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South L.A. serial killer convicted in three more murders

November 3, 2011 | 11:49 am

Michael HughesThis post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details

A former security guard already convicted of multiple murders a decade ago was found guilty by a jury Thursday of three additional slayings.

In 1998, Michael Hughes was convicted of killing four women, three of whom were choked to death and dumped in alleys in a commercial area of Culver City. He was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Los Angeles police cold-case homicide detectives later linked Hughes to the strangulation slayings of four more victims, ages 15 to 36, through DNA evidence. He was convicted Thursday in three of those cases: the deaths of Yvonne Coleman, 15, Verna Patricia Williams, 36, and Deborah Jackson, aka Harriet McKinley, 32.

MAP: Serial killers in South L.A.

The killings came in an era when authorities say that at least five serial killers, and possibly more, were active in the South Los Angeles area. During the 1980s and early 1990s, these killers targeted mostly young African American women, dumping their bodies in alleys, vacant buildings or parks.

At the time, the eight killings were footnotes in an era of unprecedented violence in Los Angeles that began in the 1980s with the crack cocaine epidemic that fueled gang activity. The resulting violence saw the number of homicides soar to more than 1,000 annually in the early 1990s.

The slayings linked to Hughes were very similar to crimes committed by other serial murderers who were in Los Angeles at the time. In recent years, prosecutors have convicted two other men -- Chester Turner and Ivan J. Hill -- in similar killing sprees.

Authorities long suspected Hughes was linked to killings beyond Los Angeles because of his frequent movements. He lived in Long Beach, San Diego and Michigan.

His life sentence was for convictions in the deaths of Teresa Ballard, 26, whose partly clothed body was found in Jesse Owens County Park near Western Avenue and Century Boulevard in Los Angeles on Sept. 23, 1992; Brenda Bradley, 38, whose partly clothed body was found in an alley near the eastern tip of Culver City 12 days later; Terri Myles, 33, whose nude body was found two blocks away from the Bradley crime scene on Nov. 8, 1993; and Jamie Harrington, 29, whose clothed body was found nearby on Nov. 14, 1993.

The latest series of cases were investigated by LAPD detectives Cliff Shepard and Paul Coulter. The victims include Coleman, 15, a student at Morningside High School in Inglewood who left her home in January 1986 and was found in one of the city's parks.

Four months later, the body of Williams, 36, was discovered at 68th Street School in South L.A. by students. In addition, detectives linked Hughes to the August 1990 killing of  Wilson, 30, at a home on West 55th Street, and the 1992 death of  Jackson, 32, who was found near a trash container outside a paint store in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.

At the time, the victims were believed to be the victims of the so-called Southside Slayer. It was later determined that there were multiple serial killers operating in the area at the time.

The penalty phase of the capital murder trial begins Monday before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe.

For the record, 5:23 p.m., Nov. 3: A previous version of this post listed Deanna Marie Wilson, 30, as one of the victims for which Hughes was convicted.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

twitter.com/anblanx

Photo: Michael Hughes.  Credit: Los Angeles Police Department

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