The Day of the Arrest: How I Learned DeAngelo Had Been Caught

The week before DeAngelo’s arrest, I had worked a trade show called RSAC. It’s the biggest cybersecurity show in the US. It happens in San Francisco and I did it while on a crutch (busted up leg) and launching a huge PR campaign. The cover image is from one of our event buttons – it just happens to fit here. It freaking rocked and I worked my fingers to the bone. I needed a little time off to do laundry and recover from the previous week. Rest. That was my goal. Rest. Had no idea an arrest was imminent and they’d lay me off the day after I would see him for the first time

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My “old” life. Right before DeAngelo was arrested, this book I edited by cyber criminologist Mike McGuire from Surrey, was a stone cold success at RSAC. I am still so proud of it. Cybercrime isn’t going away, sad to say, it will get worse.

Queue blissful morning music gently waking me from my deep slumber.

I was sleeping-in on Wednesday, April 25th. Usually up around 6:30am, on this day, I got to sleep-in. Around 8:30 I was awake enough to grab my phone and check messages. There was a text from Lisa.

“Could this really be him?” she asked. It was followed by a link to a news story.

“Hmmm,” I replied with no commitment. I headed to Twitter.

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This message from Lisa was the first moment I heard about DeAngelo.

There the story was blowing up. He was in custody and law enforcement was feeling pretty darn confident. I started shaking. My hands could barely hold my phone. I sent a text to my family and then called my mom. She wasn’t really firing on all cylinders yet and if she had heard, it hadn’t registered.

“They caught him,” I told her.

“What? Who? What are you talking about?” mom said. I always talk too fast for my mom. Especially when we first start the conversation.

“The Golden State Killer, or East Area Rapist. Mom. Our guy. They caught him. After all these years, he’s in custody.” It was weird to say it. “I gotta get up. This is nuts. It’s all over the news. I sent a message to the boys.” We talked a bit more and then I hit the shower. I put on decent clothes but nothing fancy. I expected the phone calls to come in and lots of “ohmigods” and “can you believes” but I didn’t expect things to blow-up like they did.

First things first. Trust but verify. Like any true crime lawyer’s daughter would do.

First, I called the Ventura police to see if they would just confirm we had the right guy. I talked with an investigator who assured me it was a good arrest (did he say that or do I just watch way too much Law and Order?). Anyway, it didn’t matter because the Ventura District Attorney, Gregory Totten, called me a few minutes later and told me what I have wanted to hear my whole adult life. Since science had already solved this case through DNA, all we needed was the human.

“We got him and it’s a 100% match,” he said.

“You’re kidding. It’s true? He’s the guy?” I was shaking again. Actually, pretty sure I didn’t stop shaking that day until around 11pm.

“He’s the guy. Watch the press conference at noon. I’ll talk to you soon,” and he was off to do District Attorney things.

After that I did something I hadn’t done since my dad died. I decided to use my real name to shout victory. I merged Jennifer Carol Smith (Jenny) and Jennifer Carole (grown-up) into one person in my online social media and suddenly everyone knew who I was. With the speed that accompanies social media, the journalists figured it out and headed to Santa Cruz. Since I once owned a baby bib company (Big Bellies, it was fun, made no money but suited my entrepreneurial spirit), my address wasn’t all that hard to find. I also got phone calls; so did my mom. I had gotten rid of my landline a few years ago so I was a little harder to find than I used to be, but mom managed to forward calls to me rather easily.

A pause for the cause. A few feelings got in through the craziness.

Before the press conference and after just one interview, the tears finally came. I’m pretty sure it was relief. I’m not sure how the others feel, and I was never called or harassed after-the-fact by DeAngelo, but I did live in fear. Especially when I found out he was a serial killer and I had just had a baby. In fact, after coming back home from an Unsolved Mysteries episode, I got a dog. A hypo-allergenic dog that was going to protect us. Daisy. Unfortunately, I was way more mental than I had thought and the puppy crying flipped me back into a postpartum mess and I had to give my little Daisy to a friend. Daisy was renamed Phoebe and turned out to be a wonder-dog that made my friend Patty’s mom (and everyone else including the neighborhood) amazingly happy.

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Little Daisy who became Phoebe and a neighborhood hero.

Instead, I had to deal with the fear pragmatically. I was always vigilant and aware of my surroundings. I went to self-defense classes and took Katie as well. I made sure I knew who was home during the day and which house Katie was could run to if there was ever any danger. But I guess one doesn’t really understand the hold fear has on you until it’s gone. In the moments after Totten told me DeAngelo was a 100% DNA match, I felt relief. Tremendous relief. They got him. He was behind bars.

