After appearing in court three times in a wheelchair, East Area Rapist suspect Joseph James DeAngelo managed to walk into court on his own power Monday for a brief hearing that was continued without any action being taken.
DeAngelo, 72, walked into the steel cage in Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Sweet's courtroom in the first floor of the Main Jail, where he is being held without bail as he faces 12 murder counts.
He wore an orange jail jumpsuit and was not handcuffed. DeAngelo whispered briefly with public defender Diane Howard but did not make eye contact with the audience in the packed courtroom and left within minutes.
DeAngelo's next hearing has been set for May 29 for the judge to decide on various motions from the defense, including one to close coverage of the hearings to the media. DeAngelo's lawyers also are fighting to keep the arrest warrant and search warrant affidavits sealed, despite a motion from The Sacramento Bee and numerous other news organizations to release them.
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Sweet delayed a decision on that because the defense said it had not received the search warrant returns — which describe what items were taken from DeAngelo's Citrus Heights home following his April 24 arrest — in time for them to fashion legal arguments against releasing them to the media.
As with previous hearings, media outlets from around the nation jammed the jail hallways hoping to get in as a bailiff called out names of agencies ranging from the major television networks to HBO and Fanzine. Sweet, who allowed cameras into DeAngelo's first court hearing, has since rejected requests for any electronic coverage of the sessions, allowing reporters only to take notes.
Friends of victims of the East Area Rapist, also known as the Golden State Killer, were escorted into the courtroom early, and one woman who had been a friend of two victims spoke afterward about seeing the suspect close up in court.
"After 40 years, I never thought this would be solved," said Deanne Helton, whose parents were friends of the first couple believed slain by the East Area Rapist.
Katie and Brian Maggiore were shot to death in February 1978 while walking their dog in Rancho Cordova, and murder charges in that case were filed by Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's office in April. Helton's parents were friends with the Maggiores and said her parents continued to spend time with the families after the couple were killed.
"It's all been unreal," Helton said after court on Monday. "He seems so old and feeble."
DeAngelo's appearance in a wheelchair for his initial court hearings had been mocked as an act by law enforcement officials who watched him under surveillance and said he had been seen before his arrest racing his motorcycle at speeds of 100 mph and building a table at his home.
Howard would not comment initially Monday as she returned to the jail with public defender Joseph Cress to meet with DeAngelo, who is now housed on the jail's second floor.
After her visit, she told reporters that she would not discuss his physical condition and said she still did not know whether DeAngelo will be entering a plea at the next court hearing.
"I don’t believe we're going to be entering a plea on May 29, but things could change," Howard said.
DeAngelo is suspected of 12 murders, 51 rapes and dozens of burglaries from 1974 through 1986, when the person committing those crimes was alternately known as the East Area Rapist, Golden State Killer, Original Night Stalker and Visalia Ransacker.
A former police officer and father of three, DeAngelo is suspected of committing his crimes the length of California during a time he is believed to have lived in the Sacramento area. He was arrested in April at his longtime Citrus Heights home and faces two murder counts in Sacramento and 10 more in Orange, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The Bee's Hector Amezcua contributed.