Florida man arrested in 1984 rape and murder in Los Angeles
Prosecutors in Los Angeles County charged a Florida man Monday with killing and torturing another man in 1984 at a South L.A. motel room, a brutal slaying that had grown cold in the decades since but was rekindled through a recent match in a national DNA database.
Police arrested the accused killer, Manuel Fraga-Madan, Friday in Hialeah, Fla. He was in custody in a Miami jail awaiting extradition to Southern California, according to inmate records.
Det. Joseph Purcell of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Fraga-Madan, 66, was one of two men who stormed the Vermont Motel on July 12, 1984, during a violent pursuit of drugs and money.
The intended target of the men was Johnny Williams, but when the pair arrived, they found Williams’ friend, a 23-year-old woman, and her baby son. Purcell said that while waiting for Williams to return to the motel room, Fraga-Madan and the other man raped the young woman at gunpoint.
When Williams, who was 40, came back to the motel room, the woman hid in the bathroom. Both men demanded money and drugs from Williams, but he said he had neither. Purcell said the men shot Williams once in the leg, then fired again, killing him.
The woman heard the gunshots, and the bathroom door was slightly ajar, the detective said.
“She could see some of the activity, but not all,” Purcell said.
The men fled. Authorities interviewed the woman at the time, but she later died of natural causes, Purcell said. Her death was unrelated to the crime, and police have not publicly identified her.
The detective, one of about 10 assigned to the Sheriff’s Department’s cold case homicide unit, took over the investigation in 2018. In all aging cases, Purcell said, he looks for evidence that was impounded by police because no forensic methods were available at the time to trace a suspect’s genetic profile. In the Williams case, he was hoping for a DNA match.
“There was no magic phone call, no letter, no informant saying you need to look at this case,” Purcell said. “We were going through our process.”
The clinching evidence was the motel bedding, which had semen from the sexual assault.
Purcell said Fraga-Madan has a criminal history in California and Florida, mostly on drug-related offenses, which resulted in his DNA being stored in a database.
The DNA match was enough for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to file a murder charge, alleging that Fraga-Madan killed Williams while torturing him and while carrying out a rape. The statute of limitations on the rape charge has passed.
Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
The second man who was at the scene has not been identified, Purcell said. Nor have detectives been able to track down the woman’s son, perhaps the only person still alive who was in the motel room that day.
“With this case, there are no witnesses,” Purcell said. “The science is a witness.”
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