Police: DNA links prison inmate to dozen LA slayings
LOS ANGELES – A man serving a prison sentence after pleading no contest to rape has been linked by DNA evidence to the killings of a dozen women, including three that another man was convicted of committing, police said Saturday.
Police plan to give prosecutors evidence next week against 37-year-old Chester D. Turner. He may eventually be linked to as many as a dozen other killings, Los Angeles Police Department Chief William J. Bratton said.
In a somber coincidence, the mothers of two of the victims have been friends for 30 years, and have grieved together for their daughters’ deaths.
“He’ll never be able to do this to someone else’s child,” said Jerri Johnson, whose 29-year-old daughter, Andrea Triplett, was among the victims. “No family will have to go through what we went through.”
Johnson’s daughter was found dead in 1993, six years and several blocks north of where the body of 26-year-old Annette Ernest, the daughter of Johnson’s friend, Mildred White, also was found.
“We never thought that it could be the same person,” White said.
Triplett and Ernest each had two young children, and Triplett was pregnant with a third when she was killed.
Turner is serving an eight-year sentence at the Sierra Conservation Center state prison near Stockton after pleading no contest to rape in 2002.
The former pizza deliveryman allegedly accosted most of his victims on a street in South-Central Los Angeles, raping and strangling them, then dumping their bodies.
Before police identified Turner as a suspect, a mentally disabled janitor was wrongly convicted of three of the killings and spent nearly nine years in prison. David Allen Jones, 44, was released in March.
The 12 women were killed between 1987 and 1998, most of them within a 30-block area known for drugs, violence and prostitution. Their slayings remained unsolved until the LAPD’s cold case homicide unit began looking into them.
Bratton said the six detectives in the cold case unit weren’t able to link Turner to the crimes until now because they have a backlog of thousands of cases, many of which had to be handled before the statute of limitations expired.
Detective Cliff Shepard, who brought one of the cases with him when he transferred to the newly formed unit in 2001, submitted DNA evidence obtained from the victim’s body to the police department’s crime lab. The evidence matched that found in two other cases, one involving a 1996 murder and the other a 2002 rape in which the victim escaped her attacker.
As part of his no-contest plea in the latter case, Turner agreed to submit a DNA sample that was placed in law enforcement databases. After the two matches, Shepard said police began checking it against samples found on other victims and started getting matches.
Bratton used the case to make a pitch for Proposition 69, a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that calls for collecting DNA samples from anyone arrested for an alleged felony, not just convicted criminals, starting in 2009. But opposition has come from civil libertarians, privacy rights organizations and conservatives concerned about government intrusion.
Turner, who was born in Arkansas, moved to Los Angeles with his mother at age 5 after his parents separated.
He has been in and out of prison more than a half-dozen times since dropping out of high school, according to state Department of Corrections records. Most of his convictions, however, were for nonviolent crimes, including theft, drug possession and parole violations.