Update: Did not see this press release yesterday. It explains more about the approach to the series and mentions victims! I’m still worried this will romanticize one person (Michelle), but she did write the book!
I didn’t realize HBO was going to drop the teaser on Sunday and it did catch me a bit off-guard. I always do my best to share real-time feelings about these things, so let’s do that. I’m writing first because I need to be thoughtful about what I say.
It’s no secret I didn’t know who Michelle McNamara was or that she was working on a book. I blogged about that as part of the book event held in Citrus Heights, attended by Patton Oswalt, Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen.
Michelle didn’t talk to the Smith’s for the book, and as I mentioned, instead referred to a series of articles that I probably hate more than anything else out there because it was inaccurate, salacious and forgot a whole kid – my brother Jay. How can someone pretend to be a reporter and literally leave out a child. It caused hurt and it stuck in my craw. I was doing interviews – always willing to help anyone or anything that would help catch our killer. But we didn’t hear a word from anyone on the McNamara team. I’ll admit, it’s disappointing. But that’s history, let’s move forward.
HBO did many interviews with the victims
I can’t talk about it in-depth, but I assume they also did interviews with law enforcement and others who dedicated their lives to finding this man. I hope they did. The victims I’ve spoken with about the interviews thought they were comprehensive, thoughtful and for us, deeply personal. For some, it’s the first time they’ve publicly told their stories. While I can’t speak for the others, I know I was honest, vulnerable and willing to help HBO tell our story. The reason I did it was specifically to respect my dad and stepmom who were robbed of their lives at the hands of a maniac.
The intersection of entertainment and true crime
One benefit I have about telling my story is I don’t have to answer to anyone other than my family. Whatever I do, I try to do it thoughtfully because isn’t just my story, it belongs to my brothers too. I also don’t do it for entertainment. I mean if you are entertained, that’s great, but for me, it’s real-time therapy as I work to understand everything happening and essentially summarize it for consumption. When I’m writing or talking, I feel more like a teacher than anything else.
But now imagine being a studio that must profit off the storytelling. The book gets optioned – meaning they license the rights to make a film based on the book – and now you must create something that will make money for the studio. How do you do that? What creative choices will you make? Will you include some “star power” to make sure it has mass market appeal? Will you conduct re-enactments to depict the crimes? Will you edit interviews in a way that increases the entertainment value while maybe compromising the intent? This is the hot mess that truly lies in the hands of the creative team.
I have zero clue about how HBO will do this. I’ve already exchanged tweets with Liz Garbus, Director, yesterday (and she’s agreed to an interview later!), and she shared one from Kris Pedretti (victim #10 and her tweet is gold). Liz’s reputation is outstanding and I have faith in her desire to tell our story with compassion and empathy. Not only that, but her team sang her praises and comported themselves in a way that’s consistent with what I learned about her.
Then why did the teaser knock me sideways
Man, the teaser bugs me. It’s bugging a few of the victims. But we also know, we need to get over ourselves. I think the first misstep was setting our expectations – and honestly, I even think they intended to manage this – but it just got bungled. We did hear promotion would be starting soon. What we didn’t hear was it would 100% focus on Michelle. It’s nothing like what we expected – and it’s just a teaser– we get it. It’s entertainment first and then it’s storytelling. It’s a sixty second teaser. Get a grip. You’re in marketing Jen, what part of this surprises you?
Just the part where I let my guard down.
Seriously. I also wasn’t prepared for the squeals of delight on Billy Jensen’s twitter feed as his fans, and let’s be honest, he has fans and that’s a good thing, but his fans are super happy for him. Alas, all I could think today was damn folks, people died. People were raped. So many lives were tipped over because of DeAngelo, but sure, add memes and emojis and celebrate. How’s that for some honestly. It is hard to look at but that’s only because it’s inherently weird that other people are making money off your traumatic event. I’ve talked about the Golden State Killer economy. With a few exceptions, I don’t have a problem with it.
This is just the beginning
It’s a teaser designed to sell the series. Got it. It’s going to play out over six episodes, and I believe will tell the story from many points of view. My hope is it champions the strength of the people who’ve survived. My hope is this will help people understand what happened in the 70s and 80s. My hope is we get DeAngelo in a courtroom so this perpetual anxiety I have that this guy’s going to escape conviction by dying finally disappears.
I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts about the teaser. Leave a comment here or chat me up on Twitter!
Kris Pedretti was victim 10. At that time, the East Area Rapist had barely been acknowledged as a repeat offender. Kris was 15, a church girl who was incredibly innocent and extremely good-hearted. Within 90 minutes, Joseph DeAngelo (DNA guilty) stole her innocence and changed the course of her life. And yet, she’s moved from being a survivor to being an advocate.
It’s taken her over forty years to tell her story.
