Seeing DeAngelo for the First Time – Part Two

Two days have passed since seeing DeAngelo in court. There’s a dream I’ve been having since he was arrested that’s clearly from my own imagination and subconscious. In the dream, I am Charlene and watching Charlene at the same time – in that mystical way dreams commingle themes. I’m feeling his breath on me and the weight of his body and I’m screaming and pushing him away (because in my dream, my wrists aren’t tied); at the same time I’m trying to help her, to warn her that he’s dangerous. It ends as I force myself awake. I make myself consciously tell Charlene it’s okay now. Then I turn on Netflix and stream Frasier hoping that will help me fall back to sleep.

[Read part one.]

Monday seems like a week ago. Yesterday took a twist I did not expect. I was laid off. I can’t say much more about it at this point, but I was caught off guard and for those of you who follow me on Twitter, this is what demanded two margaritas and street tacos. Taco Tuesday. I’ve been so busy working night and day for my company for the last two years, I’d never been before. Turns out, I’ve been missing out. I guess it’s time for many changes. Don’t anyone start feeling all sorry for me. I could use a little break and I’ll speak up when I’m ready to job hunt!

After the hearing

In a future blog, I’ll share more about what it was like to work with 20/20 (simply awesome). During the taping, the producer, Jenna, and I just got on fabulously. Just before court started on Monday and after the press was allowed it, I happened to look back to see how full the room was, and I was surprised to see Jenna’s huge smile and goofy wave. I tell you, knowing she was there was really helpful for me. As court concluded, she mouthed, “Come with me?” and I shook my head yes. She went out ahead of me and my Victim Services person, Ann, helped me get through the mob of press people waiting in the hallway. I think you can see how packed it was in the still of the video from Fox 40.

I didn’t know what was going on behind me until later, but remember Melanie? The woman who is fierce and brought a photo of the murder victims? Well she walked her talk and moved through the press like a boss (whole story here).

As I got outside, I was finally able to speak with Jenna. First thing she did was ask where my mom was (more on that later, my mom is a hoot) and asked if I would be willing to talk with them on camera. “Sure thing,” I said as I noticed the lawyer for the media walking by.

This is the Media’s lawyer, Duffy Carolan.

“Excuse me,” I called out. “May I talk to you for a minute?”

She was gracious and said sure. I identified myself – I typically say “Ventura Murders” – and then told her I wanted to thank her for being there and representing just an important viewpoint. I happen to believe information does better in the light than the dark and the truth – even if it’s ugly – has value. The defense is arguing sharing information with the public will taint the jury pool. I think there’s merit in that argument, but not in this case. Not only is the magnitude exceptional, but this criminal made a point of making his crimes public. He called victims. He taunted the police. If the public has preconcieved notions, it’s pretty much his fault.

“But Jenny,” my dad would say, “Everyone has the right to a fair trial and an unbiased jury. And I would likely pop-off and say, “No Dad, he’s entitled to a jury of his peers. Where are you going to find 12 other serial killers?” You can see how this would go. Live in my head for an hour – see how these endless debates about principles, morality and justice go. It’s noisy in here.

She seemed surprised and happy that I supported her cause. I feel like she is representing a position that is completely aligned with the victims and I hope the judge agrees.

Is that a public defender ditching the media?

Jenna, from ABC, spotted Diane Howard leaving the back of the court building and ran after her to get a quote. Another outlet was already trailing her with a camera and a reporter. I think this is what they got from her. From my vantage point, she never stopped moving. If you watch the video, she was not interested in being interviewed.

Jenna is on the right with the pony tail. Howard is in the red jacket.

Based on her courtroom behavior and the video above, I can tell I’m not going to like her. Not because she’s defending him, but because of how she’s holding herself when she’s near him and how she’s acting like he needs protection. The beast was racing a motorcycle a week before his arrest. Based on what his neighbors told me, he went fishing on the Monday before his arrest. This old man will be just fine.

