Detectives identify 1970s 'West Side Rapist' serial killer
The first wave of slayings haunted Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. The killer slipped mostly unseen through the night, preying on older women who lived alone. He raped them and squeezed their necks until they passed out or died. Of the 17 who were killed, he placed pillows or blankets over their faces.
The second wave hit a decade later in Claremont -- five older women raped and strangled, faces again covered. Even with at least 20 survivors, police never connected the two homicide-and-rape rampages nor solved either of them. The victims gave conflicting descriptions of the rapist, police in different jurisdictions didn't communicate, and DNA technology had not come into use.
Now authorities say they have linked John Floyd Thomas Jr., a 72-year-old state insurance claims adjuster who twice has been convicted of sexual assault, to five of the slayings. Detectives also describe him as a suspect in up to 25 more based on the circumstances of those crimes.
"When all is said and done, Mr. Thomas stands to be Los Angeles' most prolific serial killer," said LAPD Robbery-Homicide Cold Case Det. Richard Bengston.
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-- Andrew Blankstein and Joe Mozingo