The press was here that day until pretty late. With so many reporters around, the atmosphere was collegial and collaborative. Folks made time for one another and helped me feel at ease. It was about 11pm when I realized I hadn’t eaten at all – funny thing adrenaline. It really is a great appetite suppressant. As I lay in bed that night I realized the day had been a lot like the day Gary found dad and Charlene. Chaotic, busy and no chance to really know how I felt.

But when I finally got in bed I realized I did know. I felt good. Satisfied. Resolved. He was in jail. And a chapter we never expected was just beginning.

[Note: I’ve started a podcast and you can grab it from Apple iTunes and SoundCloud. Why would you want to listen to what you just read? I am finding there’s stuff I want to chat about that’s hard to capture in writing. And I figured out how to do it so why not? Finally, it drives my mom and kid nuts when I walk around reminding them to listen to my podcast. There are so few opportunities to torment your family members, how could I resist! My goal, if I’m not traveling, is to post a podcast within 24 hours of a blog post.]

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This is a Skype interview with an LA station I used to watch as a kid! KTLA down south. My goal is to see if I can get anyone on the other end to crack-up. I do think I got them laughing.
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Yes, my house. Remarkably clean for me. I know some of you will look closely so that’s Gary’s wedding in the upper right and Jay’s wedding by the camera lens. Another friend’s wedding picture is in view. Cat crap everywhere. And Gumby – he was once held for ransom at a company called Borland. That Gumby has been abused by so many. The eagle is named Mueller.
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Kind of loved the relationship between the camera folks and the reporters. I tried to get him to smile. Seriously. But nah. This interview crossed over to Telemundo!

It’s True, I Love Stealing Other People’s Children

It was so easy.

All I had to do to lure them away was send them a text. And then they were mine!

Much to Katie’s chagrin – she really can’t complain, she’s off storming the South Pacific with People to People – I swiped her friends and took them to a food fest at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Watsonville.

My glorious partners in crime, Emelia and Eva, are Katie’s friends and they are wonderful, fun and appreciative. They accompanied me to the event to learn more about the food bank and the local service organizations and foods we have in Santa Cruz County.

Free Food at the Food Bank!

We got there to find a great spread – lunch! I wish I could remember which group made the food. It was tasty. Enchiladas, salad and if you look, that’s a tri-tip sandwich on Eva’s plate.

It was sunny and warm and it was fun to feast with the girls and dish about my daughter! Well not exclusively, but there was a little gossip about her flirting with some boys in New Zealand. I hadn’t heard that story. It was so good to get the “deets” (that’s slang for details if you aren’t hip – it’s probably actually old-school slang at this point).

After lunch Bly, pictured on the right, gave us a personal tour of the food bank. We started in the offices learning about their marketing efforts like The Waiters Race organized by Soif Wine Bar owner Patrice Boyle to celebrate the French holiday Bastille Day and raise money for the Watsonville-based charity Second Harvest Food Bank.

We rounded the corner and found the sign (right) that noted half the people served by the food bank are children. That one hit home for all three of us. We also saw this huge whiteboard that lists where food is being delivered and when. It’s a two week window of outreach that extends all over Santa Cruz County. Very impressive and real.

The warehouse was next and thanks to a great Capital Campaign, the bank has racks now to stack the food that’s donated from many places. It’s rather amazing to see stacks and stacks of donated food. One of the girls said it felt like a “Costco for good.” Couldn’t agree more. We passed by strawberries donated by Driscoll’s and Happy Boy Farms tomatoes and more.

We ended looking at the inside of a box of food that’s delivered to families based on the donations given in those food bins that show up at the holidays all over Santa Cruz County. In the photo on the left that says Food Drive, you see what a family might get. I saw two cans of anchovies and it took me a minute to force down my gag reflex. They are so gross to me.

Then I realized, if I was hungry, that would be food and I would be grateful. I am grateful that I am not that hungry and don’t have to rely on Sardines. Very, very grateful.

We walked outside to find Sam Farr talking with the gathering about his support of the Food Bank. When I snapped the photo, he was surrounded by Plantronics Interns who always seems to be on hand to help out at these events (wow).

Before we left, we visited the various booths set up around the event featuring local growers and plenty of great produce. I buried myself in raspberries – like gold at the store and I could have as many as I wanted! – and the girls tasted tomatoes, apples, strawberries and more.

They gave us bags and we were invited to take home produce. We all left with lots of fresh goodies from organic carrots and radishes to home grown plums, apples and berries.

