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William Lester SUFF






A.K.A.: "The Riverside Prostitute Killer" - "The Lake Elsinore Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Mutilation
Number of victims: 13 - 20 +
Date of murders: 1974 / 1986 - 1991
Date of arrest: January 9, 1992
Date of birth: August 20, 1950
Victims profile: Janet Suff, his 2-month-old daughter / Michelle Yvette Gutierrez, 23 / Charlotte Jean Palmer, 24 / Linda Ann Ortega, 37 / Martha Bess Young, 27 / Linda Mae Ruiz, 37 / Kimberely Lyttle / Judy Lynn Angel, 36 / Christina Tina Leal, 23 / Daria Jane Ferguson, 27 / Carol Lynn Miller, 35 / Cheryl Coker, 33 / Susan Melissa Sternfeld, 27 / Kathleen Leslie Milne, 42 / Cherie Michelle Payseur, 24 / Sherry Ann Latham, 37 / Kelly Marie Hammond, 23 / Catherine McDonald, 30 / Delliah Zamora Wallace, 35 / Eleanore Ojeda Casares, 39
Method of murder: Beating / Strangulation - Stabbing with knife
Location: Texas/California, USA
Status: Sentenced to 70 years in prison in 1974. Paroled in March 1984. Sentenced to death on August 17, 1995

Late in 1974, in the Riverside area of Southern California, unvirtuous young women began disappearing at the rate of about one a month. The exact total of victims was never fixed, but between 20 and 30 women were purportedly snatched from the streets by a killer who rampaged through Lake Elsinore, Rubidoux, Corona, Romoland and other cities. Targeting prostitutes, he dumped the bodies of his victims in mountainous regions, dumpsters, and various roadside areas where they were sure to be found. In some cases, the bodies were decomposed beyond recognition and if not for DNA evidence or dental records would have remained nameless. With some, only scant bones were found. A few remain unclaimed to this day. No one knows how many women will never be found at all.

Known victims

Name: Michelle Yvette Gutierrez - 23 years-old
Found: October 30, 1986

Note: The first known murder victim was discovered on Thursday morning, October 30, 1986. A traveler scavenging for aluminum cans spotted the partially clothed body of a dark-haired women in her twenties, curled up in a drainage ditch in an industrial area of Rubidoux, near Agua Mansa Road and Market Street. The dead woman was lying on her back, her sweater and beige culottes ripped to shreds. Her flimsy panties were pulled down around her ankles. She had been stabbed multiple times and her chest and face were cosmeticized with blood. Her public hairs had been ripped from her private parts by an angry hand.

An autopsy revealed that 23-year-old Michelle Yvette Gutierrez, of Corpus Christi, Texas, had strangulation marks on her neck and suffered trauma to the anal and genital areas. Marks on her breast and buttocks provided a chilling framework for the story of her death.


Name: Charlotte Jean Palmer - 24 Years-old
Found: December 11, 1986

Note: Another gruesome case began on December 11, 1986, when the half-clothed body of Charlotte Jean Palmer, 24, of Anna, Illinois was found near Highway 74 and Matthews Road in Romoland. County coroners were unable to determine the cause of her death, because of the rapidity of putrefaction. Fear and panic spread as more and more women began mysteriously disappearing. Over a period of five years, from 1986 to 1991, nineteen prostitutes were found murdered - at least three of the Riverside County victims had their breasts severed. A forensic pathologist noted that cutting off female breasts was a way in which serial killers can uniquely hurt and harm the females they loathe.


Name: Linda Ann Ortega - 37 years-old
Found: Early 1987

Note: The serial killer's third victim was a woman named Linda Ann Ortega. At age 37, she worked at Carl's Jr. fast-food restaurant on Railroad Canyon Road in Lake Elsinore when she wasn't applying her trade as a strumpet, Her record reeked of drug arrests. Her naked body was found ravished and stabbed in a patch of light brush off a dirt road near Franklin Street and Ridge Road. Tailored evidence put her death at three days earlier. Her blood contained high levels of alcohol and cocaine.

Ortega's coworkers at the fast-food restaurant described her as a devoted single mother, struggling to raise a teen-age son. They were surprised to find out she was a part-time prostitute.


Name: Martha Bess Young
Found: May 2, 1987

Note: May 2, another transient fell prey to the random slayer. Decaying molars in the lower jaw made identification conclusive. Her name was Martha Bess Young, she was 27 years old, and formally of Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was found spread-eagle and totally naked in a gully adjacent Franklin Street, her open eyes staring sightlessly into infinity. She had been dead at least three weeks.

