For 30 Years He Lived Among Us

In Silicon Valley it’s not cool to be old. It should be, but it isn’t. What’s old? 40. 50. For sure 56 is and that’s how old I am. Who knew it would be the arrest of DeAngelo that would out me to my co-workers! I have an 18 year old still living at home so at least I’m hip (except saying hip isn’t hip) and I can name every One Direction guy. I can also move it to Uptown Funk (don’t tell the kids it reminds me of The Time from Purple Rain). 

For thirty years he got to live his life.

He watched TV, raised three daughters, saw the arrival of his grandchild. He ate hamburgers (without cheese, we aren’t trying to kill him – please see quote from Charlene at Charlie’s Cafe). I keep thinking about this because for those of us who had family members killed, 30 years is a long time. It’s enough time to forget how they smelled and how their skin felt. It’s enough time to stop thinking of them every day.

Ironically, as a rape survivor, I fear time works differently.  Thirty years is not enough time to forget how he smelled. Not enough to forget how he felt. And certainly not enough time to stop thinking of him every day.

A call with a stranger breaks my heart.

I had the honor today of talking with a woman who thinks she was raped by DeAngelo. She was watching 20/20 when she first learned about the arrest. She saw DeAngelo for the first time. These are my words describing her reaction, but it was like her body memory kicked in. She knew that was the guy. There’s part of her that needs evidence to support her intuition and memory, but the rest of her is sure.

But here’s what else can happen in 30 years. It makes me sick because her story is like many others. Her file has been lost. The evidence was destroyed. There might not be a way to know if he was her attacker. Why? Probably because the statute of limitations expired and the municipality wanted to clean out things that were no longer needed. Meanwhile, she has lived in fear. As a 20-year old young woman, she believed she had only one option: to change her name and move away. She’s lived in a form of self-imposed isolation, afraid he would find her.

Thirty years is about 1,500 hamburgers consumed. Thirty years is 60 property tax payments, 90+ birthday celebrations with his daughters, at least 120 fishing trips, and based on two cans a day, more than 20K cans of beer. DeAngelo didn’t suffer.

But thirty years for just one woman has meant constant fear, anxiety and separation from the home she knew.

This bastard needs to suffer.

Behind the Scenes – Discussing Golden State Killer with 20/20 on ABC

Exec staff was supposed to start at 11am, but as usual our head sales guy was late. As my CEO walked in, he looked my way and said, with an irreverent level of glee, “Wow, we get to be in the presence of a famous person today!” It was all I could do to keep myself from crying. I suspect his reference was to 20/20 and the fact that I was going to be on the show. That was my first and last exec staff meeting since the arrest.

Turns out when a heinous, horrible serial killer is finally arrested, a lot of things start happening. Reporters, questions, memories, dreams. Some of these things are interesting and compelling, others have been difficult and awkward. I’ve had to think about things that aren’t really my core competencies – how do I look? Is this the right sweater? Is my mascara flaking? You want me to wear lipstick? Will Katie approve of my hair (she’s my closet stylist). So when something is actually fun, it’s memorable.

The crew from 20/20 was both – fun and memorable.

I decided to bring my mom along for the adventure. I haven’t said a lot yet about my mom – and I will – you should know, she’s a character. I often tell her she wins on the curve because compared to a lot of 80-year olds, she’s different. I had tried to do a Tumblr just highlighting her special moments, but the challenge was trying to capture the moments of splendor – it seemed I was always just a minute late in realizing we were having another Marge Moment and I’d miss the capture! I got personalized plates for her car: TND2DV8. Nuff said.

For background, you need to know a few things.

  1. Mom was raised in Sacramento;
  2. She moved back from Ventura to Sac after all three of her kids left for college (then eventually moved to the central coast to be near me and Katie);
  3. Mom’s favorite network is ABC;
  4. Mom watches Scandal and missed the last two minutes of the series finale because it went two minutes past the hour, so TiVo didn’t record the ending; and
  5. She loves David Muir.

We headed north to Sacramento on a Friday night.

Foyer of The Citizen Hotel in Sacramento.

20/20 put us up at The Citizen Hotel. I’m sure they had no idea we’d be thrilled with the place. It appeared to be a former business building with a law-library type bar area that was reminiscent of the old Ventura County Courthouse (the smells, the sounds). We shared a room on the 13th floor and settled in for the evening. Taping was scheduled to begin at 11am on Saturday morning.

