DNA Frees Boyfriend. So Was It the Golden State Killer?

Craig Coley lost nearly 4 decades of his life
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2018 2:40 PM CDT
Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who authorities suspect is the so-called Golden State Killer responsible for at least a dozen murders and 50 rapes in the 1970s and 80s, is arraigned, Friday, April 27, 2018,...   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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(Newser) – Forty years ago, the wrong guy took the rap for a gruesome double murder in Simi Valley, Calif.—and now police are asking if the real culprit was the Golden State Killer, NBC San Diego reports. Back in 1978, a family member stumbled on the raped, strangled, and beaten body of 24-year-old single mom Rhonda Wicht and her smothered 4-year-old son Donald. Suspicion fell on Wicht's boyfriend Craig Coley, a Navy veteran who was convicted and spent nearly 40 years in prison despite police officials arguing at the time for his innocence. DNA tests exonerated Coley last year and Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him, which re-opened the question: Who really did it?

The killers' MOs are similar: The Golden State Killer struck young unmarried women at home alone or with kids, and ransacked his victims' rooms—features both found in the Wicht killings. Now Simi Valley police are asking for the DNA of Joseph DeAngelo Junior, the Golden State Killer suspect, to see if it matches evidence from the Wicht crime scene. That wouldn't give 70-year-old Coley back his lost decades, but CBS Los Angeles reports that he's eligible to receive money in a lawsuit, and his religious conversion apparently brought him peace behind bars. "If I wasn't a Christian, I could curse [the killer] out, but what good is that going to do?" he asks. "They'll get theirs in the end when God judges them. I just hope and pray they haven’t hurt anyone else."

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