A FRESNO MAN NAMED AS A SUSPECT in a string of 10 prostitution-related killings in Los Angeles has been cleared by DNA tests.
Sixty-five-year-old Roger Hausmann, who remains in a Fresno jail on unrelated kidnapping charges, is no longer a suspect in the cases dating back to 1985. “It is definitely not Hausmann,” said Inglewood Detective Jeffrey Steinhoff. “We are back to square one.”
Law enforcement officials still believe the murder spree to be the work of one person. “It isn’t solved,” said Captain Ed Winter, who supervises the L.A. County coroner’s serial homicide team. “Obviously there is still someone out there.”
In May, Steinhoff went to Hausmann’s jail cell to obtain a saliva sample for a DNA test to see if his DNA matched that found on a 14-year-old prostitute, Princess Berthomieux, whose nude body was dumped in an Inglewood alley in March 2002. Hausmann, who was awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping two Fresno girls, had allegedly made some troubling statements about killing prostitutes in Los Angeles. The girls told police that Hausmann claimed to have made trips to L.A. and would pick up prostitutes and kill them. Word of the boast soon went out to every law enforcement agency in Southern California, though Hausmann denied ever saying it.
Steinhoff heard of the comments around the same time he had run out of leads in the Berthomieux case. The death of the runaway from Hawthorne had been linked through DNA and ballistic testing to nine other killings. The victims, killed between 1985 and 2003, included seven prostitutes, a pimp, a cocktail waitress and a woman who lived at home with her parents. DNA tests linked Berthomieux to three other sexual-assault victims. Berthomieux and one of the women had been strangled; the other two had been shot with a .25-caliber handgun. Ballistics tests linked those two cases with six other handgun killings. All but one had been dumped and covered with mattresses, blankets or trash. All were African-American.
Hausmann, a 5-foot-7 repo man with a long history of legal problems, insisted in a series of jailhouse interviews with the L.A. Weekly last month that he had nothing to do with the crimes. “I didn’t do anything,” he said, a few hours after providing the saliva sample for his DNA test.
In May, Steinhoff, in a court affidavit seeking a judge’s permission to take the DNA sample, detailed his reasons for considering Hausmann a suspect. “There is a link between each of the homicides,” Steinhoff wrote. “Based on my training and experience, I believe that Hausmann is a suspect in these homicides. Hausmann admitted that he killed people and wrapped them in carpet in the Los Angeles area.” Hausmann also was cited for a traffic violation in Inglewood three months before Princess’ death.
The three victims linked through DNA were Bernita Sparks, 25, who had been shot in the chest, strangled and beaten on April 16, 1987, and was found inside a trash bin covered with debris; 26-year-old Mary Lowe, who was attending a Halloween party at a club the night before she was found dead in an alley behind bushes on November 1, 1987; and 35-year-old Valerie McCorvey, who was found strangled in an alley near Figueroa Street in 2003.
Both Sparks and Lowe had been shot with a .25-caliber handgun. Ballistics tests linked those two cases with six other handgun killings in the ’80s. Debra Jackson, a cocktail waitress, was found covered with a carpet in an alley on August 10, 1985. She was shot twice in the chest. A year later, Henrietta Wright was also shot twice in the chest. Her clothed body was found wrapped in a blanket and covered with a mattress. Barbara Ware, 23, was found on January 10, 1987. She was shot once in the chest, dumped in an alley and covered with trash. A plastic bag was draped over her upper body. Lachrica Jefferson, 22, died from two gunshots to the chest. She was found in an alley on January 30, 1988, by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies. Alicia Alexander, 17, was found nude and covered with a mattress in an alley around 43rd Place and Western Avenue on September 11, 1988. She had been shot twice in the chest. The only male victim was a 36-year-old pimp named Thomas Steele, who was shot once behind his right ear and dumped along a road.
The aunt of victim Valerie McCorvey still holds hope that her niece’s killer will be brought to justice. “Sometimes you hear about cases being solved years down the road, so it may still happen,” said Mary Taylor. “It could happen. We just do the best we can and go forward. I wish I could bring her back, but I can’t.”
IT WASN’T THE FIRST TIME Hausmann was considered a murder suspect. In 1991, Hausmann was one of the main targets of a task force set up by the Fresno police and sheriff’s departments to look into the deaths of 25 African-American women who died between May 1977 and November 1990, some of whom were prostitutes.
Hausmann, who goes by the name Super Honky, became a suspect after he was arrested on suspicion of beating a prostitute with a steam iron. According to a Fresno Bee article, the prostitute told the police that Hausmann said, “You’re harder to kill than the other ones.” A man who witnessed the beating also heard Hausmann say, “This one is hard to kill.” Hausmann pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment for beating the prostitute and spent 29 months in jail. Last month, Hausmann told the L.A. Weekly that the Fresno police were out to get him because he stopped supplying the force with drugs in the early ’90s. He also said that the police didn’t like the fact that he liked African-American women.
Fresno police say they have not ruled out Hausmann in their unsolved cases. Said Fresno Sergeant Curt Chastain, “Each case has to be investigated on its own weight.”