First look – the crew getting things ready.

The next morning, after fretting over my clothes and make-up, we headed down to the ballroom where the taping was to take place. We were greeted by a happy production crew and the talent, Whit Johnson. The room was fairly dark except for the production lights that created a glow around the two chairs that were placed opposite each other. A squad was huddled around the tech table holding computers, playback monitors and the sound equipment.

Whit has me in the hot seat. I hate that my feet barely touch the ground.

Whit was a tenacious interviewer. At one point, I got frustrated because I knew there was something he wanted me to say, but I wasn’t saying it and he didn’t have a different way to ask. The hardest question reporters ask is the one with the least satisfying answer: how did it feel when you learned your father was dead?

This is nearly impossible to answer just on it’s very face. For me, when something huge happens, it is hard to know how I feel. It’s like a tug of war between my rational brain that is trying to put the incongruous news in some sort of context and my irrational brain that is mostly screaming “no” in defiance of the crush of too many emotions. If you want to try this yourself, think about how you felt when the plane hit the Twin Towers. I suspect you’ll recognize you likely did both – tried figuring out something that didn’t make sense – and felt too many emotions – all at once.

That tumult doesn’t make for great soundbites.

The interview took about two hours – the time flew by. I was a little more self-conscious with my mom there. Half the time I wanted to look over at her to confirm an answer. There are times when 38 years means there’s a memory gap. Or because I was young when the murders happen, I remember things differently, without the context an adult might have. Of course, these days my mom’s memory isn’t so hot either. But it’s funny to find out what she does remember!

Jenna, a producer, asked how we planned to spend the afternoon. They had a surprise for me and they wanted to know if we could come back in about 90 minutes. I said sure. We were just planning to go by the DeAngelo house – I had wanted to see it and how close it was to where my dad grew up – and Jenna jumped!

“May we go with you?”, she asked.

“Sure,” I said. And then mom joined the conversation. Marge explained to Jenna that they didn’t need to do all that. We’d be fine. We could find it ourselves and surely they didn’t want to waste their time going all the way out to Citrus Heights with us. I started to interject when I realized Jenna had this. She engaged mom, reassured her this wasn’t a waste of time and they’d really like to tape me going to the house. Poor mom, she might like good TV, but she’s a little slow to realize what makes good TV!

Road trip! Off to Citrus Heights.

We all jumped into Jenna’s rental, two cameramen in the back, mom and then Jenna and I in the front. It became the Jen and Marge show before I knew it. This is when the banter between us is generally like a bad episode of The View. Mom is typically the straight man and I am the snark and we gab away while folks listening can’t stop laughing. Mom was in rare form and asked after all her boyfriends: Peter Jennings, Charlie Gibson and of course, David Muir. The ABC team shared stories with her and assured her that David was worthy of her adoration.

Camera crew equals growing crowd. We were not stealthy.

When we got to his street, they dropped me off so I could “walk up” the street and they could videotape my reaction. Here’s the thing: it’s really hard to react to a house. I had wanted to see one thing. I wanted to know if his house looked like a damn crime scene in the same way my dad’s house did. Was there crime tape? Was there a sticker on the door to prevent people from entering? They even put an alarm under the mat at my dad’s house so they would know if someone was trying to enter.

Alas, there was nothing. It was a plain house with a meticulously manicured lawn (I can’t emphasize enough how perfect the lawn was; almost like he used scissors to capture any strays). There was no tape. No sticker. Just a Beware of Dog sign on the gate (but no dog) and several coats on black paint on the trim.

As the crew watched me, a crowd was starting to build. Not huge but enough to be noticeable. I wanted to talk to the neighbors (in the grey house behind the guys). That’s where I heard the story about all the holes in JJD’s backyard. The neighbors think they pulled out a lot of evidence from those holes. Those are the neighbors who also figured out, as we spoke, that it was probably JJD who killed their puppy. One day, she got sick and died. Now they are thinking, maybe their puppy was poisoned. That was a really sad moment.

Look at that lawn. I think you can click and zoom in.
There’s his Beware of Dog sign – but no dog.

