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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.