The Los Angeles City Council is offering a record $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a serial killer believed to be responsible for the murders of 11 people in South Los Angeles dating to 1985.
Dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” by L.A. Weekly, which broke the news last week that he is still operating in the area, the murderer left the bodies of 10 women and one man almost exclusively along a section of Western Avenue.
The reward is the largest ever offered by the City Council. “They have linked these cases as having common threads of evidence — ballistics, DNA and a variety of other forensics,” says City Councilman Bernard Parks, the former chief of police who sponsored the reward because most of the killings occurred in his 8th City Council District.
During a packed Wednesday-morning news conference at City Hall, Porter Alexander, whose teenage daughter Monique was killed by the Grim Sleeper in 1988, told a throng of TV, radio and print reporters that he is still in shock over her death.
“We hope they bring this menace to a halt,” said Alexander, flanked by his wife, Mary, and their three sons, Donnell, Keevin and Darin. “I know someone out there knows something, or has seen something.”
Alexander referred to the Grim Sleeper as a “turkey” and a “fool,” and asked the City Council to approve the reward. “She was my baby,” he said. “She was very dear to me.” In the 1980s, when many hard drugs hit the local streets, “it turned the area into chaos,” he recalled. “Consequently, our youngsters were doing things that we couldn’t combat at the time.”
The night she vanished, Alicia “Monique” Alexander, 18, was just going to get something at a nearby liquor store. A few days later, she was found dead in an alley around 43rd Place and Western Avenue.
“We need to get this turkey off the street,” Alexander later told the Weekly. “This [reward] will give us something to hope for. ... 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.”
Mary Alexander described her daughter as friendly, even to strangers. “She loved everybody,” Mrs. Alexander said. “It is very hurtful when I see my nieces and her friends and all growing up, and I think about what would she have been like.”
LAPD Captain Denis Cremins read the names of all 11 victims, calling the list “quite a toll of human beings,” and revealed that 15 suspects have been eliminated.
Police are stymied by the fact that the Grim Sleeper’s DNA profile doesn’t match any sample in the state offender or federal crime databases. The LAPD hopes to conduct a “familial” DNA comparison to determine whether the mystery killer has any close relatives in the state’s database. If a family match is found, police could finally identify the killer by name.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown announced that he would allow so-called familial DNA surveys of the state database, but a spokesman for Brown now tells the Weekly that such a search is months away.
Eight of the 11 killings occurred between 1985 and 1988. Then, in November of 1988, a ninth intended victim escaped. 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.
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Then the killings abruptly stopped for 13 years. “What accounted for that gap, we still don’t know,” Cremins said. 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.
Most recently, the Grim Sleeper struck in January 2007. A homeless man discovered the body of Janecia Peters, and a DNA match linked her death to the others.
In June, the LAPD quietly launched the 800 Task Force to track the elusive killer. “I don’t think a man like that could stop killing,” says Monique Alexander’s brother Donnell. “She was my little sister, and there was nothing we could do to help her. ... He could have been walking past us every day on the street. That is cold.”
The reward allows a person to collect up to $200,000, and the City Council sets the total at $500,000 if clues lead to more than one killer’s arrest and conviction, for example, in the case of an accomplice. Said Donnell Alexander, smiling, “That’s enough for his mother to turn him in.”