When I first met her, we just connected. She, along with Carol Daly, essentially became the Den Mothers for a group of survivors who honestly never expected to come together in the way we have (Kris’ backyard is my little heaven). That’s due, in part, to the generosity and empathy that is core to who Kris is. She’s my Sacramento bestie and she’s telling her story – with confidence – as she becomes an advocate for other victims of abuse who haven’t had to courage to tell their stories.
When I found out the series of southern California murders were connected to the rapes in northern California, what I fantasized was one day I would meet the amazing rape survivors and somehow find common cause among them. While I wasn’t raped, the monster that had attacked them had raped my stepmom and killed both she and my dad. Somehow, I imagined, they would understand.
I’m happy to report they did understand. These women are now my friends.
I’ve have watched these women of incredible strength, face their attacker in the courtroom for the first time. I’ve watched their hands shake and their faces flush. And this wasn’t even about testifying yet. This was just being in the same damn space, breathing the same air as the man who haunted them for years. There are still some who have not joined us – for whatever their personal reasons – but for those that have faced the monster, over the course of a year, I’ve watched them change. From my point of view, its been for the better.
That doesn’t mean the change hasn’t come with pain. Even I was thrown back to my 18-year-old self and I’ve had to deal with “my shit” related to the crime. But I have to say, the impact has been tremendous. For me, it has meant a life change that I didn’t see coming. I’m committed to advocating for survivors and I’m back in school to become a certified life coach. It’s from that place that I encourage survivors of Epstein and his evil cadre of rapists, to consider coming forward. To step into the light.
Pain can live in you like a cancer. Releasing the toxins might be the answer.
None of us know the journey these victims have taken as they moved from children to adult women. I suspect they’ve told themselves a lot of rationalizations that somehow have allowed them to cope. But I’d like to push into some of the more common ways we “justify” what happened to us when we were children that may have helped us grow into adulthood, but now no longer serve us. That’s when we need to adopt new, healthier strategies for survival. Watching Christine Blasey Ford testify and then deal with backlash that triggered all of us who’ve suffered at the hands of men has led us to a new place.
The #MeToo Movement isn’t just about women.
It’s also about aligning with the men who see what’s been happening and are just as disgusted with this kind of behavior. It’s about healing and taking back what’s ours regardless of gender. We have the right to be honored for who we are – warts and all. We have the right to be heard and to be believed. And bit by bit, this evolution is happening. If there’s a “yeah, but” forming on your lips, I get it. There will be bumps in the road.
But right now, let’s be clear about a few things we all tell ourselves when we’ve been abused that are absolutely, positively false – regardless of what anyone, including our President says.
I deserved it. Nobody deserves to be hurt. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you are wearing, whether you agreed to go to the party… I could go on. The point is, one person does not get to hurt another person.
I’m unworthy. This one is a hard one to fight when you’re really in the shit, but it’s wrong. Everyone is worthy and your story matters. Adding to the collective consciousness helps us all and as you start to share, you may find you feel stronger and more worthy every day. If you aren’t ready to share, that’s okay too. Just know, your worth is not connected to those men or their crimes.
Nobody will understand. Oh, but we do. You know who really understands? Olivia Benson, aka Mariska Hargitay. There’s a reason Law and Order SVU is so popular. And Dateline. It’s because we DO understand. Good people have come together to pursue true crime and help victims get answers. Mariska has a foundation with a mission to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.” Your advocates are legion.
We are on the precipice of living in a world where women have true power.
A future where women’s values, talents, capabilities and genius will help humanity evolve to embrace human rights, civil rights and true compassion. But that change does come at a cost. The cost of owning our truth. Speaking out won’t be perfect, there will still be mistakes and unintended consequences, but that’s how change happens.
Your strength at this moment will make a difference. Stand tall. Be strong. We are here for you.
If you were victimized by Epstein or his associates, the FBI wants to hear from you: 1-800-CALL-FBI. I recommend having a friend (or rape crisis counselor) help you with this call. Have her/him sit with you, conduct the call on speaker, take notes, and don’t agree to anything unless you’re ready. It’s good to listen and then tell them you’ll think about it, so you have time to consider what you need. Self-care is vital during this process.
It’s no secret you know I grew up in a household of Democrats. My dad was fierce about justice for all, equality, civil rights and human rights. He was sexist as hell but after that, I saw him out in the community as a fair man committed to community and hard work.
It’s no surprise that when I finally caught up with all the talk about the murders and the years y’all spent investigating and researching to find our perp, I was truly surprised by the impressions folks had of our family and about dad and Charlene.
Here are the hot five myths that I’ve found most challenging.
Dad and Charlene were no way close to a “golden couple”.
Here’s the deal. My dad started, um, sleeping with Charlene before my parents were divorced. I know there are things that have been written that said my dad was like, oh no, I’m not interested. But that’s not true. Their relationship was nearly a cliché in that it was an “up and coming” successful lawyer who decided to get down with his law secretary who was ten years his junior. This not only crushed my mom, but it also crushed Charlene’s husband. For a thousand reasons, romanticizing their relationship just isn’t right. It was messy, normal, selfish and loud.
We were not affluent.
