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DNA "Familial" Search Can't Find Elusive Serial Killer

The Los Angeles Police Department's search for the Grim Sleeper, an extremely elusive serial South L.A. killer, suffered a big blow Tuesday when a long-shot effort to identify the man through DNA "familial" testing came up empty-handed. The existence of the murderer, who is  the longest-operating serial killer West of the Mississippi, was first reported by the L.A. Weekly in an August 29, 2008 exclusive.

The Los Angeles Police Department's search for the Grim Sleeper, an extremely elusive serial South L.A. killer, suffered a big blow Tuesday when a long-shot effort to identify the man through DNA "familial" testing came up empty-handed. The existence of the murderer, who is  the longest-operating serial killer West of the Mississippi, was first reported by the L.A. Weekly in an August 29, 2008 exclusive.

The serial killer, who has been stalking African American women in South Los Angeles since 1985, has left his saliva and other DNA at several killing sites. Police had hoped to locate the unknown killer's relatives (and through them, his whereabouts) by scouring the state's DNA database of more than one million felons. Familial DNA testing is a controversial method of policing first approved by Attorney General Jerry Brown last spring. Its employment in the hunt for the Grim Sleeper was the method's first major use. Brown's office gave the LAPD the bad news yesterday. The announcement was also a letdown for victims' families.

"It is disappointing but I feel good because my parents are getting some closure," says Donnell Alexander, the brother of teenage victim Monique Alexander, who was killed by the Grim Sleeper in 1988. "It has been over 20 years but at least it is giving my parents some comfort because they are looking into it."

Dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" by L.A. Weekly when this newspaper broke the story that the killer is still operating in South L.A., the murderer left the bodies of 10 women and one man almost exclusively along a section of Western Avenue. The victims were shot or strangled.

Eight of the 11 killings occurred between 1985 and 1988. Then, in November of 1988, a ninth intended victim escaped after being shot. She described her attacker as a 30-ish black man driving a rust, red or orange Ford Pinto. The bullet removed from her chest was matched to the gun used to kill the first eight victims.

Victim Janecia Peters, 25

The killings then abruptly stopped for 13 years. Police did not realize the killer was active again until LAPD started a cold-case unit under then-Chief Bernard Parks to investigate unsolved killings. Crime lab workers hit pay dirt when they matched DNA taken from murder scenes in 2002 and 2003 to DNA found at the 1980s murder scenes.

The Grim Sleeper most recently struck in January, 2007: A homeless man discovered the body of Janecia Peters, and a DNA match linked her death to the others.

Police were stymied by the fact that the Grim Sleeper's DNA profile didn't match any sample in the state offender or federal crime databases. In June, the LAPD quietly launched the 800 Task Force to track the elusive killer.

Some family members, like Alexander, are still hopeful. "We haven't gotten over it," says Alexander. "The shock is stillthere. Hopefully we are going to get this guy."


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