Suspected Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo may have two more victims — a mother and her son — on top of the dozen people he’s accused of murdering.
And the man wrongfully convicted for the brutal November 1978 slaying of Rhonda Wicht and her young son Donald just wants closure in the case.
“I just hope this guy matches it,” Craig Coley, who spent almost 40 years in prison for the killings, told the Daily News on Monday. “That will give the family some final closure.”
Coley said he’d recently split with Wicht, 24, when cops found her strangled and 4-year-old Donald suffocated on Nov. 11, 1978 inside her Simi Valley apartment.
“Rhonda and Donny were very dear to me,” said Coley, 70. “We were like a family.”
The Vietnam veteran was charged with killing the mother and son, tossed in the notorious Folsom State Prison after two trials. He’d remain behind bars until November 2017, when Gov. Jerry Brown cleared him of the the charges.
“I was never really given a chance to grieve their deaths either,” he said. “I just got thrown into the lion’s den.”
Ventura County prosecutors implored the governor last fall to clear Coley, realizing the DNA evidence at the scene didn’t match his.
“Rhonda’s family, they more than anyone need some relief from all of this,” he said. “It seemed put to rest for a long time, and now all of a sudden, it’s all come back to the surface.”
Police in Ventura County decided to see if DeAngelo was a match after he was arrested last week at his quaint home in Citrus Valley, Calif. Sacramento County investigators were able to track him down through DNA submitted by a distant relative to an ancestry site aimed at tracking down long-lost relatives.
Simi Valley Deputy Chief Joseph May told CBS affiliate KCAL investigators submitted DNA samples from the 1978 killings to see if it synced up with DeAngelo.
“Its within the realm of possibility that he could be a suspect in our case,” May told the channel.
DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former cop, is believed to have killed 12 and raped up to 50 more throughout the Golden State from the 1974 to 1986.
May pointed out that two of those victims, Lyman and Charlene Smith, were bludgeoned to death inside their Ventura County home in 1980, meaning it’s possible he struck more than once in the area.
Coley, who bought a house and learned to drive after prison, said he’s “still trying to wrap my head around the whole situation.”
“It’s a difficult thing to put in words,” he told The News. “It’s even more difficult to get away from the surreal feeling that this actually occurred in my life and delayed it for four decades.”