LOS ANGELES, June 8 — Today’s LA Weekly examines the possibility that a serial killer is stalking prostitutes in Los Angeles. The story, by Christine Pelisek, focuses on 10 killings police have linked together using DNA and ballistics tests. Who is responsible? LA Weekly learned that police are awaiting DNA results on a possible suspect.
The killings go back to 1985 and include the strangulation death of a 14-year-old prostitute named Princess in Inglewood in 2002. The runaway from Hawthorne had been in and out of foster homes. Her nude body was found in an alley in Inglewood.
The trail of her killer had gone cold. But in December 2004, Inglewood homicide detective Jeffrey Steinhoff learned of a possible breakthrough: The sheriff’s crime lab found traces of the same DNA on her body and two other slain women. In 2005, another match was made, suggesting that four victims could have been killed by the same person. Further, Princess 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.
Suddenly, the mystery of Princess’ death triggered more frightening questions: Was a single serial killer responsible for the murders of at least 10 victims in L.A. County? And was this person still on the loose? The DNA didn’t match any names in police databases so there was little the detective could do with the new information. Then, last summer, on August 3, he got a phone call from a Fresno County District Attorney’s Office investigator. A jail inmate accused of kidnapping two teenaged girls had allegedly made some troubling statements about killing prostitutes in Los Angeles. Was this guy connected to the murders of Princess and nine others?
A DNA test was ordered, but Steinhoff never got the results. When he learned last month that the sample had been lost, Steinhoff went to the Fresno jail to obtain a second saliva sample for the DNA test. Now the detective must wait again. It could be months before the findings are in.
The story is based on a series of jailhouse interviews conducted by LA Weekly, court documents, and interviews with police and family members. In addition, LA Weekly maps the killings of several other women being tracked by LA County Coroner’s Serial Homicide Team.
The complete articles can be found in the paper on Thursday, June 7, 2006, and online at http://www.laweekly.com/general/features/the-sex-murder-files/13726/
LA Weekly is the country’s premier alternative weekly newspaper distributing Thursdays throughout Los Angeles.