LAPD Hunts 23-Year Serial Killer

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Starting in 1985, the same suspect has reportedly been killing women in the Los Angeles area. As of early last year, when the last body was found, the total number of known victims is now 11. All were black, and all except one were women.

But until DNA tests linked the cases, in May 2007, police didn’t realize they are seeking a serial killer who has apparently been active for nearly two decades, reports the Los Angeles Times. “Long stretches of time between known killings and a disjointed, often dormant investigation that spanned different generations of detectives left police unclear for years that a single man was behind the slayings.”

Now a seven-detective team headed by Los Angeles Police Detective Dennis Kilcoyne is reinvestigating cold leads, checking prison records and looking at nearly three dozen other cases that have similarities to the suspect’s known crimes, the newspaper recounts. The known female victims were sexually abused, and most of their bodies were left along a stretch of Western Avenue. Detectives suspect most worked as prostitutes.

The article says detectives had linked the gun used to kill the first victim to seven other killings by 1988. Plus, the same year, a woman who was sexually assaulted, shot in the chest with the same gun and left for dead survived and gave a description of the assailant, an African-American man then in his mid-30s. She said he was driving an orange Ford Pinto, and authorities pulled registration records for every such car in Los Angeles County.

But they didn’t find him, and, as it seemed, 13 years passed without any further killings, until more recent victims were also linked to the earlier crimes. Authorities think the suspect may have been in prison for part of the last 20 years. But it may also be that there are other victims who haven’t yet been connected to the suspect.

“We cannot be so arrogant to think that everything this guy has ever done came with an LAPD crime report attached to it,” Kilcoyne tells the Times.

One possible investigative technique that could potentially solve the case, if Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general, gives permission to use it, is so-called familial DNA testing. Authorities could compare the suspect’s DNA to close matches in their database of DNA samples, seeking to see if they can identify one of his relatives.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Familial DNA Searches Are Creating Genetic Informants”

ABAJournal.com: “Sweeping DNA Searches By U.K. ‘Gene Police’; Will US Follow Suit?”

ABA Journal: “Match Point”

ABAJournal.com: “Interest Wanes in $100 M Murder Trial”

Corrected at 5 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2008 to provide Jerry Brown’s correct title.

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