An ex post facto examination revealed the pretty blonde Lake Elsinore streetwalker had a high level of amphetamines in her blood. Apparently, she had died from a toxic reaction to the drug as she was being strangled. Once again, the genius killer left minus-clue signs. br>

Name: Linda Mae Ruiz - 37 years-old
Found: January 17, 1989

Note: 37-year-old Linda Mae Ruiz was once a pretty brunette, fair complexioned, 5 feet 2 inches, 122 pounds, and married. But years of drug and alcohol abuse had taken their toll and she even had trouble picking up tricks - except for one, her last.

On January 17, 1989 Linda's strangled body was found near Lakeshore Drive, at the end of Lowell Street, on the beach of Lake Elsinore some 120 feet from the water. There were no signs of a struggle. A pathologist said she had a blood alcohol level of .19 percent, more than twice the level at which a California motorist is presumed intoxicated. Her killer had forced her head into the sand and smothered her.


Name: Kimberely Lyttle
Found: June 28, 1989

Note: She was found strangled, in Cottonwood Canyon south of Canyon Lake.


Name: Judy Lynn Angel - 36 years-old
Found: November 11, 1989

Note: naked and bludgeoned body was found November 11, 1989 northwest of Lake Elsinore, near Temescal Canyon Road, I-15 and Lake Street.

"Angel," as she was known on the streets, was a derelict of drink and drugs at age 36, and she knew it. She became a prostitute to support her two children after her divorce. Her arrest record included jail time for prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia. A pathologist was able to deduce by the deep gashes in her arms and hands, that Angel hadn't died easy; she had received these frightful blows while attempting to ward off the lunatic, attacking her.


Name: Christina Tina Leal - 23 years-old
Found: December 13, 1989

Note: Christina Tina Leal, a resident of Perris, was found off Goetz Road in Quail Valley. She had suffered sexual trauma before she was strangled and stabbed in the heart. She was a drug user with a record of arrests for prostitution.


Name: Daria Jane Ferguson
Found: January 18, 1990

Note: On Thursday morning, January 18, 1990, Riverside County sheriff''s investigators were summoned to a scene east of I-15 in Lake Elsinore. They arrived at 6:30 a.m., 30 minutes after a Lake Elsinore jogger stumbled upon the nude corpse of Daria Jane Ferguson, of Sun City. In death, she was a doll-like figurine. Blood caked her bitten tongue. Sheriff's Sgt. Howard Rush pinpointed the location at Grape Street, one mile south of Railroad Canyon Road. Never married, the 105 pound victim had four children. Her arrest record was crammed with the usual titillations of sex and drugs.


Name: Carol Lynn Miller - 35 years-old
Found: February 8, 1990

Note: Her need for narcotics and alcohol, sent Carol Lynn Miller into the risky area of the unknown, and interrupted the 35-year-old woman's housewifely role. Now divorced, in late January, 1990, she vanished from the Riverside area. It was first presumed she had left the area because of police pressure to rid the streets of whores. Her totally nude body was discovered by workers in an orchard on February 8, at Mt. Vernon Avenue and Pigeon Pass Road in Highgrove. Cause of death was listed as "multiple stab wounds to the chest, and asphyxia. A coroner said there was a wound near Carol's right nipple.


Name: Cheryl Coker - 33 years-old
Found: November 6, 1990

Note: Police determined that Cheryl Coker, 33, and married, suffered the worst death of all. Her remains were discovered on November 6, 1990, near a dumpster enclosure about 11:40 a.m. by a man installing factory equipment in a new factory building behind an industrial unit on Palmyrita Avenue in northeast Riverside, adjacent where Miller was found. She was naked, and her suffocated body was concealed under a pile of oak branches. In a moment of unreasoning madness her attacker had severed her right breast, which was found beside her.

The man who telephone the police said: "I went to a dumpster enclosure in the parking lot behind the building looking for a piece of wood to use as a brace. I saw a foot sticking out from some tree trimmings near the gates to the enclosure. At first, I thought the foot and leg belonged to a plastic mannequin. I reached down and touched the toe. Then, I realized it wasn't plastic."

There were many old trees in the neighborhood and police went in search of one with newly cut branches, in hopes that someone might have seen a man cutting the trimmings and would be able to provide them with a description. No such tree was found. No one in the neighborhood saw a stranger lurking about.


Name: Susan Melissa Sternfeld - 27 years-old
Found: December 21, 1990

Note: on December 21, 1990. Not far from the last murder scene, in a dumpster enclosure at the rear of an industrial complex on Iowa Avenue, a man emptying trash was startled by the sight of Susan Melissa Sternfeld's nude and strangled body. She was barely 27.

A few crumbs of information were gathered. Susan was a resident of Riverside. She had worked successfully as a model and in the cosmetics, clothing business.


