The Case of Joseph James Deangelo
Joseph James DeAngelo is an American serial killer, serial rape, and burglary defendant who admitted to killing over thirteen victims in California between 1973 and 1986, though he claimed to have killed more. DNA evidence did not prove that he was the culprit, however, because there were no samples available to match his DNA. He was tried as an accessory to the murder of his girlfriend and family member. This crime is what made him the person known as the West Mesa Killer.
The sensational nature of this case made it a good detective story, but not a very popular one. There were very few clues leading up to the crime, other than some clothes that the killer had with him. A neighbor saw some men with a woman and a child in a car, but thought it was just one of those strange accidents that sometimes happens around the neighborhood. When the body was found, the focus turned to the killer. This led to the team of expert witnesses that testified about the crime and the methods that the killer used to commit it.
After several weeks of testimony, the jurors came to a verdict. They voted to convict and sentence Joseph James Deangelo to death. He was thirty-one years old at the time of his arrest. The jury decided that there was ample evidence to prove that he was guilty of the crime. They voted eight to four for a death sentence.
Several factors played a role in the outcome of this trial. Chief among these was the testimony of the witnesses. None of the prosecution witnesses could bring enough evidence to sway the jurors towards not putting him to death. The defense failed to produce any witnesses to contradict any of the prosecution witnesses’ statements. Even if they tried, they would have been unable to refute any of the stories their witnesses told.
Another factor in this case was the state of mind of the victim and the killer. Joseph James Deangelo was a young and intelligent man. He had a promising career ahead of him. He had a history of working hard and doing right. When he committed the crime, he was in a state of mind that gave him no reason to kill. In fact, he was one of the least threatening suspects.
The investigation into the case did not take very long. Within twenty-four hours of the discovery of the body, the police were called. By that time, three men were in custody. One was the shooter and the two convicted murders. One suspect fled to another state leaving the other two behind to face the death penalty. It was a matter of hours before Joseph Deangelo confessed to the murders.
Before the conviction and death sentence, there were several rumors and speculations surrounding the case. There was a claim that the serial killer was mentally ill and that perhaps he committed the crime because he was angry at his lover. There were even reports that said that it was a gay hate crime. Today, none of these theories hold any water.
Even today, there are those who believe that the serial killer and the police acted prematurely in this case. There is also the theory that the real killer may still be at large and is more likely to strike again. There were a lot of public pressure on this case and very few witnesses were willing to come forward to tell their story. The public was interested in finding the real perpetrator and not the one who was on trial for this crime. Sadly, the real perpetrator still walks free. This story might have been different if Joseph James Deangelo had gotten the chance to tell it.