As I turned around to see what was happening behind me (across the street), I see my mom holding court, talking with neighbors and listening to their stories. It seemed everyone had a story – from the teens who used to ride their bikes in front of his house to the woman whose daughter babysat his kids. There were people there who’d come up from the central valley because they had followed the case and had to see the house.

That’s my momma in the plaid shirt. Most folks were across the street behind the camera crew.

While we talked, I didn’t realize another crew from 20/20 had arrived until I saw Whit rounding the corner with my surprise: Paul Holes.

The team knew I hadn’t met him yet and he was scheduled for the afternoon interview (why they wanted me back at the hotel). They decided it would be cooler to meet him at the house – the same house he sat outside of and made the important decision to wait and get more evidence before introducing himself to DeAngelo. It was a great surprise and led to one of my favorite photos (until I can get one with Larry Pool from Orange County).

Yes ladies, he smells as good as he looks. In my iPhone “live” photo, you can hear me saying “thank you”.

Off to the local affiliate.

The local ABC station found out we were there and asked me to come over to the station for a quick interview. We were running late when Jenna dropped us off at the station. Now, remember how I mentioned mom watches Scandal but missed the last two minutes because her TiVo stopped recording? Yeah. Here’s where we pick up that story. Because we were at ABC, mom asked every person we met if they watched Scandal because she needed to know “what the girls were looking at” in the last shot. Turns out, the weekend team at the station aren’t Scandal fans. This confused the heck out of my mom.

They weren’t really ready for us. First question: tell us your story (shoot me in the head).

The good news is the whole excursion ended perfectly for mom because she was able to spend a moment with her one true love…

In the words of Barry Manilow, “My Eyes Adore You”….tee hee

You can watch the episode of 20/20 here.

Today I Saw Joseph DeAngelo, The Golden State Killer, In Person for the First Time

I knew it would be tough to sleep. I felt the dread building into the evening and so I decided half a Xanax would help. Not so much. When the clock flipped to 1:30am, I was still talking to myself. I need sleep. I have to be up early. I was afraid the alarm wouldn’t ring; the traffic into Sacramento would be awful, I’d be late and miss the whole thing. At some point after that, I finally fell asleep. Morning came fast.

My instructions were to meet my Victim Services person at 8:15am at the H Street garage. Somehow I managed to get there a few minutes early and that gave me a chance to get a bit nervous. Ann showed up on time and away we went, to Superior Court, Department 61.

That says Sacramento County Main Jail!

I didn’t realize the court room was part of the jail. I was whisked through security, reminded to turn off my cell phone and walked down a long hall full of reporters. As I snaked my way down the hall, I could hear regular people asking the reporters what the heck was going on.  “East Area Rapist case,” was the typical response. It was 8:25am when we walked through the doors of the courtroom. Inside were only victims/survivors (I’m going to need a really good name for the fierce folks who were part of this group).

I wanted to notice as many details as possible.

The courtroom was small. I found a photo online but our room had the reverse orientation – we were seated on the right and the cage (!) was on the left side of the room. It was outfitted in standard 1970s decor (real wood? fake wood?) and utilitarian carpet. Large calendars were on the wall with days marked out – holidays, weekends. A clock was on the left near the back wall and I watched the time slowly move amid the commotion.

I was in the first seat in the front row. Seated next to me was the woman who was raped on June 18th. I don’t remember her name, but I will always remember her face. She was simply beautiful. She was also nervous and she brought her best friend for moral support (she actually said “moron support”, which was a laugh we really needed). I met a close friend of Debbie Domingo who I need to know more about (note to Debbie!). She was a spitfire and brought photos of the victims to hold up. There were two more folks next to her and again, in the melee, I didn’t hear names very well. Either way, I’d protect their privacy here anyway.

We were ready.

Everyone else was held outside until a little before 9am. The attorneys trying the case, the prosecutors, introduced themselves. [I am going to find out their names because they told us but we didn’t have a way to write things down. I will update when I get the names.] She was dressed in a black sheath dress and a jacket and simple string of pearls. I noticed because it was in contrast with DeAngelo’s attorney who was in a red sweater/jacket, black slacks and silver necklace. They both looked very put together and prepared. [Honestly, I want to smack myself for commenting on the women’s attire – but I found the fashion choices interesting and clearly intentional.]