I know this will likely bum people out, but it just wasn’t true. That doesn’t mean my dad didn’t have status, he did. But we lived in a small town. In 1980, the whole county had just 500K people representing 2% of the state. We were known in Ventura and Santa Paula because my dad was extremely active in the community. He was often in the newspaper. But we weren’t wealthy. At my mom’s house, we lived very frugally. My dad paid little child support. It might surprise you to know he had saved nothing for his kids’ education. Also, there was no “estate” that we inherited. The money we got came from life insurance and it essentially saved us.
The house was unbelievably regular.
There’s so much talk about this wonderful house on a hill. It was a tract home in a new tract that dozens of folks lived in. It was rare to have a tract in the Ventura hills. The expensive homes were the one-offs that line the foothills of downtown Ventura. And then there was Ondulando where the rich people lived. Those were fancy houses and one of dad’s law partners lived there. Our house was as regular as the houses in Sacramento – that’s one thing that intrigued me is how much our house looked like the others.
The police knew Charlene was raped on Sunday, March 16, 1980.
It’s weird what happened the days and weeks following the murder. I am absolutely clear, because of my conversation with Dr. Speth, that investigators knew Charlene was raped. This makes me wonder why they put me through the lie-detector test. It’s interesting, because Speth also said the evidence ruled-out Joe Alsip but other players didn’t care, they wanted to prosecute regardless. I’m so tired of stories about our justice system that are more about a conviction than actual justice. Wrongly accusing someone is unacceptable. I know it can happen, but in this case, there was no reason other than mens’ egos.
There’s nothing about these murders that is romantic.
From a very popular website,
Charlene was a vivacious, slightly femme fatale, figure. Less charitably, perhaps, a cut rate gold digger. The papers noted that she was Lyman Smith’s “attractive wife.” No one who saw her would not think that. She was indeed a lovely woman. She went from being Lyman’s secretary to his second wife. She was on the fringes of Bohemia and wanted much more. She sold jewelry at fashionable Tupperware type parties. Her own personal jewelry was far superior. She was also an interior decorator. Their High Point house was immaculate and elegant, though the furniture was imitation.
Here we go – this is a hot mess. What impression to you get of Charlene based on this? Sure, it’s sexist and has some trigger words in here, “gold-digger”, “fashionable”, and “elegant”. Holy cow. But what really gets me is the tone. For some reason, when folks write about them, they cast things in salacious terms with plenty of hyperbole. And I assure you, our furniture was real. I have no idea what the heck “imitation furniture” is.
Here’s another passage that’s just nuts:
Lyman never met a business deal he didn’t like, whether it be gold and jewelry import or livestock export to Iran; real estate, whatever, if there was a possibility of riches there was Lyman.
My dad didn’t import jewelry or gold, he did have a livestock and real estate venture, but the last phrase is just bunk. My goodness.
And finally, a legacy I inherited that’s just a bunch of garbage. This passage is a classic example of how their existence was turned into something unreal.
Venturans received the news of the double slaying in the Monday editions of the Star-Free Press. The headline read: “Lawyer, wife found slain in Ventura home.” It ran with a photo of the couple — Charlene with her Miss America smile, Lyman with a twinkle in his eye.
Good lord, “Miss America smile”? I get it, it’s a metaphor, but it’s tone deaf. Charlene was an ethnic Jew. There’s no way in 1980 she could be a Miss America. In fact, there’s only been one Jewish woman, Bess Myerson, who has won. That was in 1945 and the timing is interesting because of WWII. As for the “twinkle in my dad’s eye”, that’s not reporting. That’s assigning feelings and there’s no way this reporter knows anything about whether or not that was a twinkle. She never met him in person.
Many of us have had to deal with our story being documented in ways that aren’t true. It’s maybe one of the things we talk about most among the survivors. We aren’t naive. We understand there are people who want to tell the story. The key to telling a good story is fact checking and not characterizing people you don’t know. Also, there’s been way too much trust in non-related people’s point of view. Unfortunately, those people are identified as tertiary and disconnected from the bigger picture. It happened in McNamara’s book and Larry Crompton’s book. My god, it’s the whole basis for Anne Penn’s book.
So Jen, what do you want from folks?
Fair question. I have three things I think would make a difference going forward:
We all have an obligation to be truthful and if speculating, to name it.
Reporters, writers, anyone telling the story, need to do better. They need to weigh the information they get based on who they are getting it from. Several articles refer to Hal Barker as my dad’s best friend. I’m not sure who decided that. Hal, Harold when we knew him, was a great guy and super close to my dad but I wouldn’t call him his best friend. There’s someone else who fit that bill. Harold had his own mess he was dealing with. When I see the things he’s said to reporters, I think his comments seemed colored by what he was going through.
Friends, witnesses, associates need to be careful about what they say. That quote it going to have your name on it. Be truthful and if you don’t know, admit it. When you give “deep background” that still is only from your point of view. Own that.
