In a downtown courtroom packed with journalists, law enforcement and family members of victims, jurors recommended death for 40-year-old Chester Turner - a man prosecutors called one of Los Angeles' most prolific serial killers. Knowing that he has been caught and punished and that phase is over, we can now exhale, said a shaken Jerri Johnson, whose 28-year-old daughter Andrea Tripplett was raped and murdered by Turner in the spring of 1993. Johnson was one of two relatives in court for the mid-morning verdict. He will never be around to do anything to anyone else again, and thank God for the modern technology that helped convict him.
The six-man, six-woman Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for about two-and-a-half days before delivering the death penalty decision.
During sentencing, Turner, an often-unemployed father of four with a history of violent relationships, was flanked by sheriff's deputies and remained calm. As he walked out after the verdict, Johnson said that Turner seemed unfazed: "He walked out with his little be-bop walk and that was it, she said, adding, He thinks he is still cool, walking around in the hood. He won't get to wear that blue shirt and beige pants again.
Turner was convicted April 30 of 10 counts of first-degree murder, along with one count of second-degree murder of the fetus of a pregnant victim. The bodies of his victims were found between 1987 and 1998 in South Los Angeles and Downtown's Skid Row.
The murders were committed within 30 blocks of his home in the 600 block of West Century Boulevard in South Los Angeles. His reign of terror began in 1987 when he was a 20-year-old Domino's pizza deliveryman, and ended in 2002 after he was convicted of raping a woman in Downtown's Skid Row. She lived to tell the tale.
Turner's first victim, Diane Johnson, was found partially nude alongside the 110 freeway in 1987. His last known victim was Brenda Bries, who was found dead in a portable bathroom a ligature tight around her neck, in 1998. Bries was found just 50 yards away from the Regal Hotel, where Turner was staying.
The ironic part is that every time they mention his name he will be remembered, but if they say Andrea Tripplett, no one is going to remember her name, said Johnson. They are only going to remember this horrible person. She added: "I wanted him to live a hundred years so he will be in prison and think about what he did. I will talk to my minister to get forgiveness for this man, because I despise him to the core of my heart. As a Christian I need to get the hatred out of me. I need to get the hatred out of my heart.
Christine Pelisek wrote about Chester Turner on May 2, 2007. Click here to read Silent Wraith: By slaying troubled black women, LA's worst serial killer operated invisibly for years.