Name: Kathleen Leslie Milne - 42 years-old
Found: January 19, 1991

Note: According to the pathologist who performed the autopsy on victim No. 13, Kathleen Leslie Milne, a divorced woman of 42, "she was rendered unconscious by several blows to the head, then strangled." Her lifeless body was unceremoniously dumped amid discarded beer cans and old tires. The pathologist theorized that the flesh abrasion on the pretty brunette's right thigh had been caused by forcible removal of her panties. Police were stymied. Clues led nowhere.

Also known on the streets as Carol Kathleen Swenson and Kathy Pluckett, a passing motorist spotted her corpse northwest of Lake Elsinore, less than a mile from where Angel's body was found. She had been dead less than 24 hours, a pathologist said.


Name: Cherie Michelle Payseur - 24 years-old
Found: April 27, 1991

Note: Cherie Michelle Payseur was destined to become victim No. 14. At age 24, she had attended California School for the Deaf in Riverside. Never married, she had one child out of wedlock. To support herself and her child, Cherie worked periodically as a cleaning woman. To support her drug habit, she became a woman of easy virtue.

On the muggy morning of April 27, 1991, a homeless man looking for aluminum cans stumbled upon her bare body at the rear of the Concourse Bowling Center on Arlington Avenue in Riverside. Poor Cherie had become yet another piece of the puzzle of murdered prostitutes. The handle from a toilet plunger protruded from her vagina.


Name: Sherry Ann Latham - 37 years-old
Found: July 1991

Note: Her ghastly remains were found outstretched in a patch of grass. Her complexion was pallid, her lips blue. Her eyelids were raised and her eyes appeared glassy in death. Little was known of Sherry's early life, except that she drifted young into drugs and then lower-class trampdom, and ended up a choked corpse.


Name: Kelly Marie Hammond - 23 years-old
Found: August 1991

Note: Her naked body was found by a trucker near the intersection of Sampson Avenue and Delilah Street, south of Highway 91. Authorities found Kelly's corpse still warm. It had been barely 43 days since the death of Sherry Ann Latham.


Name: Catherine McDonald - 30 years-old
Found: September 13, 1991

Note: The body discovered off a dirt road near a barren construction site in the Tiscany Hills section of Lake Elsinore was found by a building contractor around 1 p.m. September 13, 1991. Her background and the modus operandi was similar to other victims with one exception. For 30-year-old Catherine McDonald, of Riverside, the distinction of being the killer's only black victim was only more "horrible news" and added another dimension to the killer's many perversions.

The corpse had evidently died in a paroxysms of pain, her curvaceous form all twisted, her arms akimbo, eyes staring wide open into oblivion. This, the 17th in a series of murders dating back to 1986, sent Riverside County further into paralyzing shock.


Name: Delliah Zamora Wallace - 35 years-old
Found: October 30, 1991

Note: A passing motorist spotted the girl's nude corpse in a patch of matted undergrowth on the dirt shoulder of a heavily trafficked intersection in Mira Loma northwest of Riverside. It was October 30, the day before Halloween, and , oddly, the fifth anniversary of the day Michelle Yvette Guttierrez, the first victim found. According to the motorist who discovered the body, he was headed for work, around 7:15 a.m., when he turned from Country Village Road onto Granite Hill Drive, a two-lane frontage street that parallel Highway 60. He said he spotted the body across the street from a heavily used park-and-ride lot adjacent the Country Village senior housing development south of the Riverside-San Bernardino boundary line.

"At first I thought it was a mannequin," he said, "but at closer inspection I realized it was the corpse of a woman." His heart beating a wild tattoo, he hurried to a phone and called the police. Within minutes, Riverside County's sheriff's investigator Henry Sawicki and a string of task force officers arrived and fanned the area for clues.

Delliah Wallace was a 35-year-old Riverside resident with a history of arrests for drug abuse and harlotry. A mother of five, her street name was Delilah Zamora.


Name: Eleanore Ojeda Casares - 39 years-old
Found: December 23, 1991

Note: At 1:20 p.m. just two days before Christmas, 1991, emergency calls began coming in on Riverside's Sheriff's Office lines in rapid-fire order. The dispatcher fielded the first one - a call from a worker in an orange grove near the intersection of Jefferson Street and Victoria Avenue, a half-mile from the Riverside police station. Even as the unidentified caller was talking, patrol units were being rushed to the scene where body No. 19 was found.

The lawmen who found the bare-naked body of 39-year-old Eleanore Ojeda Casares were no strangers to the grim realities of their work. The violent deaths of local prostitutes had practically become an everyday fact of life in their profession. It was the same old story; the woman had a history of prostitution and drugs. She, like most of the others, had been killed near a holiday, which some lawmen considered held a hidden meaning while others felt it was a coincidence.



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