Alright, I’m pushing my soapbox back under the bed. Thank you for understanding.
Yesterday Sacramento was able to announce the arrest of another monster. Terrorist. Piece of human excrement. The NorCal Rapist was identified via DNA and he’s in custody. Not to completely freak you out, but he worked at UC Berkeley – surrounded by women who clearly had no idea there was a predator in their midst.
The irony in that statement that has turned me into a complete mess this week.
The reality is, we know there are predators in our midst. We know they are our fathers, our husbands, our co-workers, our religious counselors and our government leaders. It’s all good to talk about the monsters who reveal in their reputation as monsters: our President has done an effective job of shining the light on MS-13, a horrible gang that uses rape and murder to terrorize mostly immigrants. But they are the exception – like frankly our brutal killer DeAngelo.
More often, women are hurt by the men they trust.
On August 23, when the charges were read against DeAngelo, new to the catalog were 13 counts of kidnapping. While it made for a dramatic read in court, and it’s tremendously satisfying that the DAs were able to add those important charges, it ended-up sending shock waves through the ranks of the victims.
And here’s why. Because most of the survivors in Sacramento are rape survivors, they had come to terms with two things: the statute of limitations expired on the rapes and their voices would only be heard via a Victim Impact Report that is either oral or written and isn’t subject to cross-examination. The minute the kidnapping charges were added, so was the requirement that these 13 women testify. For some, this isn’t something they want to do. Testifying means being cross examined and that’s is where victims are typically re-victimized in the legal process.
Ironically, it’s likely I won’t be called to testify because I don’t have anything particularly material to share on this case. I wasn’t at the house, I don’t know the suspect. I could be called to talk about my dad, but I think the defense could possibly do more with me than the prosecution. And even at that, it would be irrelevant because DNA puts him raping Charlene. He’s guilty and I don’t care about him. But I do care about re-victimizing those already hurt decades ago.
I had no idea how much DeAngelo’s arrest would change me. I have not been the same since that day. Parts of me I’ve push down or away have bubbled up nearly driving me crazy. I wrestled with the paradox I was living in as I met and supported my fellow survivors in Sacramento. As I celebrated their courage to face DeAngelo in court, I was struggling with what had been happening to me for the last year of my life. I just spent the last year being abused by my boss. I had to keep quiet or he might not give me by expense report reimbursement (it still came through short and it took four months to get the check. I can’t talk about the company because they only way I’d get severance and COBRA was signing a confidentiality agreement. I’d already met with an attorney and the only way he could have gotten rid of me without a lawsuit was to lay me off. So he did – while I was out on medical leave to catch my breath over the arrest. I remember crying and telling my mom I felt like a hypocrite because I wasn’t telling my story while I was encouraging others to be strong and share.
And there’s more. I need to talk about my dad. You’ve all asked me to – but I can’t yet. My dad could be Brett Kavanaugh. Truly. He would fit all the descriptions people have of the judge. And I don’t think my dad ever sexually attacked a woman. But he was abusive to the women in his family. That was our secret. Not sexually. Emotionally and physically. And I will talk about it. But I need a little more time.
I am like most women; I struggle with not wanting to impugn his reputation.
He really did amazing things for our community and my brothers must have learned some goodness from him because they are both married to amazing women. I’m proud of both my brothers for having healthy, balanced marriages – the kind I didn’t believe were possible as I grew up (hey you with the raised eyebrow thinking, hey, maybe that’s why Jen isn’t married; here’s a cookie, you’re a winner).
Because my dad was so tough on me, I grew up tough. I think he gets credit for that not because of his behavior but because of DNA. I am a lot like him. I don’t back down and I fight for justice. I can be incredibly annoying because I am so driven. Then imagine being trapped by circumstances that prevent me from fighting that fight. That’s the gut-punch of being abused. You’ve lived through the trauma but to get justice, one goes through a process that crushes the soul and strips us of our dignity and defies moral justice.
The state tries criminals on behalf of the people, not the victims.
I think this is correct but in the pursuit of “fairness”, it’s actually tilted to benefit the law, not the humans. In fact, humanity is intentionally stripped from the legal process. If you don’t believe me, do a quick rhetorical analysis. Rhetoric was my major: it’s the understanding of how words are used to influence. I called it a degree in bullshit and people would agree and I’d say, “See, I just did it. It works!” In legalese, words that talk about feelings are subjective. Subjectivity is seen as bias and lawyers work to eschew bias and seek facts. Sadly, the fact that someone had to move 3,000 miles away to get away from their perpetrator because they are so scared, is fact but is meaningless without the emotion. One DeAngelo rape victim did just that. Moved away immediately, across the country. Apparently, Dr. Blasey-Ford did the same thing.
There are still too many men involved in investigating these crimes.