The girls expressed interest in volunteering sometime soon; maybe to sort food. I was glad to have the chance to share such a good time with them. They were terrific company and made me miss my daughter just a little bit less.

Stealing kids is totally worthwhile – as long as their parents agree! I just hope Katie won’t kill me when she gets home!

Wow – Just Changed the Blog Title to “It’s High School”

First day and last day of middle school. Damn.

Hard to believe the time has come.

Middle school graduation was last week – I can’t believe how much this kid changed in one year. Who knew eighth grade would mark such significant developments. For a kid who really had one friend in middle school, she ended with a posse! In fact, her great milestone, a zillion signatures in her yearbook – compared to last year which only had signatures on one page.

Katie considers this to be her greatest 8th grade achievement. I can’t say she’s wrong. She did great academically but thankfully that’s never been that hard for her. But making new friends, that’s proven to be much more of a challenge. She likes kids who are savvy and interesting and willing to try new things. She’s not interested in stoners or followers or people who have no imagination.
She’s off and running and I find that I am the one left facing a bit of “development.”

When I brought Katie home from the hospital, swear to God, the very first week, I cried like a fool telling everyone that she was going to leave me and go to college. I’ll be damned, I was right! But the leaving is starting now. All this time I wanted her to have friends but I didn’t realize that meant I would be back on my own again.

Oh sure, I see her sometimes, but even as I write this she’s in her room, on the phone or texting. She has been out all day on a bike ride (and an early dinner – what 13 year old says that? “Hey mom, we are heading out for an ‘early dinner’ on the wharf!”). I have been home working and then cooked (well, burned) myself dinner and dove into a Stephen King book (Under the Dome – why did I think I could read 1074 pages before the series starts this week?).

Anyway, this early empty nest thing isn’t going so well for me. I am truly having a hard time. I know I’m in the final countdown. Four years of high school is going to fly by. I’m clear. It’s time I get back to having a life, doing things with my friends, maybe watch a movie. The feeling is so uncomfortable and lonely. I miss that wonderful pre-teen who used to hang out with me.

But I’m proud of her too. This is what’s she’s supposed to be doing right? Growing up. Being independent. Taking responsibility for her own life.

So we begin. The last four years. This is high school.

Middle School is Almost Over – We Made It Through the Wilderness

First Day of Middle School
I’m so lucky. I have a fairly uncomplicated kid. 
 
Now that middle school is finally coming to an end, I realized what we really went through in the last three years. For anyone just starting out: hang in there – what comes out on the other end is totally worth it.

From Home School Back to Public School

When Katie started sixth grade, fresh out of home school, she didn’t really have any friends. She bravely sat through first lunch week after week, alone. After awhile it did get to her. She admitted it was hard. Eventually, she finally met a friend and while it wasn’t perfect, it was good. Her friend was smart and shared interests and finally there was someone for Katie to hang with at lunch.Fast-forward to the spring semester of eighth grade and Katie is now on fire. That one friend got her through the winter of this year and then finally, like a curtain raised, all the girls who I would say aren’t the “popular ones”; the girls that are more introverted finally found each other.
 
Katie has a “posse”!
The kids are good kids and they have all emerged from the middle school dessert as new people. They readily admit they feel different. More ready to take on the world. To hangout and try new things. It’s clear Katie’s natural leadership qualities has been the fuel to get these kids together, but they also had to be ready. And they are!

The big ice-breaker was a girl/boy bonfire at our house. At first they only wanted to plan it for two hours because everyone said they needed to get home. I quietly (ahem, I’m sure I was quiet about it), I quietly jumped in and suggested to Katie that really what was behind this rather crazy time constraint was social anxiety. She admitted I may have had a point.

The get together started at 6pm at our house. A few people were late, there was much texting and then the pizzas arrived. I went and hid in my bedroom and let the good times roll. With no effort they found their rhythm and had a great time. As it neared 11pm and I had to tell them it was time to go home and they were so sad! But I was relieved. These kids had no problems. They were awesome (they even left the house clean). 

There’s hope!

So what I am saying is if you are living the middle school years, there’s hope. Don’t freak. The boys are complete idiots in sixth grade (I was assured by a teacher friend, this is expected) and they are just now getting it together. It absolutely correlates to testosterone. The late bloomers are still struggling. The girls are either incredibly socially competent as they enter sixth grade or they go into a kind of torpor that they will come out of as the days get longer in eighth grade. At least that’s what I observed.
 
I’d love to hear your experiences. It’s sad enough to remember our own middle school years – I was not popular but played consigliere to the popular girls. So much drama. Now it’s our turn to watch. What are you seeing? 

 

A night of fun with the bonfire.
Shopping with the posse.