A look at the skilled attorneys taking on the East Area Rapist case that likely will define their careers
The names earned over the decades – the East Area Rapist, the Visalia Ransacker, the Original Night Stalker, the Golden State Killer – finally had a face. And, for the attorneys involved, it promises to be the biggest case of their careers.
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, a former police officer and mercurial father of three, was nabbed in April by detectives at the doorstep of his quiet Citrus Heights home. A tip after decades of dead ends provided the link that prosecutors say tied DeAngelo to the string of brutal murders and rapes that terrorized Sacramento and towns across California in the 1970s and 1980s.
Twelve people were killed during that 12-year stretch from 1974 to 1986. Another 51 were raped. Among the killer’s victims were a young Rancho Cordova couple, Katie and Brian Maggiore, shot dead the night of Feb. 2, 1978.
On Aug. 13, Tulare County filed a new murder charge against DeAngelo, adding a 13th name to the grim list: Claude Snelling, a journalism professor shot dead outside his Visalia home in September 1975 while trying to stop his 16-year-old daughter’s abduction.
In Santa Ana a week after the Tulare filing, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and five district attorneys announced they would jointly refile the 13 murder charges, add 13 more charges of kidnapping for robbery for alleged attacks on more victims and try the case in the state capital.
DeAngelo returns to Sacramento Superior Court Dec. 6.
The lawyers on both sides would not comment on their roles. Who are they? Here are snapshots:
Thienvu Ho, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney
- Joined the state bar: 1998
- Known for: Ho made his mark in the office’s Sexual Assault Child Abuse – or SACA – Unit prosecuting the harrowing case of young Lilly Manning, the teenage girl who endured years of savage beatings and torture with a hammer, pliers and wooden planks at the hands of her great-aunt and her great-aunt’s husband in their south Sacramento home before she escaped in October 2007.
Joseph Horvath was sentenced in 2009 to consecutive life terms in state prison for beating, torturing and imprisoning Lilly. Lilly’s great-aunt Lillian Manning-Horvath was 72 when she was sentenced in July 2011 to up to six years in a mental facility and consecutive life terms in state prison for her crimes.
Lilly Manning’s story was chronicled in a series of reports in The Bee in 2011, “The Girl with 100 Scars,” that also exposed systematic failures in the county’s child welfare system.
- What they said: “Ho is a high quality attorney with a lot of experience. His high point is his ability to deal with massive amounts of information – he’s good at turning volumes of discovery. And he’s one hell of a trial attorney.” – Rod Norgaard, Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney
Amy Holliday, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney
- Joined the state bar: 1998
- Known for: Holliday was on the office’s ASAP – Adult Sexual Assault Prosecution – team when her dogged work took down disgraced Sacramento Police patrolman Gary Dale Baker at his 2015 trial for the repeated rapes in 2010 and 2012 of a septuagenarian grandmother who was rendered mostly mute after she suffered a stroke. Baker was 49 at the time of the first attack. His victim was 75 years old.
Baker had worked his south Sacramento beat for years during more than two decades on the force before he was arrested and fired in December 2012.
Baker was sentenced in November 2015 to 62 years to life in state prison on nine counts ranging from rape, to forcible oral copulation to assault with intent to commit rape and burglary, marking a dramatic fall, sentencing Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ernest Sawtelle said, from “protector to predator.”
- What they said: “If you’re going to do a case like this, you’re in for the long haul. You’re looking for some of the top litigators and they fit the bill. These two (Ho and Holliday) fit the bill perfectly.” – Steve Grippi, Sacramento County Chief Deputy District Attorney.
Diane Howard, Sacramento County Supervising Assistant Public Defender. Howard’s team includes longtime supervising assistant public defender Joseph Cress and assistant public defender and DNA expert David Lynch.
- Joined the state bar: 1985
- Known for: Howard defended Audrey Ann Jackson, the homeless drifter charged with murder in the September 2008 shooting of a man at a downtown Sacramento bus stop after he turned away Jackson’s efforts to panhandle money from him and others.
Francisco Salvador Perez, who had cerebral palsy, died 13 months later of blood clots that prosecutors said resulted from the shooting. Perez was 54. Howard argued at Jackson’s 2011 trial that the shooting and Perez’s death could not be definitively linked when taken with his cerebral palsy, hardened arteries and a fall at a care center two weeks before he was shot that broke 11 of his ribs..
A Sacramento jury in June 2011 agreed, exonerating Jackson of the murder charge. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard later placed Jackson in a state mental hospital for the attempted murder of Perez.
- What they said: “Diane is a perfect combination of bad-ass trial attorney and compassion. She’s a fierce and extremely brilliant advocate who has experience with difficult and complex cases as well as challenging clients.” - Michael Wise, Sacramento defense attorney