We are so blessed to have a hero in our midst with Carol Daly. She says one of the ways she approached abuse victims was to encourage them to tell their story. Seriously. Prior to her involvement, that’s not how things went down – it’s the difference of being transactional (iterative questioning back and forth) and being contextual (what happened, how did you feel, doesn’t have to be from beginning to end because many women think more comprehensively). Without more women – many of whom have experienced abuse – we won’t be able to conquer the bullying and the bias that we saw this week. Watching 80+ year-old men delivering Dr. Blasey ultimatums was beyond tone deaf and inappropriate; it was absolutely revictimizing the victim. If you still don’t understand what she’s facing, watch this. I nearly vomited on Monday night when I watched. That’s when I knew I was also facing my own demons.
Good people do bad things.
This is probably the most important part of what’s happening in America right now (and what causes me the most consternation). My former boss actively posed as a moral, wholesome man from Utah (that’s code – please read into that). When I tried to pursue things internally, I was told I was guilty of reverse discrimination and I was making the men uncomfortable. (That sound you hear is me screaming – yes, I can scream that loud.) Our NorCal Rapist worked at UC Berkeley as a safety specialist (oh irony, you are a minx). And of course, Wee Willie Winky DeAngelo, was eating at Charlie’s Café and bopping around Citrus Heights and was a former police officer. Nuff said.
Since I’ve hit 50, I’ve thought a lot about how we function as humans. What I come away with after this tumultuous week that’s demonstrated just how often we hurt each other, I still have no real explanation. #sad#bebetter#KindnessMatters#WhyIDidntReport
I think a lot about the nature of humanity. There are so many things we have to figure out as humans: how to have agency, how to manage relationships, how to manage our health, how to support the people we love (and those we don’t even know) – we shouldn’t have to worry about other humans hurting us.
Based on where we are as a civilization, we should be doing better. Civilization actually means we are civil. But we just aren’t there yet.
We can be better. We can stop hurting one another. And it starts with closing your lips, opening your ears, being patient and showing kindness. A small shift that could create tremendous change. I wish that for all of us.
[Folks that follow me on Twitter know it’s been a tough week for me based on my tweets and you’ve been tremendously supportive. Thank you. It’s a great place to talk and meet other survivors. The true-crime community is amazing and we invite you to join us. Awhile ago I wrote a Twitter primer – if you’re new to the platform, it might help!]
In just a few days, the names of the 9/11 victims will be read again in New York. I can’t listen to them. It tears me up and it’s been 17 years! I get lost thinking about all the little things like did they have kids (who are now grown) or were they engaged or pregnant. They were just people doing what we all do every day – going to work. Firefighters and law enforcement ran in to do what they do every day. And just like that, hate changed us. To the bottom of our collective souls. And so when the names are read every year, it doesn’t feel like enough. I know it’s important – but it resonates with the loss we all shared that day.
You’d think we’d know more about what was going to happen when we all assemble for another hearing day in the world of Joseph DeAngelo. But we don’t. We get email from victim services, but it’s often really cryptic and light. This hearing was a surprise. We’d all been building our lives around today, September 5th, where we were supposed to attend an “update” hearing. We’d even planned a little barbecue at Carol Daly’s house afterward. But the District Attorneys had other plans. Everything got moved up to August 23 and the plan was to file 26 more charges against Wee Willy Winky.
Our group continues to grow with every court date.
As I’ve said, we all meet on this one outside corner before court so our handlers – the Victim Services folks – can wrangle us and get us into the courtroom with minimal drama. Since the courtroom is still in the jail, we have to go through the metal detector and walk the gauntlet of reporters. This time, they actually moved us into an area behind the courtrooms (so we didn’t have to go through the media) and took us into an empty courtroom first where we could play a little and put our anxiety to work. (I don’t think that was their intention, they were just protecting us, but man, it turned out to be a good way for us to touch things and goof around. And yes, I did take silly pictures of people too, but I can’t share them because I want to protect everyone’s privacy.)
It’s kind of funny because as we grow as a group, we are becoming a force: I think there were maybe 20 of us this time! I didn’t realize this would happen – don’t know why, I guess I just hadn’t thought about it before. Of course, I never thought there would be an arrest. I hope it keeps happening. I hope all the Sacramento (and beyond) survivors get to come and feel the power of what it means to have the upper hand. I also really enjoy seeing the friendly media who I’ve come to know and appreciate on a personal level. I guess I better be friendly with them because now that Sacramento is the home for the trial, we are all going to be spending a great deal of time together.
When the time came, they moved us through the back room (where the judge and others typically enter the courtroom) and got us into our regular room, Dept 61. We were greeted by ALL the District Attorneys who were lined up on the prosecution side. I instantly recognized DA Totten, the Ventura DA (my DA as I affectionately call him) and I rushed over to introduce myself and shake his hand. He flashed a giant smile at me – we hadn’t met before – and I had a chance to thank him for being so well-spoken on the press conference held that Tuesday, and for expressing his commitment so eloquently. I am freaking proud of him – he’s been working on this case since he joined the Ventura DA’s office. The Sacramento Bee spoke with him:
Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten said later in an interview Carole’s presence was one of several reasons he needed to be present for the arraignment.
