Pickets Protest Police Handling of Prostitutes’ Deaths

Times Staff Writer

Women representatives from four organizations picketed in front of Los Angeles Police Department headquarters Wednesday, accusing the department of dragging its feet in finding the man who has killed 10 prostitutes in and around South Los Angeles since January, 1984.

The 12 women, carrying a flower-ladened plywood coffin, said they believe that because the women were prostitutes and all but two of them were black, police are not pursuing the case as vigorously as they would if the victims had been white and not prostitutes.

“There seems to be selective protection to different groups and classes of our community,” said Margaret Prescod, spokeswoman for the U.S. Prostitutes Collective and the Wages for Housework Campaign. “They are not giving this case the same kind of attention they did the Night Stalker.”


The women, who also represented the American Friends Service Committee and the New Alliance, questioned why police waited until last week to announce that a serial killer was operating in South-Central Los Angeles and to release a composite drawing of the suspect.

Detectives working the cases, however, said they are giving the series of murders “absolutely” the same kind of attention as they did the Night Stalker case, in which 15 people in Los Angeles County and San Francisco were killed and about two dozen others were assaulted. Richard Ramirez, 25, has been charged with those murders.

Detective Fred Miller said that he, Detective John St. John and six other detectives are working 12 to 14 hours a day investigating the murders.

In addition, he said, police in Inglewood and Gardena, where bodies of some victims were found, are also investigating the murders. Police officers in the various divisions are also giving the case top priority, he said.

Miller said police released the composite three weeks after they had been able to put one together from descriptions given by two women who had been attacked by the suspect. He said police did not announce their suspicions of a serial killer earlier because “you have to know what you’ve got first.”

Police Chief Daryl F. Gates called the women “asinine.”

“They’re insensitive to the men who are working this case,” he said. “Those dummies should be applauding them instead of casting a negative light on the investigation. We care about human life. We don’t care about what they are or who they are.”


Police said the murderer has been killing prostitutes since Jan. 1, 1984, picking them up in the South-Central area, stabbing or strangling them and then dumping their nude or partly clad bodies. Seven of the bodies were found in Los Angeles, two in Inglewood and one in Gardena.

Many of the victims were both stabbed and strangled. The body of the last known victim was found Aug. 15.

Los Angeles police released a composite drawing of the suspect last week and asked for the public’s help in identifying the killer.

He is described as black, with a dark complexion, 30 to 35 years old and 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall. He is said to have black hair, brown eyes, smooth skin, a medium build and muscular arms.

In at least one assault, the attacker was wearing a baseball cap bearing the name FILA, a clothing manufacturer. He was driving a 1984 or 1985 dark-colored Buick Regal with a baby seat on the rear seat. A second vehicle was described as a 1960 to 1969 Ford pickup truck with gray primer paint.

More than 500 calls have come into police after the request for public assistance, Miller said. He said police average 15 to 20 calls a day.


Police said they have turned up the names of two other prostitutes who were attacked some time between August and September by a man police think may have be the serial killer. Miller said he and St. John have not talked with the women yet.

Gates said police are no closer to an arrest than they were before. “We’re not as certain as we’d like to be that the drawing of the suspect is the most accurate.”