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DNA ties reputed Los Angeles serial killer to sixth case

April 30, 2009 |  7:54 pm

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 A 72-year-old man who Los Angeles police allege was a prolific serial killer in the 1970s and '80s has been linked to a sixth cold case through DNA evidence, authorities said Thursday.

John Thomas, a former  state insurance claims adjuster who twice has been convicted of sexual assault, has already been linked through DNA evidence to five of the slayings in Claremont, Inglewood and Los Angeles, authorities say.

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Detectives also describe him as a suspect in up to 25 more, based on the circumstances of those crimes, saying he was the elusive "West Side Rapist" who terrorized L.A. in the mid-1970s.

Thomas was arrested last month on suspicion of murder for two sexual-assault strangulation deaths, of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in the Mid-Wilshire area in 1972 and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in Westchester in 1976.

Authorities also allege that DNA connects Thomas to killings in Claremont in 1986 and slayings a decade earlier in Inglewood and Lennox. 

Now, they said, DNA testing has linked Thomas to a sixth case: the slaying of Miriam McKinley, 65, who was beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled in her home in June 1976, said Inglewood Police Capt. Eve Irvine.

The other Inglewood victim was Maybelle Hudson, who was attacked in her garage as she arrived home in April 1976. The 80-year-old was beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled.

LAPD Det. Charlie Beck told reporters that cold case homicide investigators would be reexamining unsolved cases going back to the 1950s, when Thomas was first arrested for attempted rape and burglary.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Related:

Photo gallery: John Thomas Jr.'s life of crime

From the archives: Times West Side rapist article, Dec. 29, 1975 (PDF)


Photos: John Thomas Jr. is booked in 1964. In 1957 he had been convicted of burglary and attempted rape in Los Angeles and sentenced to six years in state prison. Two parole violations sent him back behind bars until 1966. Now Thomas is accused of killing Elizabeth McKeown in Westchester in 1976, and others, and may be tied to many more. Credit: LAPD

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