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Slain Woman, 81, Was Minister to the Needy : USE THIS RELEASE : Violence: City will be asked to offer $25,000 reward. The victim, a pastor in the Mid-City area, was found bound, gagged and assaulted two weeks ago.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Blanche Thomas was an 81-year-old minister and grandmother, a much-loved woman who, in the words of City Councilman Nate Holden, “gave so much of her life to the growth and development of our community.”

As pastor of the small Mt. Zion Churches United parish in the Mid-City area, she worked to comfort the elderly, ease the plight of the homeless and curb the spread of illicit drugs. And as her daughter, Shirley Jean Better, said Monday, “she was very concerned about violence.”

That concern was well-placed.

On July 25, sometime between midnight and dawn, “a predator who preys upon defenseless women” entered Thomas’ tidy apartment in the 1700 block of South La Brea Avenue, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Ross Moen, commander of detectives at the department’s Wilshire district station.

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Moen said Blanche Thomas was bound, gagged, sexually assaulted and murdered.

Holden, Better, Moen and Thomas’ grandson, Daniel Better, gathered in front of the police station Monday to ask the public’s help in finding the killer. Holden said he will ask the City Council today to approve a $25,000 award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect.

“You expect your mother to die peacefully, in her sleep, " Shirley Better said. “It is very painful to me that she died in this shocking way.

“I appreciate what the city is doing, to be offering a reward,” the victim’s daughter added. “And I would appreciate any help from anybody . . . not only for my mother, but to help assure that this sort of thing can’t happen again.”

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Moen said that while some items were stolen from Thomas’ home during the pre-dawn attack, the intruder is believed to have been more intent on violence than on theft. The detective declined to reveal further details about the case.

Daniel Better said his grandmother did not answer the phone when he called her on Sunday, July 24, “but she’s usually busy at the church on Sundays, so we weren’t concerned.

“But when I called Monday and she didn’t answer, I got a bit worried,” he said. “I went over there, and the door was open. When I went in, I found her there. . . .

“I couldn’t believe it,” the young man said. “I yelled out, ‘Grandma! Grandma!’ Then I called the police.”

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Family members said in a prepared statement that the victim, a native of Arkansas, taught school there before moving to Chicago and marrying Samuel Thomas in 1934. When her husband died in 1971, she moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her children.

Long active in church affairs, she was ordained 10 years ago to the ministry of the Mt. Zion Churches United, where, the family said, “she worked tirelessly to establish an urban ministry that would be especially responsive to the needs of the poor and the homeless.”

“Although she was 81, she was still bowling in a bowling league,” her daughter said. “She was a very active, very happy person.”


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