Murderer in Alabama Confesses 2 L.A. Killings
A convicted killer in Alabama awaiting trial in four murders there has confessed to the slayings of two women in Los Angeles, one of whom had been listed as a victim of the so-called Southside Serial Killer, Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block announced Friday.
Block said the confessions of Daniel Lee Siebert, 32, coupled with information he gave “that would be known only to a person involved in the murders here,” has left no doubt that Siebert was responsible for the deaths of Gidget Castro, 28, and Nesia Gail McElrath, 23, in December, 1985.
While authorities said that Siebert has admitted as many as 13 killings across the United States, Block said he is not a suspect in any of the 16 other slayings under investigation by the Southside Serial Killer Task Force.
“He didn’t admit to any others, and he wouldn’t have any reason not to admit to them,” Block reasoned.
The sheriff said he had no doubt that there is still at least one suspect in the other Southside murders at large somewhere, “and probably more than one.”
Doesn’t Fit Description
While witnesses have consistently described the Southside killer as black, Siebert, a house painter and runaway in childhood, is white.
Block said the task force’s attention was drawn to Siebert by police in Talladega, Ala., who learned that the suspect in five murders there had formerly resided in Southern California, where he worked as a painter and frequented the Hollywood area. Officials said he made the confessions to sheriff’s investigators.
Investigators provided few details of the two murders linked to Siebert here, other than to say that McElrath’s body was found Dec. 19, 1985, in a rural area near Castaic, and Castro’s body was found a week later in an alley near the 4600 block of East Washington Boulevard in the City of Commerce.
Like most of the Southside victims, both women were black, both were prostitutes and both had been strangled, Block said.
Block said that because McElrath’s body was found more than 20 miles from the South-Central Los Angeles area where most of the other murders under investigation by the task force took place, it was not included in the list of presumed serial killings.
The Sheriff’s Department did not provide background information on either McElrath or Castro, but records indicated that Castro, a divorcee and native of Connecticut, had listed her occupation as a self-employed housewife. Police said that while Castro had never been arrested on a prostitution charge, information from friends and relatives indicated that she had been involved in prostitution.
In Alabama, where he went by the name Danny Ray Spence, Siebert was convicted of strangling Linda Jarman, a 33-year-old deaf woman, in her Talladega apartment during what authorities there said was a rampage of killing on Feb. 19, 1986.
A jury has recommended that he go to the electric chair for the murder of Jarman, but he has not yet been formally sentenced.
That same day, they said, Siebert strangled another deaf woman, Sherri Weathers, 24, and her two children, Chad, 5, and Joseph, 4. He also was accused of killing a neighbor, Linda Faye Odum. He is awaiting trial in the deaths of Weathers, her children and Odum.
The Daily Home in Talladega has reported that Weathers was in an Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind program to prepare handicapped people for jobs. Jarman had already been through the program.
Not Charged in Killing
Police in the Birmingham suburb also believe that Siebert killed Sheryl Evans, 19, a black prostitute whose body was found the day after the other killings dumped by the side of a road in nearby Calhoun County. She was last seen alive a week earlier. Siebert has not been charged in that murder.
Siebert reportedly confessed to police that he had killed prostitutes in other parts of the country. It was concluded that he chose them because they were apt to have money and he wanted to rob them.
According to testimony, Siebert was picked up while hitchhiking near Tucson, Ariz., about Dec. 30, 1985, by Donald Hendren, a playwright and artist from Hollywood who was on his way to Talladega to be an artist in residence at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
Hendren told police that he saw Siebert carrying an artist’s case, so he gave him a ride and tried to persuade him to join him in Alabama at the institute. Siebert was on his way to Illinois, where he lived as a child, so the two split up at Jackson, Miss.
But Hendren said he telephoned Siebert in Illinois, and in January of last year, Siebert went to Talladega and shared an apartment with Hendren while helping him design stage sets for the institute.
Hendren said he moved out when Siebert began dating Sherri Weathers, one of the deaf people at the institute. That, Hendren testified, was against the institute’s policy.
After the sudden rash of murders in late February, according to the evidence, Siebert drove away in Jarman’s car. It was found abandoned about eight days later alongside Interstate 65 south of Louisville, Ky. It had a flat tire.
At a nearby campsite, police discovered a large collection of women’s undergarments and a birth certificate bearing the name Danny Ray Spence.
Siebert was captured last September in the small community of Hurricane Mills, Tenn., about 50 miles west of Nashville, after what reporters said was some remarkable detective work by Talladega police. Having already contacted some of his friends around the country and obtaining subpoenas for their telephone records, detectives were alerted by a Las Vegas woman when the fugitive called her.
Drenched by Rain
She told police Siebert apparently called from an outside booth and that he was complaining about being drenched by a steady downpour. Police called the National Weather Service, which said Tennessee was having the only such rainfall in the country at that time.
By the next day, telephone company technicians completed a trace on the call received by the Nevada woman. It led the officers to Hurricane Mills, where Siebert was just having a final cup of coffee before leaving town.
Guide Is a Victim
Siebert also has been charged with killing a tour-bus guide whose body was found in an Atlantic City, N.J., hotel room a year ago. That victim was identified as Beatrice McDougall of Schenectady, N.Y.
Block said Siebert has been linked to other killings in Las Vegas, where he was convicted of manslaughter in 1979, in several cities in California and in other states throughout the nation.
Siebert’s Alabama trial included testimony that he was sexually and physically abused as a child by his father and that he ran away from home at the age of 12. He said he learned to draw while hiding from his father.
Block said that because Siebert is facing a death sentence, it is not certain whether he will be brought here for trial.