The HBO docuseries, which premiered Sunday, focuses on late crime writer Michelle McNamara's hunt for the notorious murderer.

By Rachel Yang
June 29, 2020 at 11:41 PM EDT
Joseph James DeAngelo
Credit: Randy Pench/Getty Images

The serial murderer known as the Golden State Killer, whose reign of terror is detailed in a new HBO docuseries I'll Be Gone in the Dark, pleaded guilty Monday to 13 murders and other crimes.

Joseph DeAngelo, a 74-year-old former police officer who's been accused of 13 murders and 50 rapes throughout the ‘70s and ’80s in California, will be spared the death penalty for his plea and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison, according to People. His sentencing hearing is in August.

The hunt for DeAngelo has been covered in numerous books, podcasts, and TV projects, including HBO's I'll Be Gone in the Dark, which is based on writer Michelle McNamara's bestseller of the same name. McNamara spent years trying to uncover the killer's identity but didn't live to see DeAngelo unmasked and arrested. The book was completed posthumously after her sudden death in 2016, and the six-part docuseries on which it's based premiered Sunday.

DeAngelo was finally caught in 2018 after law enforcement compared DNA found at one of the crime scenes to genetic profiles publicly available through a genealogical website. The crime scene DNA sample matched that of one of DeAngelo’s relatives.

Credit: HarperCollins Publishers; Jim Spellman/WireImage

Liz Garbus, director of the HBO docuseries, celebrated DeAngelo's guilty plea on Monday. "Guilty plea to all charges counts. Guilty of 13 counts of murder. Uncharged acts to be admitted to. This is huge for survivors," she tweeted after the news broke.

Patton Oswalt, McNamara's husband, also reacted to the news. "The most important people at the #GoldenStateKiller hearing today are the survivors. All present, all staring directly at that zilch of a human being, and he can’t return their gaze. That’s what I’m focusing on," the comedian tweeted.

"We didn't know when we started the documentary that we would know who he was," Garbus told EW last month. "The first day of actual production, the night we went back to our hotel, was the day that Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was arrested. So that was an incredible coincidence of timing for us, and also changed the course of how we would tell the story."

The director also discussed the importance of not only honoring McNamara's work with the series but also respecting the people who came forward about DeAngelo. "The survivors and victims — talking to them and having them relive the worst moments of their life, some of them talking for the first time," Garbus told EW. "It was a deeply emotional project for everybody who worked on it."

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