Alleged Westside Rapist John Floyd Thomas Jr. pleaded not guilty today to the rape murders of seven elderly women dating back to the early 1970s. If found guilty, the 73-year-old state insurance adjuster could face the death penalty.

Alleged Westside Rapist: John Floyd Thomas Jr.

Detectives believe that Thomas may have also been responsible for a series of rapes and murders that occurred on Los Angeles' Westside between 1974 and 1976.

Thomas' 9:30 a.m. arraignment at Los Angeles' criminal courts

building was a short affair with only a couple of detectives and two

reporters there to watch as he whispered his plea from behind a glass

cage to Judge Ray G. Jurado.

Thomas, who was

wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and a short beard, had his left arm

in a sling. He clutched a handful of yellow legal-pad papers as he

chatted quietly with his public defender.

Last April, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office charged

Thomas with two counts of murder after a match from DNA samples linked

him as a suspect in the murders of 68-year-old Ethel Sokoloff in 1972

and school administrator Elizabeth McKeown in 1976.

Thomas was arrested last March, five months after he provided a DNA

swab to the Los Angeles Police Department, and after a sex-crimes

detective compiled a list of sex offenders who had not been swabbed for DNA as required by law. Detective Diane Webb found that 92 out of the city's 5,212 sex offenders had not been swabbed. Thomas was one of them. At the time, Webb was searching for the elusive Grim Sleeper serial killer who has killed 11 people in South Los Angeles since 1985.

Today, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office amended its

original complaint charging Thomas with five additional counts of

capital murder, making it a potential death penalty case. The amended

complaint includes the special circumstance of murder during the

commission of a rape and burglary.

In addition to Sokoloff and McKeown, DNA now links Thomas to the

murders of Cora Perry, Maybelle Hudson, Evalyn Bunner, Miriam McKinley

and Adrianne Askew.

Ethel Sokoloff was found beaten and strangled in her Los Angeles

home on November 26, 1972. In September of 1975, 79-year-old Cora Perry

was found raped and strangled in her Lennox apartment in the 6100 block

of Overhill Drive. Perry, a travel agent in Beverly Hills, was an avid

traveler and photographer.

Elizabeth McKeown's half-naked body was found inside her

red-and-black '65 Chevelle, two blocks from her small apartment on

Knowlton Avenue in Westchester on February 18, 1976.

Then, two months after McKeown's attack, Maybelle Hudson, 80, was

raped and murdered in her Inglewood apartment. Miriam McKinley, 65, was

attacked in June. Evalyn Bunner, 56, was attacked as she was entering

or exiting her Inglewood garage in October of 1976.

Then, in June of 1986, 56-year-old Adrienne Askew was found

strangled to death in the same apartment she shared with her mother,

who was brutally murdered three years earlier, on West Bonita Avenue in

Claremont. According to media reports, Askew was found face down on her

bed, fully clothed, with a piece of bedding over her head.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives believe that Thomas could

be responsible for as many as 30 murders and rapes once attributed to

the so-called Westside Rapist.

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