SACRAMENTO, Calif. — He was once a lawman, later a foul-tempered family man with a manicured lawn who for decades, authorities say, had hidden his horrors from the world.

On Friday, Joseph James DeAngelo sat in a crowded Sacramento courtroom facing murder charges in an alleged horrific attack 40 years ago that prosecutors say was part of the notorious East Area Rapist spree that terrified California.

DeAngelo, 72, faces two counts of murder in the 1978 slaying of a couple in Rancho Cordova, the first two murder charges of 12 he is expected to face.

He arrived Friday afternoon in a wheelchair wearing the standard orange jail garb, appearing frail with his eyes barely open. He whispered “yes” when Judge Michael Sweet asked if he was DeAngelo.

Minutes later, the hearing was over, with DeAngelo not entering a plea after charges were read. Sweet appointed public defender Diane Howard and scheduled a May 14 hearing.

The hearing came more than four decades after the start of a terrifying run that involved the dozen homicides, more than 50 rapes and a string of other crimes between 1974 and 1986.

DeAngelo was arrested outside his home Tuesday afternoon and booked into the county jail on two charges of murder in the February 1978 slayings of Katie and Brian Maggiore in Rancho Cordova.

“For people who grew up here it changed who we were as a community,” said Renee Voelker, a lifelong Sacramento resident.

“To have this man finally caught while I’m still alive – and while he’s still alive – it’s an exciting time. This brings closure to all those people who were affected at his hands and who directly and indirectly were affected as a community.”

He faced arraignment in Sacramento Superior Court on Friday, but authorities still must determine where he ultimately will stand trial and whether he faces death penalty prosecutions.

Some of the murders were committed at a time when the death penalty had been ruled unconstitutional, but others are eligible. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said she wants to meet with prosecutors from the counties where DeAngelo is suspected of murders and plan a joint prosecution.

“It makes sense to do it in one county,” she said. “The majority of the murders happened down in Southern California, so I’m comfortable with wherever it’s going to be as long as everybody gets to be a participant.”

Prosecutors also must grapple with whether to file rape charges against DeAngelo because for many cases the statute of limitations has expired.

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