LA’s Most Prolific Serial Killer Suspect Aprehended

April 30, 2009

(ChattahBox) — An aging insurance claims adjuster John Floyd Thomas Jr, may be responsible for up to 27 killings or more in two sprees of sex murders that terrorized southern California in the 1970s and 1980s.

The 72-year-old arrested earlier this month was forced to submit a DNA sample taken as part of an effort to build an offender database in October.

DNA matching Thomas’ was found at three other crime scenes in the 1970s and ’80s, leading to murder charges for the death of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in 1972 and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in 1976.

Detectives also consider Thomas a suspect in at least 25 other killings, all were older white women, mostly of lower incomes and often widows living alone. All had been sexually assaulted and most were strangled, and the number could grow as detectives probe unsolved cases going back to the 1950s.

The first wave of killings attributed to the so-called “Westside Rapist” in the mid-1970s, claimed the lives of 17 women ranging in age from the 50s to the 90s.

The killer strangled his victims as he raped them and left them dead with pillows or blankets covering their faces.

The murders stopped in 1978, the same year Thomas was sent to jail, after a witness copied down his car license number after he raped a woman in Pasadena.

The second wave began after his release in 1983, when five more elderly white women were raped and strangled in the Claremont area, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and left with their faces covered.

After 1989, it appears that no further related murders occurred, the Times reports.  The killings stopped the same year that Mr Thomas took a job with the state workers’ compensation agency in Glendale.

Despite the fact that more than 20 women survived attacks, police did not link the two waves of killings because witnesses gave differing descriptions of the assailant and DNA technology was not in use.

As far back as 2004, some of the murders were linked to the same unknown suspect but Thomas apparently was never pursued as a suspect in any of the cases until DNA testing allegedly matched him to five slayings.

Police at this time don’t know if and why Thomas finally stopped killing.


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