The victims of Joe DeAngelo can be described collectively as living at a low risk for violent crime victimization. They were respectable members of their communities, living without any significant or apparent conflict, in relatively safe neighborhoods. None of them were noted to have engaged in significantly risky behavior that would have enhanced their likelihood for becoming his victims. Further, there was nothing discovered during the investigations that supported the belief that victims were selected on the basis of prior interaction with DeAngelo. Rather, the selection of the victims was based on several factors in combination. They were available in that they were present in the places and at the times DeAngelo chose to commit his crimes. They were deemed vulnerable by DeAngelo (e.g., living in one-story single-family residences that DeAngelo could burglarize). And finally, they were deemed by DeAngelo to be desirable because they were people whom he felt he could gain and exert extreme control through threat (and use) of deadly force.
DeAngelo chose the places and times to commit his crimes. The exceptions to this were when he was surprised, challenged, confronted, or pursued. In those instances, DeAngelo’s violence was reactive and based upon fear of confrontation or apprehension.
Because he did not target victims based on personal bases, the places selected by DeAngelo were not so he could access particular victims. The locations were also not chosen randomly. Rather, the geographic groupings of his crimes were the result of DeAngelo having chosen “hunting grounds.” These were areas with which he had a great deal of familiarity because of his considerable prior contact with them. They provided DeAngelo the level of comfort necessary for him to have sufficient confidence and security while offending.
Of DeAngelo’s murder victims, two distinct groups can be discerned from one another. First, murder victims who were killed during the commission of other crimes – sexually motivated home invasion/sexual assault/theft combinations. The second group were those he murdered because they confronted, challenged, threatened, or pursued DeAngelo. While the former group shared the characteristics mentioned above as generally describing his chosen victims, the latter were victimized because their interactions with DeAngelo caused him fear and anxiety. He neutralized their threat by killing them.