By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
An administrator at the mission, Carrie Gatlin, urged Martinez to fight back by insisting on talking to police. She encouraged Martinez to file a police report, testifying that Martinez “wanted someone to believe her... She wanted to make it clear with me that she wasn’t partying with him.”
At California Hospital Medical Center, Martinez was given a sexual-assault exam — producing the genetic evidence that positively linked Chester Turner with a rape. Turner was arrested later that day, hiding fully clothed in a shower at the mission.
“I am still puzzled as to why he left her alive,” says Detective Shepard. But Martinez became the turning point the LAPD wanted and needed. At long last, in September 2003, Turner’s DNA was matched with sperm found in Paula Vance and Mildred Beasley.
Praying that this was finally their big break, the detectives began testing a broad swath of about 100 unsolved murders in addition to 35 murders around the Figueroa Corridor.
According to prosecutor Grace, after years of police stumbling, lumping together unrelated murders and dubbing it all the work of the South Side Slayer, the number of definitively linked cases was “like water from a faucet,” even exposing the tragic casualty of David Allen Jones, a mentally retarded janitor wrongly convicted of the three 1992 school-related murders. (Jones was later awarded $720,000 by the city after spending 11 years behind bars.)
(from left, Mary Edwards, Brenda Bries, Paula Vance, Elandra Bunn)In some ways, Chester Turneris still, despite his ghoulish new place in city history, an invisible ghost. One recent day during his trial in the Criminal Courts Building downtown, no crowds pressed forward to catch a glimpse of him. The area around the courthouse was crowded — but the media and onlookers were there to see music legend Phil Spector, on trial in the murder of a beautiful blond actress — the kind of story the media can get behind.
USC’s Victoroff tells the Weeklythat despite the belief of police that Turner could be the most prolific killer in city history, his trial is relegated to the inside local pages of the Los Angeles Times and rates only passing mention in other media outlets because the victims “aren’t beautiful young starlets.”
Awaiting his guilty verdict on Monday, Jerri Johnson, the mother of victim Andrea Tripplett, snapped at a Times reporter for describing most of the slain women as “prostitutes,” saying, “My daughter wasn’t a prostitute!” She later wept openly, tears streaming down her face.
The families of the dead wonder what kind of horrible fame Chester Turner would have earned in Los Angeles had he murdered downtown secretaries or well-to-do tourists. But even worse are the questions that haunt those who were close to Turner — and never suspected anything.
Today, an elderly woman in South Los Angeles who knew Turner all his life says he could at times be like Jekyll and Hyde, but “I never would have thought nothing like that.”
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