“This was the first case I ever worked on as a young law clerk in the Ventura County District Attorney’s office,” Totten said. “And the daughter of Lyman Smith, who was brutally murdered in Ventura County, was here today, and for me it was personally very important to be here.”
What a guy. He asked to talk with me after the hearing so I hung back afterward and spent a few minutes with him. I think the collaboration the District Attorney’s have managed is amazing. I have worked on some tough cross-functional teams, but I never had to worry about voters at the same time. Seeing them all there, in a row, resolute and committed; it was powerful.
Court’s in session.
With the Honorable Judge Michael Sweet presiding, court started. DeAngelo slid into the cage as silently as I imagine he broke into homes. Not a freaking sound from this man. I sat behind him hoping to see his hands cuffed behind him, but no such luck. Assistant Public Defender Diane Howard was back in court and being as obsequious as ever. She stood close, nearly touching him at the shoulder, and I know she could smell him. Just yuck.
At this point, he’s been in jail for four months and the weight loss is significant. I have no idea if he’s eating, but I know he’s not getting beer. He has lost maybe 40 pounds and this makes him look gaunt and frail. But I think he’s just back at his fighting weight. He stood looking straight ahead as usual in a military-like parade rest – attentive but not at attention. He doesn’t even really look at Howard during the course of the hearing. He looks at the judge and that’s about it. Well, there’s also the mouth breathing. I remember on the phone calls he made, he liked to pant. Maybe he just can’t close his damn lips! The Bee’s reporter noticed how he looked as well:
Looking, pale, thin and frail, the 72-year-old former police officer stood silently inside the courtroom cage on the first floor of the Sacramento County Main Jail building without speaking.
The District Attorneys were introduced and there was a discussion of DeAngelo’s ability to pay for a legal defense. So far, he’s been leaning on the Public Defender’s office. But defending him against these crimes is going to cost a small fortune. It could mean he will lose all his assets as he liquidates them to pay legal fees. I have no idea what that does to his family but I think (hope) they are all adults and somehow finding a way to cope and manage financially. I can’t even imagine how upside-down their world must be. At the hearing in December, we’ll find out if he qualifies for an Indigent Defense.
As he considers that, I’d like to offer a recommendation – and maybe his family can push for this because it would absolutely be a blessing for them – he needs to simply take a plea. Own it man. You thought you were “Da Man”; the bad-ass mother f–ker who could get anyone and not get caught. You had the courage to destroy lives without fear of retribution. If you are all that, then step up. Do it for your family. Own your shit and put this thing to bed. Just admit it was you and we can all get back to living. And you can join the general population instead of death row.
The list of additional charges.
In late April, at his first arraignment, he was charged with the deaths of the Maggiores. That was enough to bind him over and keep him in custody. But the charges read in court were expanded and clarified. There were also 13 counts of kidnap that allowed prosecutors to reach into some of the rape cases and hold him accountable. I need Kat Winters and Keith Komos to map these charges to what they have in their awesome book* to help me confirm these are all DNA cases – but I’m sure they are. We sat for 30 minutes, the gallery in silence, as each charge was read. You wanna freak yourself out? Read these out loud.
Count 1: Murder of Claude Snelling, Sept. 11, 1975, in Visalia; using a .38 revolver.
Count 2: Murder of Kate Maggiore of Rancho Cordova, Feb. 2, 1978; using a gun of unknown caliber.
Count 3: Murder of Brian Maggiore of Rancho Cordova, Feb. 2, 1978; using a gun of unknown caliber.
Count 4: Murder of Debra Alexandra Manning of Santa Barbara County, Dec. 30, 1979; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 5: Murder of Robert Offerman of Santa Barbara County, Dec. 30, 1979; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 6: Murder of Cheri Domingo of Santa Barbara County, July 27, 1981; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 7: Murder of Greg Sanchez of Santa Barbara County, July 27, 1981; using a gun of unknown caliber and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 8: Murder of Charlene Smith of Ventura County, found March 16, 1980; and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 9: Murder of Lyman Smith of Ventura County, found March 16, 1980; and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 10: Murder of Patrice Harrington of Orange County, Aug. 21, 1975; and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
Count 11: Murder of Keith Harrington of Orange County, Aug. 21, 1975; and special circumstances because it includes burglary.
Count 12: Murder of Manuella Witthuhn of Irvine, found Feb. 5, 1981; and special circumstances because it includes rape, robbery and burglary.
Count 13: Murder of Janelle Cruz of Irvine killed May 4, 1986; and special circumstances because it includes rape and burglary.
[Now take a small breath here; we got one, but it lasted just a few seconds while Judge Sweet prepared to read more.]
Count 14: Jane Doe 1 of Sacramento on Sep. 6, 1976; robbery.
