Alleged Westside Rapist: John Floyd Thomas Jr. Pleads Guilty to 7 Murders

A cold case is closed, but has justice prevailed?

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Convicted rapist and murderer John Floyd Thomas Jr.

Fresh from our "Better late than never" file, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that former state insurance-claims adjuster John Floyd Thomas Jr., 74, pleaded guilty Friday to seven sexually motivated strangulation slayings of older women decades ago across Los Angeles County. Thomas, commonly known as the Westside Rapist, pleaded guilty to the murders that took place in two waves -- the first in Inglewood, Lennox and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and the other in the Claremont-Pomona area a decade later.

The soft-spoken insurance-claims specialist is described by the LAPD as one of the region's most prolific killers, responsible for as many as 30 slayings and about two dozen sexual assaults. But his plea in court Friday is for only seven killings. The slayings involve Ethel Sokoloff, 68, in the mid-Wilshire area in 1972; Elizabeth McKeown, 67, in Westchester in 1976; Cora Perry in Lennox in 1975; and Maybelle Hudson, 80, Miriam McKinley, 65, and Evalyn Bunner, 56, all in 1976 in Inglewood.

The attacks appeared to stop in 1978, around the time Thomas was convicted and sentenced to state prison for the rape of a Pasadena woman. Thomas' extensive criminal record also included serving a six-year state-prison sentence, beginning in 1957, for burglary and attempted burglary. Two parole violations sent him back behind bars until 1966.

After his release in 1983, Thomas moved to Chino, which coincided with a wave of rapes and killings that began in the Pomona Valley area. Over the next six years, Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives would investigate five slayings of older women in Claremont, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

The killings appeared to stop in 1989, but LAPD detectives reopened the case after the creation of the Cold Case Homicide Unit that reopened about 9,000 unsolved slayings going back to 1960, using emerging state and federal DNA databases. In March 2009, the California Department of Justice DNA laboratory notified detectives that Thomas' DNA matched the evidence from the Sokoloff slaying. Within days, the lab matched Thomas' DNA to four other slayings, leading to his arrest.

The rest is cold-case history. We're glad that the families of Thomas' victims will see some justice, but it seems so unfair that he got away with the rapes and murders for as long as he did. He's 74 now and has had the benefit of a long life, much to the detriment of his victims. Thomas Jr. was a state employee to boot. Has justice really prevailed?

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

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