuesday afternoon as he walked outside.
As he was being arrested, he told officers he had a roast in the oven. They said they would take care of it.