Regional Report / Westside : MID-CITY : $50,000 Reward Is Offered for Information on Killer of Minister

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the killer of an 81-year-old minister.

Blanche Thomas, former pastor of Mt. Zion Churches United in Watts and a minister at the Holy Light Baptist Church at 96th Street and Normandie Avenue, was bound, gagged and sexually assaulted in her Mid-City apartment. The cause of death was under investigation last week.

Thomas' grandson, Daniel Better, found the body when he checked on her July 25 after she did not respond to phone calls.

Police said her killer entered the apartment in the 1700 block of South La Brea Avenue between midnight and dawn the day she was found.

Although a few things were stolen, investigators doubt that robbery was the motive.

"It's just overwhelming to know she died like that," said Thomas' daughter, Dr. Shirley Jean Better, a professor of social work at Cal State Los Angeles. "You don't want your mother to die like that. You want her to die peacefully, in her sleep."

Better said that her mother, a former country schoolteacher in her native Arkansas, was a strong advocate of expanding women's roles in religion.

She also worked to inspire African American and Latino youths in her parish to pursue education as an alternative to the violence on the streets.

Several parishioners and members of the community have established a fund in Thomas' name to provide food and clothing for the homeless, who had become one of her most recent causes, Better said.

Last Tuesday, the City Council approved the posting of a $25,000 reward in order to encourage anyone with information to come forward.

The following day, televangelist the Rev. Gene Scott donated a check matching that amount to the reward pool.

Roger Galloway, press deputy for City Councilman Nate Holden, who represents the Mid-City area, said a posthumous resolution acknowledging Thomas' accomplishments will be presented to her family Thursday by council.

Anyone with information about Thomas' slaying can contact the Police Department's Wilshire Division at (213) 847-3990 or at (213) 485-4022 after 4 p.m.

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