Count 15: Jane Doe 2 of Sacramento on Apr. 2, 1977; kidnap and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 16: Jane Doe 3 of Sacramento on Apr. 15, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 17: Jane Doe 4 of Sacramento on May 3, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 18: Jane Doe 5 of Sacramento on May 14, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 19: Jane Doe 6 of Sacramento on May 17, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 20: Jane Doe 7 of Sacramento on May 28, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 21: Jane Doe 8 of Sacramento on Oct. 1, 1977; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 22: Jane Doe 9 of Sacramento on Oct. 2, 1977; kidnap and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 23: Jane Doe 10 of Contra Costa County on Oct. 7, 1978; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 24: Jane Doe 11 of Contra Costa County on Oct. 13, 1978; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife during the commission of a crime.
Count 25: Jane Doe 12 of Contra Costa County on Oct. 28, 1978; kidnap, robbery and use of a knife and firearm during the commission of a crime.
Count 26: Jane Doe 13 of Contra Costa County on Jun. 11, 1979; kidnap, robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
The other rapes and burglaries won’t be charged because the statute of limitations has run out in those cases.
Guys, I gotta tell you, listening to this list be read out loud was pure hell. A journalist friend had brought a young person with her to court because they had to rush off to Reno after the hearing. Normally this is just a pop-in and get it done hearing with very little drama. But surprise! This was heavy as hell. I spoke to him before it got started and said, “Wow, you’re here to see a murderer,” and my friend waved me off in that parent-way that communicates (dummy-up, he doesn’t know all that). Welp, after this list being read, he knew. I talked to him afterward to see how he took it in, but I have a feeling that car ride afterward might have included a good discussion.
As each count was read, I took notes, which always provides me with cover so my feelings don’t take over. Even with this distraction, as these words were spoken I had this heavy feeling of dread. Every life on that list (and the 100+ more who had been raped, ransacked or intruded upon) had been changed by the actions of this one person. This doesn’t even include his family. Over the decades I’ve had to deal with my dad’s name being in places that don’t necessarily make me that happy. Books, documentaries, news stories and now a list of crimes. It’s surreal: my dad wanted to be famous. But he wanted it for making a difference and being an extraordinary lawyer and judge (and inevitably a elected official). He never wanted it like this. And yet…
I’ll take my dad’s fame from this case.
And here’s why: nothing has had a bigger impact on criminal justice than DNA. I don’t know if anyone is counting (where are my nerds), but many many crimes have been solved since DeAngelo’s arrest thanks to DNA. In addition, missing persons are being identified left and right. And there are new ideas about using DNA with suspects because DNA testing is getting better and much faster. I was tweeting about this the other day – I feel kinda proud to be part of this case with all the good that’s coming out of his arrest.
Finally, as things wrapped up, the media was there and many of the survivors understandably don’t feel comfortable talking with them. I had gotten a call in the morning from Fox 40 and agreed to talk with them after the hearing. That was fine but I had no idea when the bailiffs shooshed us out the door, that there would be a gaggle of reporters and I was basically alone! At the end of the questions, I spent a bit more time with the guy from the Associated Press (he’s the blond guy with glasses on my right). It was his first time on this beat, he’s new to Sacto (if I got his story right) and he was impressed with the gaggle. We had a really nice talk and I welcomed him to our madness: life after arrest.
A group of the survivors got together than afternoon. Sadly I missed it because I had to stay to talk with Totten and then I got back on the road to Santa Cruz because I had knee surgery the next day.
One of the best things about writing this blog, is getting feedback from you either via comments (below) or on Twitter. For long thoughts, commenting here or an email is best. But if you want to just shoot the you-know-what or be silly, Twitter is awesome. You might see my politics leak through but don’t let that bug you; I believe folks with different opinions make good friends. The support I’ve received this summer has been nothing I would have ever expected. Thank you for that – even if all you did was visit this blog. I feel the support and it helped me get through my little surgery, get back to work and find my inner momentum again.
*Their amazing, comprehensive book is currently on back order – let me know if you’re trying to buy it and I’ll hook you up!
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.
We were stopped in the left turn lane of an intersection that was five lanes deep. Adrian was super mad and started to get out of the passenger seat – which means he would have stepped out into traffic. I shouted stop! And locked all the doors. For some reason that worked. That moment scared the crap out of me. He could have been killed and he didn’t care.
The car was overly-full of kids. I never owned a van but I probably should have because I was the mom who drove the kids around, dragged them to events or adventures. This time I had signed all the kids up for a day at UC Santa Cruz. It was a kids’ conference or something but it meant these middle school kids had a chance to hang out on campus and see what college might be like. The big promise was I’d buy them lunch at the dining commons. I knew that would blow their minds.
Choose whatever floats your boat.
It did. Never have I seen kids so happy to pick and choose any food they want in any order they want to eat it.
It was on our way home from this outing that Adrian got so mad. The rest of us in the car could never remember what set him off. Based on what I’ve learned since that day, I have a feeling it was the fact we were taking him home. The fun day filled with promise of what the future could hold for these amazing kids, was coming to an end. It was time to go home and as I would learn later, home was even worse than we realized.