Let’s hit Starbucks.

I did a short interview for ABC – which was a bit nuts because you can see the train runs right up that street. But it was short and I appreciate they care about my point of view. After the interview, I met a new person on the ABC team who offered to buy me a coffee. Of course I hadn’t eaten anything because I had been so nervous in the morning and I was parched so we made our way to the train station.

The ABC crew. I’ve discovered these guys do a lot of heavy lifting and are rapid-response geniuses.

Dea didn’t want to do an interview. She just wanted to talk and get to know me a bit. It turned out to be an answer conversation because she’s a local woman who remembered the East Area Rapist as she was growing up. Turns out we were both at Sac State at the same time, in the same major – she was undergrad and I was in grad school. But we shared some teachers and couldn’t believe the coincidence. It was just such a nice rapport. It’s amazing how comforting that can be.

Isn’t Dea adorable? This is the smile of a person tolerating my need to take photos she knows I’m going to share! Thank goodness she indulged me.

Then Dea asked me maybe the best question anyone from the media has ever asked me: “What are we not covering in this story, that we should be covering?”

That stopped me dead in my tracks. What a brilliant, delicious, provocative question. And honestly, at that moment, I did not have an answer. But you might. So I extend the question to you – my gifted readers – please leave your comments and I will share them with Dea. I have it on good authority she reads this blog!

While I was at Starbucks, I got a text from Bill Harticon telling me Ali Wolfe from Fox 40 was looking for me via Twitter. This man has known me for just over a week and yet knew texting me was the only way get my attention when I’m “in the field”. I’m not a huge phone junky when I’m with people. So Bill wisely got my attention. I confirmed with Ali and headed down to the studio.

South Sacramento can be a little rough. I didn’t realize this rough, but I can see the danger in a rogue group of miscreants breaking into the studio and broadcasting fake news. (This is sarcasm.)

Excuse me, but was that a mermaid?

One thing I’ve learned to do, I mean it’s definitely a learned skill, is I notice things. So I’m sitting in the lobby, waiting on Ali, and I watch a mermaid come from the door across from me and leave the building. Yes. I missed the shot. And I’m just going to let you think about how that happened. In the next minute a group of dancers bounded out – they were very bouncy – and I said, “Excuse me, but was that a mermaid?” The girls turned to me and said, “Yep!” and then went back to their bouncing. I mean yes. What else could it have been?

Look. No mermaid or dancers. I blew it.

I enjoyed meeting Ali. I had been watching her local coverage in Sacramento and I thought she had been doing a good job with the story. We did the interview and then, of course, I turned the tables on her and asked for a photo.

Ali Wolfe and her adorable cameraman. Both made me feel very comfortable.

Before I left, Ali confirmed Fox 40 has a morning show and the mermaid – and dancers – had been part of the show. All in a day’s work for Ali, no doubt. I got back to my car where I got a call from the New York Daily News. Nancy Dillion and I have talked a few times – the first time she had to pull away because the Cosby verdict came in while we were talking. And on Monday, she’d been doing double duty because Margot Kidder had passed away. Looking at her bio page, she’s now in trouble with me because her photo isn’t there. And I got a chuckle because the Kidder story is there, along with Cosby and Golden State Killer. This woman is busy!

The reason I mention this interview is Nancy had done a really good job reporting my intentions along with my words. I think we all appreciate being understood and Nancy definitely has understood me and represented me well. After dealing with a horrendous reporter in Ventura 20 years ago, I remain cautious when I do interviews. There’s nothing worse than seeing something in print that isn’t true.

One down, many to go.

My drive home seemed to take forever. I got home and I was beat. But I wanted to record my memories as fast as possible. That was blog one. I intended to post this yesterday, but honestly, the extra day was probably good.  This is going to be a long ride. There will be good days and bad days. I suspect we’ll find a way to settle into this new reality. I so appreciate the support of those of you who read this blog and share  your thoughts.

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!