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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., whose murder victims included a Dana Point couple, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder on Monday, June 29.
The hearing was held in a makeshift courtroom within a ballroom at Sacramento State University to accommodate the victims and loved ones with social distancing. DeAngelo, as well as attorneys and sheriff’s deputies, could be seen in the broadcast wearing face shields and face masks.
A string of rapes, murders and burglaries in the 70s and 80s went unsolved for decades until investigators announced they had named DeAngelo as the suspect using DNA from a genealogy website in 2018.
DeAngelo, now 74 years old, is a former police officer. He was arrested April 24, 2018 in Sacramento on a warrant issued from Ventura County on two counts of murder with special circumstances, including murder during a rape and murder during a burglary. DeAngelo, who is suspected of being responsible for more than a dozen murders, more than 50 rapes and 120 burglaries in the state of California beginning in 1974, suddenly vanished in 1986. The investigation had remained open ever since.
Tony Rackauckas, who was the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) at the time of the arrest, spoke at a Sacramento press conference.
“Joseph James DeAngelo has been called a lot of things, but today, we are proud to call him … defendant,” Rackauckas said.
On Monday, OCDA Todd Spitzer read aloud the circumstances of the killing of Patrice and Keith Harrington of Dana Point.
On Aug. 19, 1980, the defendant struck in the middle of the night, allegedly raping Patrice Harrington and then bludgeoning both Patrice and her husband Keith to death in their Niguel Shores home on Cockleshell Drive. The couple, who had only been married for three months, had recently moved into their new home, owned by Keith’s father.
“Keith was a 24-year-old, fourth-year medical school student,” Spitzer said. “Patrice as a 28-year-old, pediatric trauma nurse. They were newlyweds, only having been married for three months.”
DeAngelo entered the home with the intent to commit rape, murder and theft, Spitzer said. Both Patrice and Keith Harrington died from brain contusions due to massive skull fractures and blunt force trauma to the head.
“DeAngelo’s decision to kill Patrice and Keith Harrington was willful, deliberate and premeditated as evidenced by the nature and extent of the fatal injuries inflicted and the fact that the defendant at the time had already committed numerous other killings in a similar fashion,” Spitzer said.
On Aug. 21, Keith’s father discovered the couple murdered in their bed.
Spitzer stated that the DNA recovered from the scene of the crime matched DeAngelo’s DNA, which was obtained earlier this year. Spitzer also read aloud the circumstances of killings of Manuela Witthuhn and Janelle Cruz, both in Irvine.
Bruce Harrington, Keith’s brother, was instrumental in the research, financial funding and shaping of California Proposition 69, which requires DNA samples from all felony arrests in the state, as well as some misdemeanors.
California voters in November 2004 passed Proposition 69, the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act, to expand and modify state law regarding the collection and use of criminal offender DNA samples and palm print impressions.
Bruce began his pursuit of Proposition 69 in the mid-1990s when DNA became available, and now more than a decade later, has come full circle as DNA evidence was crucial in the arrest of his brother’s alleged killer.