Joseph James DeAngelo, 74, pleaded guilty in June to 13 murders and 13 rape-related charges under a plea deal that avoided a possible death sentence.
The punishment imposed by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman means DeAngelo will die in prison for the crimes committed between 1975 and 1986.
"When a person commits monstrous acts, they need to be locked away so they can never harm an innocent person," the judge said.
DeAngelo also publicly admitted dozens more sexual assaults for which the statute of limitations had expired. Prosecutors called the scale of the violence "simply staggering," encompassing 87 victims at 53 crime scenes spanning 11 California counties.
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Before sentencing, DeAngelo rose from a wheelchair, took off his mask and said to the court: "I listened to all your statements, each one of them, and I'm truly sorry for everyone I've hurt."
Applause erupted when DeAngelo was remanded to the custody of sheriff's officials for transfer to the state prison system.
"The defendant deserves no mercy," the judge said.
Bowman sentenced DeAngelo in a university ballroom large enough to hold all the survivors and family members of victims. The sentencing followed an extraordinary three-day hearings in which they told in excruciating detail how he had upended their lives.
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DeAngelo sat silently through those hearings, expressionless in a wheelchair that prosecutors contended is a prop to hide his still vigorous health.
He eluded capture for four decades until investigators used a new form of DNA tracking to unmask and arrest him in 2018.
One of six prosecutors who spoke before the sentencing, Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward, said the outcome of the case offered hope to victims of long unsolved crimes.
"As science and technology evolve, the space for evil like this to operate within gets smaller and smaller. Simply put, the DNA will never forget," Ward said.
Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty but settled for a life term given California's moratorium on executions, the coronavirus pandemic and the advancing age of DeAngelo, his victim, and witnesses they needed to make their case.
Bowman sentenced DeAngelo under a plea deal that called for 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, plus 15 life terms with the possibility of parole and eight years for other enhancements.