LOS ANGELES, Calif.–A 74-year-old man pleaded guilty today to the sexually motivated killings of seven women in the Southland during the 1970s and ’80s and was immediately sentenced to seven life prison terms, one without the possibility of parole.
John Floyd Thomas Jr.–nicknamed the Westside Rapist–pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree murder involving victims who ranged in age from 56 to 80 years old.
Thomas is suspected in at least two dozen additional murders in Los Angeles County in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as scores of unsolved rapes.
Los Angeles police said Thomas usually targeted elderly women who lived alone. He would enter their homes, rape them, then strangle them while obscuring their faces with a sheet or pillowcase.
Thomas, a former state insurance claims adjuster in Glendale, was arrested on March 31, 2009.
He was initially charged on April 2, 2009, with the murders of 68-year-old Ethel Sokoloff in her Mid-Wilshire home in 1972 and Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in Westchester in 1976. Police said he was linked to those killings through DNA evidence.
Later in 2009, Thomas was charged with five additional strangulation killings involving women killed between September 1975 and June 1986. Three of those victims lived in Inglewood, one in the Lennox area and one in Claremont.
The defendant, shackled and wearing a dirty orange jumpsuit, gazed impassively during an emotional statement delivered by Tracy Michaels, the great-niece of McKeown, a retired school administrator whose body was found in her car near her Westchester apartment.
“She was beloved–her life mattered to many people–and this man came along and stalked her and preyed upon her,” Michaels said. “He viciously attacked her, he brutally raped her and then he put his hands around her neck … and put her body in the trunk of her car and walked away for 35 years.”
In addition to McKeown’s murder, Thomas pleaded guilty today to the slayings of Cora Perry in Lennox in 1975; Maybelle Hudson, 80, Miriam McKinley, 65, and Evalyn Bunner, 56, all in 1976 in Inglewood; Adrienne Askew, 56, in Claremont in 1986; and Sokoloff.
Deputy District Attorney Rachel M. Greene read a statement from the granddaughter of Askew, the final victim of the slayings with which Thomas was charged.
Following Askew’s death, police investigated the possibility that her killing may have been linked to the disappearance and killing three years earlier of her mother, Isabel Askew.
“Were these murders coincidental? Surely not,” Greene read. “(Thomas) has been preying on the elderly, the vulnerable, the handicapped for over 50 years.”
The defendant “deserves execution … life in prison without the possibility of parole just seems too lenient for a monster like John Floyd Thomas,” according to the statement.
“Along with seven counts of first-degree murder, Thomas admitted the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, murder during the commission of rape or attempted rape, and murder during burglary or attempted burglary.