Joseph DeAngelo is suspected of murdering of 12 people and carrying out more than 50 rapes. His crimes are believed to have been committed over a 10-year period between the early 1970s and 80s, making it one of the largest crimes sprees in the history of California. New evidence led to his arrest last Tuesday.
DeAngelo, 72, is now facing trial after DNA matches provided “overwhelming evidence” of his involvement in the cases. But, should he be found to be responsible for the crimes he is charged with, the Daily Mail suspects there could be someone else at the heart of the case: his ex-fiancée, Bonnie Ueltzen. After all, she was the one who “broke his heart” by calling off the engagement and therefore could have “sparked” his alleged rape and murder spree.
According to the Mail, “instead of settling down with a suspected mass murderer, she married a successful accountant who went on to be a partner in a multi-million-dollar firm.” How dare she! I can almost feel the bitter spit of the detail about her second husband’s fortune in my eye as I read the words on my screen.
It was in the early 1970s when Bonnie Ueltzen was dating DeAngelo, got engaged and then called it off. The ex-police officer, however, seemingly never got over it. Between 1975 and 1986 he allegedly carried out attacks across California, gaining the nicknames Golden State Killer, Original Night Stalker and East Area Rapist. Police have reported that during at least one of the attacks, he sobbed at his victim's side, saying the words, “I hate you, I hate you, Bonnie.” A local investigator told the Mail that this behaviour suggests he is “an anger retaliatory rapist. Instead of directing his anger at what's making him angry, he's directing it sideways on to someone else to be able to satisfy that anger.”
This is a long unsolved case in the state. The potential discovery of DeAngelo’s identity, what Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert called “a needle in a haystack”, is the real story – “a moment in time”, she said. Yet, it seems, not for the Mail. The break in investigations after over 40 years is simply a subplot to the real drama: a man’s heartbreak. The decision to report the 50 rapes and 12 murders in the context of heartbreak is nothing short of misogyny.
And, by linking DeAngelo’s alleged crimes to Ueltzen, she is now involved – complicit, part of the problem – and being hounded for comment by the media. In this bizarre scenario, the suspect is a victim, too.
We will continue to blame women for as long as we refuse to hold men accountable
It is a tiresome and familiar media narrative. Indeed, just last week The Sun and the Mail labelled Kane Swain – who was last week given a restraining order after being prosecuted for the harassment of his ex-girlfriend – “lovesick” (although The Sun seems to have removed the word, after outcry online). It’s the language of abuse itself. Abusers blame their partners for their behaviour – they provoked them, they made them angry, they wore a dress that’s too tight or were out too late or spent too long talking with someone else. They make their victims feel complicit in their crimes; a cruel co-dependency where the abuse is the response to the actions of the victim and the guilt is transferred. For many abusers, a man’s behaviour is never truly his own and a woman is never truly blameless. We have seen the most extreme idea of this in the community of “incels” that came to light after the Toronto van attacker claimed to support the group. Incels or “involuntary celibates” are extreme misogynists who blame women for their own virginity or sexual failings. While this might be found in crevices of the internet we’d rather forget, their “ideology” isn’t a million miles away from the Mail’s headline – I killed her because I couldn’t have her – and it’s an idea that has been twisted with romance and therefore made “tragic” for what feels like an eternity. It’s not difficult to see how the media’s constant barrage of women-blaming helps reinforce these terrifying ideas.
We will continue to blame women for as long as we refuse to hold men accountable; for as long as we frame rape as the outcome of heartbreak or ask victims of domestic violence why *they* didn't leave or tell women not to wear short skirts. We can see in Spain, right now, how one court of law has refused to acknowledge that the gang rape of an 18-year-old should be classified as anything more than sexual assault, with one magistrate trying to acquit the nine men *entirely*, partly because *she* didn’t struggle enough. For too long, men have constructed narratives that protect them and absolve them of responsibility. Heartbreak doesn’t make men rapists and murderers, and neither do women. Men do that all by themselves.