The most striking thing in the room was the cage. You can see it in the courtroom photo (here’s another angle, his wheelchair is in front of the cage here).  It is an imposing site. It’s a cage with a lock on the front that needed a key to open the barred door. The bars were thick steel and then, as if someone said, “Can’t we make this fit the motif?”,  some paneling was added to the sides so, you know, it would bring the whole room together. The cage was empty and it was intimidating. I couldn’t imagine what kind of criminal would need something so substantial. Unless someone was mid-Meth trip, I couldn’t imagine someone needing that level of security.

As members of both legal teams, bailiffs and court staff moved easily from the courtroom to the backroom, we assumed that’s where DeAngelo would come from. I thought they would walk him out and lock him in the cage and we’d get started. But I was wrong.

DeAngelo enters the courtroom.

The bailiff read the rules (no noise, cameras, recordings, cell phone noises, etc) and in a jiffy, the judge entered the court. I’m not sure what he said because suddenly the lawyers for the defense jumped up, moved toward the cage and that’s when I realized there was a door that opened into the cage and it was through that door, DeAngelo entered.

The defense team used their bodies to create a wall between DeAngelo and us. All I could see at first was what appeared to be orange Crocs (actually, you can see them here when he was wheeled in before).  He was standing. I followed the bright, orange shoes up the matching orange legs and then couldn’t see anything. He was effectively blocked. At the same moment I heard that door open, I had grabbed for the hand of the brave woman sitting next to me. I knew it had to be horrifying to see him there, in front of her, after all these years. We held hands the whole time.

The judge listed off what seemed like a rather significant number of motions and responses and one caught my attention. There was a lawyer there representing the media: I believe the New York Times, the American Broadcasting Company and possibly others (news stories are mentioning others). They are working to make sure nothing is redacted from what was found during the searches of his home. But more about this later.

Finally, the male attorney moved and I was able to see DeAngelo’s profile. There he was. Just a man. An old, craggy-faced man who didn’t look pleasant. He looked angry. He had whiskers on his face and he shoulders where slightly stooped. His mouth barely moved when he whispered to his female attorney. She appeared to be soothing him and making a point of touching him and talking very close. It appeared intimate and it nauseated me. There’s nothing in the lawyer handbook about mothering your client. I mean sure, someone go check the index, but I’m 99% sure it’s not there.

And then as quick as it started, it was over. The defense lawyers closed ranks again and we could barely see him slip out the door. He shuffled a bit and I wasn’t sure if he was shackled or not – one of the news stories said he wasn’t. The reporters would have had a much better look as they were behind him on the left side of the gallery.

How did it feel?

Reporters ask this all the time. The problem with the question is it misses so many things: the context, the history, the assumptions and the reality. I think it’s maybe easier describing two things I didn’t expect to feel.

The first is catching DeAngelo doesn’t bring closure. I have been saying this for the last two weeks – there needs to be a word for the opposite of closure. I guess beginning could work but it misses the nuance. This is like re-opening an old wound.

I was instantly validated when I asked the others in the courtroom this morning if they felt closure and they said no, it’s made all the memories come back. Those damn memories. Which lead to the nightmares and images of brutality that live in each of our minds in our own way.

It also adds a level of complexity to our lives I didn’t anticipate. I’ll give you one example: how does one stay involved in a trial like this and work?!  I’ve taken some time off but we are looking at months if not years for this case. I don’t know what the answer will turn out to be on this front.

The second feeling in had today, might be considered cognitive dissonance – but at an abstract level. I was looking at another human being, a man I might pass on the street or in the grocery store. He might have been with his daughter or granddaughter. I would think nothing of it. But this man has lived in my mind as a monster for 38 years. I don’t know what I thought he would look like, but I didn’t think he would look human. That maybe makes me the most sad. Because he was a dad and a grampa and literally nothing matters to him. He’s just left destruction in his path. Brutal, evil, dark, compulsive, destruction. And no matter what happens at this point, we can’t get any of the goodness that’s been lost.

There was a bit more to my day, but I have to stop and get some sleep – long drive from Sacramento back home. I am glad I went. I treasure that moment holding hands. The next hearing is on May 29th.

Here’s part two! Finally!