Suspected Serial Killer Nabbed with DNA


Los Angeles—DNA evidence has led L.A.P.D. cold case investigators to arrest a man they believe may have been responsible for killings dating as far back as 1955.

L.A. Police Chief William Bratton said that John Floyd Thomas Jr. may be one of the worst serial killers in the history of the nation. Police will be using DNA, computer software and other technology, which was unavailable at the time of the crimes, to confirm their suspicions that Thomas killed at least 30 women and raped many more.

Thomas is currently only charged with two killings, one in 1972 and one in 1976, but prosecutors are expected to add more charges to that list when Thomas is arraigned later this month.

Police are calling Thomas, who is now 72, the “Southland Strangler” after the neighborhood in which his criminal activity was centered. He was arrested “a number of times between 1955 and 1978” for burglaries and sex crimes, and served a total of 12 years in prison, but has had a clean record for the last few decades. Thomas was working as an insurance adjuster before his arrest in April.

He was identified after being asked to submit a DNA sample, in keeping with California law, because he is a registered sex offender. When he came into to have the inside of his cheek swabbed, police say, he was very cooperative. Later, Thomas’s sample was matched to evidence taken from a rape kit gathered after the 1972 rape, beating and strangling of 68-year-old Ethel Sokoloff.

DNA evidence gathered in 2004 confirmed that the same man who killed Sokoloff also killed 67-year-old Elizabeth McKeown in 1976.

The death of Maybelle Hudson, 80, who was beaten, raped and strangled in her Inglewood, California garage, has also been connected using DNA evidence to three other deaths in the L.A. Area in the 1960s and 1970s. At the time of the murders, police were calling the suspect the “Westside Rapist” but were unable to capture him.

Thomas’s criminal background and the proximity of his home to the murder locations, as well as other evidence, suggests that he may have been the “Westside Rapist” as well.

Police detectives are using computer databases and software in order to determine “what the patterns were,” said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Charlie Beck. “A lot of work has yet to be done,” added Beck.

Thomas has been married five times but is currently single. He will be arraigned on May 20th.


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