A former California police officer who became known as the Golden State Killer told victims he was “truly sorry” before he was sentenced to life imprisonment for a decade-long string of rapes and murders across a wide swath of California.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman said 74-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo will die in prison for his guilty pleas to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges between 1975 and 1986.

DeAngelo also publicly admitted dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.

Before sentencing, DeAngelo rose from a wheelchair, took off his mask and said to the court: “I listened to all your statements, each one of them, and I’m truly sorry for everyone I’ve hurt.”

DeAngelo also publicly admitted dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired.

Prosecutors called the scale of the violence “simply staggering”, encompassing 87 victims at 53 crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.

So many were his victims that Judge Bowman sentenced DeAngelo in a university ballroom large enough to hold the survivors and their families, after an extraordinary three days of hearings in which they told in often heart-rending detail how he had upended their lives.

DeAngelo sat silently through those hearings, expressionless in a wheelchair that prosecutors contended is a prop to hide his still vigorous health.

He eluded capture for four decades until investigators used a new form of DNA tracking to unmask and arrest him in 2018.

Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty, but settled for a life term given California’s moratorium on executions, the coronavirus pandemic, and the advancing age of DeAngelo, his victims, and witnesses they needed to make their case.

Judge Bowman sentenced DeAngelo under a plea deal that called for him to be sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, plus 15 life terms with the possibility of parole and eight years for other enhancements.

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