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John Floyd THOMAS Jr.





Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 7 +
Date of murders: 1972 - 1986
Date of arrest: March 31, 2009
Date of birth: July 26, 1936
Victim profile: Ethel Sokoloff, 68 / Elizabeth McKeown, 67 / Cora Perry, 79 / Maybelle Hudson / Miriam McKinley / Evalyn Bunner / Adrian Askew, 85
Method of murder: Suffocation
Location: Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: He is currently being held without bail at the LA County Jail

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John Floyd Thomas, Jr. (born July 26, 1936) is an American criminal who has been arrested and charged with the murders of seven women in the Los Angeles area during the 1970s and 1980s.

Early life

Thomas was born in Los Angeles and his mother died when he was 12 years old. He was later alternately raised by his aunt and a godmother. Throughout his childhood, Thomas attended public schools, including the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. Thomas served in the U.S. Air Force in 1956 for a brief period of time. While stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, a superior noted that Thomas was regularly "late" and "slovenly" in appearance.

He received a dishonorable discharge, according to his military records, and was arrested for burglary and attempted rape in Los Angeles. Thomas was convicted of these crimes and sentenced in 1957 to six years in the California state prison system. As a result of a pair of parole violations, Thomas remained incarcerated until 1966.

2009 arrest

Thomas was arrested on March 31, 2009, and on April 2, 2009 he was charged with the murders of Ethel Sokoloff in November 1972 and Elizabeth McKeown in February 1976. On September 23, 2009, he was charged with five further murders of Cora Perry in September 1975; Maybelle Hudson in April 1976; Miriam McKinley in June 1976; Evalyn Bunner in October 1976; and Adrian Askew in June 1986.

A break in solving the related murders came in October 2008 when Thomas Jr. -- a man twice convicted of crimes of sexual assault—provided a DNA sample to authorities as part of an effort to assemble an offender database in the state of California. Police arrested Thomas on April 2, 2009. He is currently being held without bail at the LA County Jail.

Case history

In the first wave of killings in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, a man police nicknamed the "Westside Rapist" entered the homes of elderly women who lived alone, raped them and choked them until they passed out or died. At least 17 were killed and were typically found with pillows or blankets over their faces. A decade later, and 40 miles to the east, five elderly women in Claremont were found raped and killed, also with blankets or pillows over their faces. The case soon became a cold case for the investigators until John Floyd Thomas came to light in 2009.


Prosecutors link John Floyd Thomas to five more slayings

The alleged 'Westside Rapist' of the 1970s is also believed to have raped and killed older women in the Pomona Valley and Inglewood areas in the '80s. He's pleaded not guilty to seven murder charges

By Andrew Blankstein - Los Angeles Times

September 24, 2009

Twenty-six years ago, police discovered the partially nude body of 85-year-old Isabel Askew in a vineyard near Ontario International Airport. She had been reported missing from her Claremont apartment more than a week earlier.

The cause of death could not be determined because of the condition of her body. But three years later, her daughter, Adrian Askew, was found strangled in the same West Bonita Avenue apartment where she had lived with her mother. The 56-year-old retired school crossing guard was found lying face-up with bedding pulled over her head and she had been sexually assaulted.

Los Angeles County prosecutors on Wednesday linked Adrian Askew's slaying to an alleged serial killer. And a source familiar with the investigation said detectives are now trying to determine whether Isabel Askew was also one of the man's victims.

Adrian Askew was one of five victims that prosecutors allege were killed by a former state insurance claims adjuster. He is accused of raping and killing older women as the so-called Westside Rapist in the 1970s and later in the 1980s in the Claremont area, where the Askews lived.

John Floyd Thomas was originally charged with murder on April 2 in connection with the deaths of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in the Mid-Wilshire area in 1972, and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in Westchester in 1976.

With the latest charges, Thomas faces a total of seven murder counts. Authorities say he could be responsible for as many as 30 homicides.

Thomas appeared in court Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to all seven murder charges. Officials said they have DNA evidence linking Thomas to all of those cases.

The charges are an outgrowth of cold-case investigations by the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Inglewood Police Department.

Authorities allege he began raping and killing older women four decades ago.

The initial crime wave was concentrated on the Westside of Los Angeles -- generating headlines in the 1970s about a "Westside Rapist." Now officials believe he also preyed on women in the Inglewood/Lennox and Claremont/Pomona areas.

Cora Perry, a 79-year-old Lennox resident, was killed Sept. 20, 1975. Her slaying was recounted in a story about the Westside Rapist in The Times, which described "the stunned relatives, the terrified neighbors, the heartbroken friends of all the old women who have met such indecent deaths. People who now live in small colonies of terror."


DNA reveals John Floyd Thomas as LA's most prolific serial killer

By James Bone - The Sunday Times

April 30, 2009

New DNA evidence points to an aging insurance-man as Los Angeles's most prolific serial killer, police say.

Police believe John Floyd Thomas Jr, 72, may be responsible for up to 25 killings in two waves of sex murders that terrorised southern California in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr Thomas, a claims adjuster with two previous convictions for sexual assault, was arrested at his flat in South Los Angeles on March 31 after police used newly available DNA technology to solve "cold cases”.

He was charged with the murder of Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in 1972 and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in 1976.

But officials say that his DNA has been traced to at least five murder scenes spanning two waves of sex killings that were previously thought to be unrelated.

In both waves, the victims were elderly white women.

The first wave of killings, attributed to the so-called "Westside Rapist," claimed the lives of 17 women ranging in age from the 50s to the 90s.

The women were attacked in a swathe of Los Angeles running from Hollywood to Inglewood. The killer strangled his victims as he raped them and left them dead with pillows or blankets covering their faces.

The murders stopped in 1978 - the same year a witness copied down Mr Thomas's car licence number after he raped a woman in Pasadena and was sent to jail.

The second wave began after his release in 1983. Five more elderly white women were raped and strangled in the Claremont area, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, and left with their faces covered.

The killings stopped the same year that Mr Thomas took a job with the state workers’ compensation agency in Glendale.

Even though more than 20 women survived attacks, police did not link the two waves of killings because witnesses gave differing descriptions of the assailant and DNA technology was not in use.

The investigations languished until the Los Angeles Police Department established a Cold Case Homicide Unit in 2001 and began using new DNA techniques to examine 9,000 unsolved killings dating back to 1960.

In 2004, the crime lab matched male DNA taken from the McKeown and Sokoloff killings but could not identify a suspect in the state database.

The break came in October when Mr Thomas was required to give a DNA sample as part of a porgramme to swab convicted sex offenders. His DNA was allegedly matched to the McKeown and Sokoloff samples as well as a 1975 Los Angeles murder, a 1976 Inglewood murder, and a Claremont killing in 1986.

Richard Bengston, an LAPD robbery-homicide cold case detective, told the Los Angeles Times: "When all is said and done, Mr Thomas stands to be Los Angeles's most prolific serial killer."

Meanwhile, a southern California real estate agent has stepped forward to claim that her adoptive father was the notorious "Zodiac killer" blamed for at least five deaths in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960s.

Deborah Perez, 47, provoked skepticism with her claim that her father, Guy Ward Hendrickson, who died in 1983, took her along to two of the killings as a 7-year-old for thrills. She says she has a pair of brown, horn-rimmed glasses that her father supposedly took from his last victim, a taxi-driver. Police said they would investigate her claims, as they have others.



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