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
The pretty young woman had been found in an alley north of 2049 West 102nd Place in Lennox by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies. A napkin placed over her face had the word “AIDS” written on it. She was later determined to be the Grim Sleeper’s seventh victim.
The detectives had a possible suspect in mind, and they wanted Margette to look at a “six-pack” of photos to see if any of them resembled the ranting gunman who had shot her inside his tricked-out Pinto so many years ago.
“They came back to me and said [my assailant had] started back” attacking women again, she says, a look of amazement on her face. Yet until that moment, “no one told me he was a serial killer.” For years, she thought she had been attacked by a man confusing her with a local prostitute — a belief that had left her feeling, if not safe, at least not threatened. “I thought it was mistaken identity,” she says, repeatedly.
“I hadn’t even told my boyfriend about it,” she says. He was with her when the detectives brought the six-pack of photos to her, meeting her at a nearby Laundromat because she doesn’t like people coming to her home. When her boyfriend learned she had also been raped, he “just looked at me. I think that kind of put a wedge between us.”
When Sheriff’s detectives nearly 20 years after the fact revealed to her that she had been shot by a serial killer, her mind raced. The feisty lady with the nerves of steel began to think back: Was that stranger on a bus who gave her the creeps years ago the serial killer?
What about the day she thought she saw that same man from the bus walking by her and asking, “Do you know me?” She had retorted, with a load of attitude, “Why? Am I supposed to know you?” Would she act that way toward a stranger today knowing what she knows now?
A year after she finally got clued in by the Sheriff’s detectives, the Grim Sleeper struck again, in January 2007. A homeless man discovered the body of Janecia Peters, and a DNA match linked the saliva found at the crime scene to the traces of human DNA left on some of the Sleeper’s victims. That June, with Bratton keeping a lid on things, the LAPD quietly launched the 800 Task Force to track the elusive psychopath.
Detectives have followed leads across the country. Says a frustrated Kilcoyne, “Everything wasn’t automated back in those days. Everything was hand-searched. ... Back then, we would send people out and have them drive by people’s houses to see what the color of the car is.”
In August 2008, L.A. Weekly broke the story that the killer was still active, and dubbed him the Grim Sleeper because of his highly unusual 13-year break before murdering again. Community and city leaders, including former chief turned councilman Bernard Parks, were furious that residents of South Central and South L.A. had not been warned of the ongoing danger. In September, Parks persuaded the Los Angeles City Council to offer a record $500,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the killer.
The families of the victims now want results. Porter Alexander, whose daughter Monique was slain at 18, referred to the Grim Sleeper as a “turkey” and a “fool.” Alexander has his own theory about the killer: “He is very slick. I think he knows his way around the area. He swoops in and swoops out. He is not an outsider. He is very much aware of South Los Angeles.”
Not long ago, at a press conference held by Councilman Parks to debut a billboard depicting the faces of the 12 Grim Sleeper victims, a special person stood quietly in the crowd. Hers is the only face on the billboard that has been blacked out, as a precaution. As Parks asked for the public’s help and offered up the $500,000 reward, Enietra Margette, the sole survivor of the Grim Sleeper, stood unnoticed. She said nothing.
“I wanted to hear what was really going on besides what the police were saying,” she says. “I was meeting the family members. They were suffering a real loss.”
To finally see it all come out, and to understand the scope of the violence wrought by the man who had left her for dead, shook her to her core.
“I remembered a couple of guys looking at me strange,” says Margette. “It was one of the victims’ brothers and he said, ‘No offense, but you were hurt by him too.’ And he said, ‘He killed my sister.’ He asked me about him. . They were looking for answers.”
Now that the killer is a much older man, and almost certainly changed since 1988, she says, “I felt helpless because I couldn’t give them answers and I couldn’t tell them what he looked like. I don’t know what he looks like now.”