Sometimes we get so good at our jobs we can do them almost on autopilot. We don’t realize everyone else has no idea what we are doing or why we are going so fast. This was how Thursday went down. Fast, sloppy and almost chaotic. The slap-dash of serial rapist-murder hearings.
I’m pretty sure the Sacramento heat is going to kill me. I know, I’m a damn broken record. It’s gotta be my age. I used to live there! Yet I remain a delicate flower. At least the hearing was set for 1:30 instead of 8:30am. I get it, it meant more heat but sleep was also a good thing. This time I had Katie in tow – my daughter – and I bored her to death preparing her for what was going to happen and who she was going to meet.
We drove up Wednesday from Santa Cruz. It’s about a three hour drive unless you leave later than you planned because your teenager doesn’t really understand the time-space continuum. Then, it’s a five hour drive. With pit stops and food and drink. We were going to see some people I hadn’t met before. Three folks in particular who’d spent much more time being active on the case than I. Jane Carson-Sandler was in town to do a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Citrus Heights. That happened on Monday and Debbie Domingo-McMullan was in town to support her. Carol Daly showed up as well. I didn’t make it up there that early, but they said they enjoyed it immensely and I think it got them fired up for the week ahead.
First timers were everywhere.
We knew we’d have a big squad this time. And we did. We typically gather about 15 minutes before court and greet one another and catch up. That’s where I got to meet Jane, Debbie and, surprise for me, Margaret Wardlow! She was just 13 when that beast attacked her. They all looked amazing; vibrant, healthy, engaged. But while they managed their outward appearance in that moment, later we learned they were also wrestling with their demons. As I describe how this arrest has sent me back to my 18-year-old self bringing back memories that aren’t very pleasant, they too found themselves back at their early ages in that moment.
I don’t want to share their stories without permission, so let me share it in the aggregate. Making this arrest has taken us back. It’s made forty year old memories more vivid and brings up some of the vulnerability that goes with being younger. There’s something to be said for being a 50 year old woman. There is an ease at 50 that women talk about and it’s true. Being pulled back to a time when our innocence was ended by violence is pretty jarring. For me it means nightmares and fucked-up memories (yeah, just wait, I’ll be sharing them).
The media skillfully beats the heat and waits inside for us. Other folks were freaking out about all the cameras, “Why are they here!?” one woman cried out in a slight panic. It’s gotta feel weird to see all this when you’re there for a case that has nothing to do with our freak show.This hallway gave many pause. Especially the survivors who came who want to remain anonymous. Victim Services is good about getting us into the courtroom once everyone is through security. We hustled down the hallway and entered the courtroom. This time things moved very fast. We were seated quickly and then the press was allowed in. 60 Minutes Australia was there to film (I really need to see their version of Andy Rooney – “You know when you get those shrimp off the barbie and one doesn’t really look like a shrimp? What is that?” Please write your own joke here – or better yet, add to comments below!).
Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
Normally, court has a process that helps us all understand what will happen next. With new folks with us, we had explained what would happen and I’ll be damned if the court didn’t make us liars this time. Debbie said she timed it: the whole thing lasted two and a half minutes. It was a cluster. They didn’t ask us to be quiet. They didn’t tell us to turn off our phones. Both are signals we are getting ready to start. No one announced the judge was in the room – he was in and started talking before I even got settled! DeAngelo appeared without warning. And that is rough when you are seeing him for the first time. A little warning is appreciated.
I was extremely disappointed to see he was handcuffed in front this time. I’ve been taking great satisfaction with his hands being cuffed behind his back. It’s like everyone was in a rush on Thursday. He seemed more at ease and a lot slimmer. I’m guessing the alcohol bloat is gone but there’s also less body. If he was a natural slim, it appears he’s getting back to his old self. I’m not even sure he knew what was happening it went so fast. His attorneys were there including Diane Howard.
Essentially the procedure (what is this part called?) was continued because the prosecution is still in the process of providing the defense evidence from discovery. We’ve had several folks confirm there was nothing recovered from the house, so what they heck is all this “deep” discovery about? One potential explanation is new jurisdictions with new cases and current jurisdictions with new cases. I just need to say one thing about all this: let’s not boil the ocean. Let’s do one and get it done and then we can prosecute more. Time is ticking people! This man has literally nothing to live for (except his family and that is really their journey, not his).
The defense also continues to object to press coverage. The judge continues to assert the public has a right to know. I continue to laugh thinking if you hurt over 100 people, you get what you deserve.
Walking out of the courtroom, we were greeted by a sea of cameras. This time it was for Debbie, Jane and Margaret. Katie was shocked by the momentum and frenzy. “Yup,” I told her, “every time.” We were asked to go over to the District Attorney’s office afterward so Katie and I broke away from the pack.
District Attorney offices got dogs!
We walked over to the office and suffered poor white trash meltdown. My photo below with Reggie shows it. Katie’s pic is blurred. Clearly it was the heat-stroke (not the operator). We talked about the case and while I pumped them for information about where the trial might happen, they were successful in not giving away any scoops. While we were talking, Reggie, the wonder-poodle, came out to visit. He was super friendly and showed us his tricks. His subpeona delivery is on fleek (please accept my use of on fleek as my feeble attempt to pander to my younger readers).
Off to the after-party.
The big win for this week was the after-party. We met at the home of one of the squad and had a potluck barbecue that allowed us to share stories and meet even more people who’ve been impacted by DeAngelo. I’ve said it before but I never expected this chapter of our crimes and I must say, it’s the best. No judgments and no expectations, everyone is allowed to just be who they are and experience their healing in the way that works for them. Debbie had brought swag for us (see this blog’s cover photo for my new computer bag! thanks Debbie!).
Carol Daly (retired undersherriff) brought homemade ice cream that took me immediately back to my grandmother’s front yard on Palm Drive in Carmichael. Richard Shelby (retired investigator) and Todd Lindsay (producer from Unmasking a Killer) were there. It was a mellow, yummy good time. One of the interesting arguments we had was this stupid thing we (women?) where we compare who had it worse. Not in an effort to be the most harmed but instead, the way it works is to minimize our hurt because someone else’s is worse.
Every woman who has ever done this raise their hand. Men, now your turn. See, just a few men’s hands are raised. But women, I bet we’ve all done it.
The weird, twisted debate? Is it worse to be a rape survivor or a murder survivor? You know you’ve entered the land of weird when this is the debate. The rape survivors feel like we have it worse because our folks are gone – forever. We argue the rape folks have it worse because they had to live in fear their whole lives. I’ve decided we both win. Because if we are able to have this much compassion and empathy for one another, we are the winners.
Next court date is September 5th. Lots of stories to share with you before then.