By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
But the South Side Slayer Task Force was disbanded in 1988, its detectives frustrated by a lack of clues. Then, in early 1989, Anita Fishman, 31, disappeared — and two weeks later a group of elementary-school boys discovered her badly decomposed body behind a mattress in an alley.
Suzanne Sulzbach, her sister, was busy raising five children but had tried to help her sister, who was addicted to crack cocaine. She says with regret, “We just couldn’t help her. She had no self-esteem or self-worth.”
Nine months later, Regina Washington, six and a half months pregnant, was found hanging by an electrical cord inside a garage. Says co-prosecutor Bobby Grace: “Time, effort and cruelty was put in to kill Washington.”
Chester the Molester was growing more vicious, but still no pattern emerged to lead police to him. He was in fact busily training to be a manager at Domino’s. But in late 1991, the very first inkling of Turner’s sexual deviance surfaced. He was arrested for lewd conduct, masturbating in front of a crossing guard. Released in fall 1992, within hours he was again arrested for indecent exposure — then was released from custody the same night.
Three weeks later, the body of Tammie Christmas was found next to a portable classroom at Barrett Elementary School on West 98th Street — a harrowing incident for the school. Then, Debra Williams’ body was found on a stairwell at the school on November 16. One month later, on December 16, 1992, the body of Mary Edwards was discovered near a rundown hotel adjacent to the school. All these sites were within walking distance of Turner’s house.
Police turned out to be dead wrong about the sort of killer who would leave three bodies at or near a grade school. David Allen Jones was convicted of those three murders, but was years later exonerated — after the DNA in two cases was matched to Chester Turner. (Turner was not, however, tried for those two murders.)
Then, on April 2, 1993, Andrea Tripplett vanished, last seen getting into a small brown car with a black male. Just over a month later, Desarae Jones was found in a backyard, in May 1993.
To the Los Angeles media, deaths like that of Desarae Jones did not stand out. But to Jones’ brother Frank Jones, she was worth remembering: a sister who, he told the Weekly, was “smart, outgoing and funny,” working at a rest home for the elderly before she succumbed to her “drug problem.”
Around 1994, police say, new girlfriend Maria Condon moved with Turner to Salt Lake City, where his mother had moved. There, he worked at a homeless shelter and a fast food restaurant, but soon found yet another girlfriend, Annie Bell, and returned to L.A. The body count increased when, in February 1995, Natalie Price, 31, was found dead outside a crack house.
Police say his last known murder victim in his original South Los Angeles environs — before he moved downtown and started killing women there — was 45-year-old Mildred Beasley, who was married and had a teenage son. She had moved to L.A. only eight weeks earlier, from Texas, when her partially nude body was found in the 9600 block of South Broadway in the fall of 1996.
In early 1998, he was living at a downtown hotel when he lured a mentally ill transient named Paula Vance to a walkway next to an office building. Horribly, a security camera caught the images of Vance’s brutal rape and murder, but did not show the face of her killer.
Then, just over two months later, Brenda Bries was found dead in a portable bathroom — a ligature tight around her neck. Bries was just 50 yards away from the Regal Hotel, the very place where Chester Turner was staying.
Finally, on St. Patrick’s Dayof 2002, authorities say, Chester the Molester attacked and raped a woman who, unlike the others, found a way to fight back — even though the police at first were not exactly sympathetic to this unlikely heroine’s tale of rape.
Although Turner was registered in 2000 as a sex offender for lewd conduct, the Midnight Mission allowed Turner to work as a “security guard” as part of a drug-rehabilitation program for cocaine abuse.
Maria Martinez, an admitted drug dealer and addict, knew Turner from the mission, where she took her showers and sold single cigarettes to feed her habit. Turner later told police he called her the “cigarette lady.”
She glared defiantly at Turner during his sordid trial, recounting the night she was walking to an all-night hamburger joint on Los Angeles Street when Turner called her over for a light. She testified that he grabbed her by the throat and pulled her behind a dumpster, where he raped her repeatedly.
She also testified that Turner threatened, “If I was to tell the police and if he got picked up” he would kill her. As she stumbled away from the rape scene, she told the jury, “I am not feeling. I am just walking.”
In shock, she walked to the LAPD’s nearby Central Division station, thinking, “I could take refuge until he leaves,” she told the jury. But when she tried to report the rape, the front desk cops saw little more than a street person with a wild story. They told her to “sit and wait.” Feeling slighted, she went back to her encampment on Boyd Street.