Police believe a 72-year-old man charged with two cold-case murders is tied to two decades-old waves of Southern California serial killings and as many as 25 victims.
DNA matching former insurance adjuster John Floyd Thomas Jr. was found at five crime scenes spanning the killing-and-rape rampages in west Los Angeles in the 1970s and Claremont in the 1980s, said LAPD Robbery-Homicide Cold Case Detective Richard Bengston.
“When all is said and done, Mr. Thomas stands to be Los Angeles’ most prolific serial killer,” Bengston told the Los Angeles Times.
Police planned to reveal details of the case at a news conference.
In the first wave of killings in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, a man police dubbed “The Westside Rapist” entered the homes of elderly women who lived alone, raped them and choked them until they passed out or died. The 17 who were killed were found with pillows or blankets over their faces.
A decade later and 40 miles to the east, five elderly women in Claremont were found raped and killed, also with blankets or pillows over their faces.
Despite some 20 survivors of similar attacks, detectives said they didn’t solve either set of cases nor connect the two. They blamed conflicting descriptions from victims, lack of communication between agencies and a past absence of DNA technology.
Thomas, who has twice been convicted of sexual assault, was arrested at his South Los Angeles apartment on March 31, authorities said. Soon after, he resigned from his job with the State Compensation Insurance Fund in Glendale, Calif. where he had worked since 1989.
He was charged April 2 with the murder of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in 1972, and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, both in Los Angeles.
Thomas was being held in a county jail and could not be reached for comment. Officers reached by phone Thursday morning had no information on an attorney for Floyd.
Bengston said Thomas’ DNA also was connected to the scene of a 1975 Los Angeles murder, a 1976 Inglewood murder, and a Claremont killing in 1986.
Los Angeles police were still investigating at least a dozen other murders connected to an unidentified serial killer who has been dubbed the “Grim Sleeper.”
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