John Floyd Thomas, Jr.

You are here:
< Back

John Floyd Thomas, Jr. (born July 26, 1936)[1] is an American serial killer, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole convicted of the murders of seven women in the Los Angeles area during the 1970s and 1980s, and suspected by police of 10 to 15 more.[2][3][4]

Early life

Thomas was born in Los Angeles and his mother died when he was 12 years old. He was later alternately raised by his aunt and a godmother. Throughout his childhood, Thomas attended public schools, including the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.[5] Thomas served in the U.S. Air Force in 1956 for a brief period of time. While stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, a superior noted that Thomas was regularly “late” and “slovenly” in appearance.[5]

He received a dishonorable discharge, according to his military records, and was arrested for burglary and attempted rape in Los Angeles. Thomas was convicted of these crimes and sentenced in 1957 to six years in the California state prison system. As a result of a pair of parole violations, Thomas remained incarcerated until 1966.[5]

2009 arrest

Thomas was arrested on March 31, 2009, and on April 2, 2009 he was charged with the murders of Ethel Sokoloff in November 1972 and Elizabeth McKeown in February 1976. On September 23, 2009, he was charged with the murders of Cora Perry in September 1975; Maybelle Hudson in April 1976; Miriam McKinley in June 1976; Evalyn Bunner in October 1976; and Adrian Askew in June 1986.[3]

A break in solving the related murders came in October 2008 when Thomas, then an insurance claims adjuster at State Compensation Insurance Fund, provided a DNA sample to authorities as part of an effort to assemble an offender database in the state of California.[6] He was held without bail at the LA County Jail.[7]

On April 1, 2011, Thomas pleaded guilty to the seven counts of murder as part of a deal to avoid the death sentence for the Adrian Askew murder. He was therefore sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.[4]

Case history

In the first wave of killings in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, a man police dubbed “The Westside Rapist” entered the homes of dozens of elderly women who lived alone, raped them and choked them until they passed out or died. The 17 women killed were found with pillows or blankets over their faces. During that time, Thomas was a social worker, hospital employee and salesman. The attacks stopped in 1978 — the year Thomas went back to prison for the rape of a Pasadena woman. After his 1983 release, he moved to Chino in San Bernardino County and took a job as a hospital peer counselor in nearby Pomona. That year, a series of attacks on elderly women began that included five slayings in the nearby Los Angeles County town of Claremont. The attacker also used blankets or pillows over his victims’ faces. Despite some 20 survivors, detectives didn’t connect the two cases. There were conflicting descriptions from victims, a lack of communication between agencies and an absence of DNA technology. Ironically, Thomas went back to the area where he had killed a woman twenty years earlier, and raped and attempted to kill his former victim’s daughter, she survived, however. The 72-year-old insurance claims adjuster may be the most prolific serial killer in the city’s history, having raped and strangled as many as 30 older women.[8]