Killers Keep Secrets -The Golden State Killers Other Life - by James Huddle

Between 1975 and 1986 Joseph James Deangelo killed more than a dozen people and raped at least 50 across California between 1975 & 1986, but what about the killer's personal life, or how he managed to keep a normal family life, during his nefarious activities?

In 2018 author James Huddle was shocked to discover that his brother-in-law could be guilty of such crimes. With the gift of hindsight, could he have spotted anything suspicious in his old confidante's background?

It appears that Joe's criminal activity began before the murders and is suspected of local cat burglaries near his flatshare between 1973 - 1975 and unlike a lot of psychopaths, he also had a degree in criminology, eventually becoming a police officer during the time of his alleged crime spree. By 1977,  the man is now known as the 'east area rapist' having raped at least 17 women and the attempted rape of another. By now, Joe was also married to the author's sister, and a few small ' red flags' were apparent. Fired from the force in '78 over a bizarre shoplifting incident, the murders continued to tally up, and now couples became the targets, double murders increase across several states. Fast forward to September of 1981 and Joe's daughter is born, the killings seem to stop at this exact time and it not until 1986 that the final east side rapist aka golden state killer murder is committed.

A crime scene photo released by the FBI

The final murder is of a teenage girl, bearing the hallmarks of his previous work and the police again retrieve DNA from the scene. it matches previous cases but they still haven't found their man. James continues his friendship with Joe, building model planes, shooting guns, and the one-time killer shows little evidence of his murderous hobby or sinister personality traits. Do you think you'd recognise a killer in your family? I imagine for most people this would be unthinkable, never mind remotely unimaginable. Following the arrest, James often wondered if he'd missed any 'red flags' during his time with the killer but I imagine he will never know for certain. 

By 1991 Joe and James' sister were heading for the divorce courts. although they never did it officially, I imagine it was a relief for him not to be associating so closely to a lawyer, however, he was keen on the status that his legal eagle wife gave them. It wasn't until 2018 once he'd been arrested that proceedings were in place, more of a paperwork issue than anything to do with his nefarious behaviour. In the decade before his arrest, James does mention that some distance suddenly became between the former friends, was he hiding guilt, acts of crime, or something just as sinister? Joe evaded capture for more than 40 years and even the FBI put out a £50k reward to find him but to no avail.

After his capture, former friends, neighbours, colleagues (he worked as a mechanic after his time in the military and the police) spoke of the kind and generous man who showed no signs of dangerous behaviour. The police would soon find him and it was down to the DNA they had collected from the hundreds of crime scenes the killer had fled.

James Huddle writes short sharp chapters offering a genuine, unique, and rational insight into the golden gate killer, but what was it that made Joseph James DeAngelo into such a heinous beast? As this case is still relatively fresh*, James Huddle concludes the book by giving us an insight into notorious serial killers of the 1970s that were also active across the USA.

Joseph DeAngelo faces court June 2020 

*UPDATE - (source BBC website 20/06/20) Joseph DeAngelo, the man known as the Golden State Killer, has admitted to 13 murders in a deal with US prosecutors meant to spare him the death penalty.

A case I wasn't aware of, this is a very good first-hand account of a serial killer’s life and is a genuinely good read. I'd imagine a true-crime documentary, film, and Netflix series are in the offing.