Joseph and his brother, Mel, were sent to a foster home in Oakland before moving in with extended family. It was there that Mel says he and Joseph were sexually abused. "They had us to have oral sex with them. We didn't know what that was or meant or anything," Mel says. "We finally realized when we grew up that it was wrong, and that was a terrible experience for us."
As a teen, a homeless Joseph lived in abandoned houses with no running water. "You see murders, rapes, robbery, and I just learned how to just cut off my feelings," he says. "I started selling drugs around 12 or 13. My heart started just growing colder and colder over the years. I got arrested numerous times for possession and going in and out of juvenile hall."
At age 19, Joseph made a fatal decision. In January 1997, police say Joseph and two other men stormed a rival drug dealer's apartment in San Diego. There were five people in the home. Witnesses say Joseph held them at gunpoint and forced them to lie face-down on the ground. Witnesses say they begged for their lives, but Joseph shot them execution-style. Police found two people dead. Two others lived, but suffered from multiple gunshot wounds. Another woman was beaten and barely escaped alive.
The prosecutor at Joseph's trial deemed the murders the "Super Bowl of crimes" and recommended the death penalty. Defense attorneys argued that Joseph's childhood led him to a life of crime. With a deadlocked jury, Joseph received a lesser sentence—life without the possibility of parole.