Very little that happens in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark‘s special follow-up episode comes as a surprise. After all, the first six hours of HBO’s docuseries chronicled the reign of terror that Joseph DeAngelo, aka the Golden State Killer, visited upon his rape and murder victims for decades, as well as his eventual arrest in 2018 and admission of guilt.
But the final installment in the series shows DeAngelo’s victims triumphantly speaking in court ahead of his August 2020 sentencing, and watching those women and men achieve a measure of peace after such a long nightmare is really something.
DeAngelo’s sentencing takes place over four days, an extended time necessary to address the sheer number of crimes he committed. We watch as he is wheeled into the proceedings in a wheelchair, wearing orange prison scrubs and looking like a very frail, very old man. When he verifies his name for the record, he appears to not really know what’s going. But all of that is a ruse, prosecutor Anne Marie Schubert tells everyone assembled, referring to security footage of DeAngelo in his cell. On those tapes, captured not long before the sentencing, he appears spry, moving with fluidity around his room and climbing up on the bed and counter in order to fix the lighting to his liking. Schubert points out that he’s dimming the fluorescent lights in a similar fashion to how he would drape towels over televisions during his attacks. “He has and always will be a sociopath in action,” Schubert notes.
Then Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Thien Ho notes that, when being interviewed after his arrest, DeAngelo feigned incoherence and muttered about someone named “Jerry” who lived in his head and made him do bad things. “He just pretended to act crazy to avoid getting in trouble,” Ho adds.
Then DeAngelo’s survivors, including many that we met in earlier episodes, speak to the court. Their statements detail how he took their youth, their innocence, their sense of safety and well-being, and how it has taken decades of hard work to try to set their lives right. Gay Hardwick starts to cry a little as she addresses the court; her husband, Bob, stands up next to her and kisses her on the head, and she continues. Jane Carson, a survivor of DeAngelo’s East Area Rapist years, points out that she’s become good friends with Bonnie Colwell, his ex-fiancé (and the woman whose name he sometimes invoked while committing his heinous acts). Colwell is there with Carson, in fact. “Even a gun pointed at her face could not make her choose you,” Carson taunts DeAngelo.
At the final sentencing, on Aug. 21, 2020, DeAngelo addresses the court. “I’ve listened to all your statements, each one of them. And I’m really sorry to everyone I’ve hurt,” he says. “Thank you, your honor.” He receives 11 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus an additional life sentence, plus eight years — the maximum sentence allowed under the law. As DeAngelo is wheeled out, those in the audience stand and applaud.
Later, Gay and Bob Hardwick sit down with the docuseries to talk about how DeAngelo’s unending sentence is preferable to the death penalty, because there would have been years of appeals. “The case would still be in the forefront of my mind,” she notes. Still, “It’s something we’re stuck with for the rest of our lives,” Bob says. “It’s better, but it’s still there, you know?”
Survivor Kris Pedretti adds: “This turned out to be a really good ending to a really rotten story.”
The special episode also explored the murder case that whet I’ll Be Gone in the Darkauthor Michelle McNamara’s appetite for sleuthing: the 1984 rape and killing of Kathleen Lombardo, McNamara’s neighbor in Oak Park, Ill. The docuseries talks with Lombardo’s brother, Chris, who has been frustrated by the police department’s inattention to the case in the intervening years. FIlmmakers also interview Grace Puccetti, whose attack and attempted rape in 1982 bears a lot of similarities to Lombardo’s. In fact, there were several such incidents in the area around that time.
McNamara emailed Puccetti years ago but at the time, Puccetti was uninterested in rehashing her attack. “And then she died,” Puccetti says, explaining her reason for getting involved now: “Without someone like that pursuing this, this is never going to get solved.”
A title card at the end of the episode informs us that, after three rejected Freedom of Information Act requests, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark‘s filmmakers and Chris Lombardo are suing Oak Park Police Department for access to case files and forensic records. Oak Park police say they won’t provide access because the investigation is ongoing. The outcome of the suit “is pending.”
Now it’s your turn. What did you think about this extra installment of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark? Sound off in the comments!