That was May 2013.
My daughter Katie (in the rainbow striped dress) and her squad had a busy spring. Eighth grade was ending for the girls and they were ready to hit high school. Adrian was an artist and had connected with the girls around art. He was behind them by one year and in a weird way, Katie and her buddy Em were ready for the change. Adrian was intense and often chatted online with f them at night. Mostly he talked about suicide. It was so bad, I tried to get him help. I had found a counselor and was even willing to pay for it. But if you aren’t someone’s legal guardian, it turns out help is nearly impossible to get.
From what I understood, Adrian lived with his mom who was typically not home. She was with “boyfriends” who lived anywhere from Santa Cruz to San Francisco and points in between. When we dropped him off, we made him wave from the third floor window because we wanted to make sure he got in safely. He thought we were nuts – he was so used to being home alone, he couldn’t figure out this “safe” thing. He was just 13. When he wasn’t home alone, it seemed his life was worse. He could hear his mother having sex with different men. I learned later the walls in his apartment didn’t go all the way up to the ceiling; they were more like partitions creating the illusion of privacy but providing next to none.
The threats of suicide became more frequent as the end of school got closer. He knew he was going to lose the girls as friends because they were moving on. I finally had to coach the girls that they needed to tell him they could no longer talk about his suicidal thoughts unless he got help. He was being manipulative and it was starting to wear on them and he wasn’t taking any steps to change his reality.
One message he sent to Katie turned out to be eerily prescient two years later: “I’m afraid something bad is going to happen in high school.”
On the occasion of Katie’s 16th birthday.
A few days before Katie’s 16th birthday, a news story broke. A young girl, Maddy, was missing at The Tannery. I immediately thought about Adrian. As I had expected, we had lost touch when the girls started high school. A yeaer later Adrian had eventually ended up at Katie’s high school and they had said “hi”, but that was about all. As I listened to the news, I had a dark thought about Adrian but pushed it out of my head. Maddy was missing but she could have just wandered off. Or maybe one of the homeless folks who frequented the San Lorenzo river area had engaged her in conversation and she was just down river somewhere; safe but out of bounds.
And then, two days later I was listening to KGO and the bad news came on. Her body had been found in a recycle bin in the garage at The Tannery. And a boy was in custody. Before they spoke, I knew who it was. A future murderer had been in my house. Had been close friends with my daughter!
Having grown up scared of a murderer I couldn’t see and didn’t know, finding out someone who we trusted and cared about had done something so awful freaked me out. I was blown away and how much Maddy looked like Katie and her friends – especially the freckles. Katie and her friends were struggling too. How could the boy they knew do something so horrendous.
July 30 was Katie’s 16th birthday and we had planned to get her driver’s license that day. We did manage that, but her day started with attending Adrian’s arraignment on her own. I had warned her about the media and she was interviewed, but the kid did pretty great. We didn’t miss the irony that in our teens, we had both dealt with a serious crime.
What is just in this case?
Katie and I provided information to both the prosecution and the defense. Katie had hours of Facebook chats to share and we told both sides about his horrible mother and his depression. We agreed we never thought he’d hurt someone else, but he also talked about dark thoughts he had he couldn’t share with anyone. I have to say, he’s probably right. How could he share these kinds of thoughts with anyone and get real help. Especially as a minor.
Last summer, Adrian was heading back to court and his lawyers asked to talk with me. They told me how many times CPS and others were involved in his life and how every stinking time, the resolution ended with calling his mother. No one ever got she was the problem. Routinely, she blamed him for being bad in some way and convinced these child advocates that really she was the victim and Adrian was just a troubled child. Over and over she blamed him. The kid we knew wasn’t bad. He was an artist and a poet and seriously sad.
They wanted me to possibly testify on his behalf but for the first time, I honestly didn’t know if that was something I could do. The crime was horrendous and I had no idea of he could ever be rehabilitated. For someone who lives with a justice monitor lives in my brain like a smoke detector, I had no idea what justice would mean in this case. I didn’t want him executed, but life in prison seemed reasonable. I like to think people aren’t permanently damaged, but how do we know? And I still felt pretty guilty about not fighting harder to get him help. Instead I joined a long list of adults who failed this kid. And eight year old Maddy paid the price.
I did not testify.
So I’m still knocked a little sideways when I see Adrian in the news. The day after I was laid off this week (let’s remember this was just two days after seeing the Golden State Killer for the first time), Adrian appeared on the front page of our local newspaper. I’m disappointed that he’s pleading not guilty,but I suppose they are working to negotiate some kind of sentence that might one day let him get out.
It’s so strange to be on two different sides of murder.
To understand the “before story” and know when someone is suffering, and yet be unable to do a damn thing to change the course of history. You can’t prove a negative. There’s no way to know if I had been able to do something, if Maddy would still be here today. But that’s the logic being used by politicians today: we need to help the mentally ill. Guess what? It’s really, really hard.
We’ve done everything possible to make it impossible.