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Ashland woman recalls brush with killer

Not everyone can say they charged a serial killer and ran him off the property. But Victoria Kindell of Ashland can.

She related the story Monday, the day Joseph DeAngelo, known as the Golden State killer, pleaded guilty to 13 murders and almost 50 rapes, from 1974 to 1986. The plea deal gave him 11 consecutive life sentences, with no chance of parole — and took the death penalty off the table.

In 1978, Kindell was 21 and had just graduated in computer programming from UC Davis.

“I was a pretty blonde girl with long brown legs, living in California,” she writes on Facebook. “I spent my days swimming in my apartment pool and looking for a job in the small college town of Davis.

“I loved Davis and my life there with my husband, Steve, but I did not know that someone was watching me, plotting, planning under my bedroom window every night for months. He had been trained in the Navy to do reconnaissance, to be patient.

“He quietly watched for hours with his sweatshirt hood pulled tightly around his face. I knew none of this at the time ... until one night I discovered him under my window.”

In an interview, with the daylong court proceeding streaming in the background, Kindell recounted terrible dreams of a man breaking in and attacking her.

It was hot, and they slept with the windows open to save on air conditioning. In the middle of the night, she looked out the window and spotted a big lump, like a garbage bag.

“A second later, a man jumped up and stared at me through the screen, with a parka tied tightly around his face. He terrified me. I screamed at him. I think I caught him by surprise. You’d think I would have cowered. I was only 110 pounds, but I was on the swim team and had strong legs.

“I ran out in my underwear and chased him down the apartment balcony. He jumped over the railing to the ground, 15 feet below and ran away, through the neighborhood.

“I collapsed in a heap. We called the police. They weren’t very helpful. They said it was just a peeping Tom. But when I saw police sketches later, I recognized him.”

Kindell didn’t understand her nightmares, but after the brush with the killer, it became clear “my unconscious sense told me he was there.” Stressed by the dreams, she flew to visit her mother in Ohio. The dreams stopped immediately. When she came back to California, they raged on.

“They were the most horrifying dreams of my whole life. In the last one, the night before I chased him off, I took a bazooka or cannon and shot the guy. The dream empowered me to be proactive and not a victim. I’m a math-and-science person, not a woo-woo person, but I know those dreams saved me from something really awful — and we got to have a good life.”

After that night, the dreams never came back.

Kindell’s husband graduated in June 1978 from UC Davis, they moved to the Bay Area, “and that really saved us,” she says, because DeAngelo would stalk his victims for months, preferring to attack couples, making the woman tie up the man, then raping her repeatedly and taking breaks to make meals in the kitchen. He would place teacups on the man’s back and tell them if he heard any noise, he would kill everyone.

During that period, DeAngelo was a police officer in nearby Auburn, and the attacks and murders went on for years in the Sacramento area, Bay Area and Southern California.

Advances in DNA technology allowed police in 2001 to connect the scores of crimes to one man, and in 2018, with the growing database of DNA from ancestry sites, detectives found relatives of the offender, allowing them to identify and arrest him. By then, DeAngelo was 72 and frail.

Kindell says the incident made her feel “like you’re prey, like your humanity is not recognized. That really creeps me out.”

Her anxiety persisted for the next 40 years. She wanted to write about it, but “he was still out there and you never know. When he was arrested, I felt an intense amount of relief.”

Now, she is writing a memoir.

“Looking back, I feel super lucky. I was lucky he didn’t have a weapon. It was creepy that he was a cop. He would hear information on his police radio, about where the cops had stakeouts looking for him — and he would go somewhere else. He even attended a community meeting about how to protect yourself from him. He was horrible and sadistic.”

Kindell, now a property owner in Ashland’s Railroad District, was barely watching the long, gruesome sentencing ordeal, in which each crime was named and briefly described — followed by the killer saying “I admit.” She said the courtroom drama might distract her husband, who was home at work, so she would watch it later on YouTube.

Now, the long years of anxiety are over for Kindell.

“A lot of us survivors, especially with him on trial, feel vindicated and powerful, knowing he will be in prison all his life. It’s very empowering seeing there are consequences.”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneVictoria Kindell talks{ } about fighting off the Golden State Killer on Wednesday at Lithia Park in Ashland .