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Episode 1: The Southside Slayer

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*This transcript was generated so there may be minor errors

[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome to True Crime and Knit. I'm your host, Safiyyah Talley. And this is episode one and this is my cat, and hopefully she doesn't present it a microphone. So let's get started into this case. Super excited to start this with you guys. So let's do it.

[00:00:17]For most of us who live normal lives. It is hard to believe that someone in our community. A neighbor, a school teacher, a pharmacist may be a serial killer. It is scary and confusing, but this is exactly what happened in the south side of LA.

[00:00:34] From the mid 1980s, all the way into the early two thousands as dozens of women were reported missing in bringing awareness to this case, we can prevent history from repeating itself. So grab your knitting or vice of choice. And join me as we try to make our neighborhoods safer by exploring the case of the South Side Slayer.

[00:00:57] My name is Safiyyah Talley, and this is [00:01:00] my new podcast True Crime and Knit.


[00:01:13]On January 1st, 2007 in south central LA, a local homeless man was going through his routine of looking through the trash bin and in an alleyway. And he was just looking for cans to recycle so that he could, you know, turn them in for, for change. Instead he found something that stopped him in his tracks; a bright red fingernail was poking out of a black trash bag.

[00:01:41] The body was later identified as Janecia Peters, who was a 25 year old mother. She was found completely nude with the exception of a gold heart necklace around her neck. There was a gunshot wound to her chest. When Janecia’ s mother, LeBron Peters heard that a body was found in her [00:02:00] neighborhood, she just never could have imagined that it was her daughter. At the time she was visiting family in Inglewood, California, with Janecia’s then four year old son. It was Christmas time. And her son was preparing to give his mother a Christmas gift. So he wrapped it up in tinfoil and red string, and he was just super excited to give this gift to her.

[00:02:23] But unfortunately, he was never able to give her his present. When LAPD took a look at Jenecia's case, it didn't take them long to realize that they have stumbled upon something. Big.

[00:02:37]Using DNA analysis police were able to conclusively link Janecia’s murderer to 11 other unsolved homicides in the area that date back to 1985. Upon this discovery LAPD created the 800 task force, which is a group of seven [00:03:00] detectives who covertly meet in room 800 of the LAPD station, hence their name and their sole purpose was to catch this serial killer that they now dubbed The Grim Sleeper.

[00:03:13]The grim sleeper was originally known as the south side Slayer in the 1980s. And he was thought to be responsible for a string of murders in which bodies of black women were found in alleyways and dumpsters and the south side of LA. With DNA evidence being in its infancy. Detectives were only able to guess whether or not these murders were the work of one individual, but when the police were able to connect in Janecia’s casewith the south side slayer’s cases, they changed the killer's name from the South Side Slayer to the Grim Sleeper due to this suppose hiatus that took place between the murders.

[00:03:56]In 1985. radio hosts and activist, [00:04:00] Margaret Prescod learned that there were 11 confirmed homicides in the south side area. And all these homicides were involving black women who were either strangled shot, sexually assaulted, or all the above

[00:04:15] At the time Prescott was the host of the radio show. Sojourner’s Truth, and she used her established platform to found the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Killers. And what this group did was that they would create flyers with these missing women's faces on it. And they will stand, you know, and anywhere in a neighborhood where they would see other women.

[00:04:36] So usually it'll be like the grocery store or in front of a convenience store, things like that. And they will pass out these flyers and spread awareness about there being a serial killer on the loose. And that they were calling him their Southside Slayer. I just want to pause the story right here to take a moment to look at who these victims were and why it was up [00:05:00] to Prescod to talk about this serial killer, because the police weren't really that concerned with it at the time.

[00:05:09]I desperately tried to look into these women's backgrounds, but not much can be found at the time. The LAPD was not concerned by the growing list of murder black women, because they believe that many of them were sex workers or drug addicts, or both at the time LA was in the middle of a crash cocaine crisis.

[00:05:32] So the police were expecting there to be casualties of this crisis. And when these bodies started showing up, they just assumed that that was just the reason and that it was just because of the crack cocaine epidemic. This is all despite the similar causes of death and the proximity of the places where the bodies were found and similarities in the victims.

[00:05:58] Also, it is important to [00:06:00] note that around this time, LAPD and the rest of the world were watching The Night Stalker case unfold. Richard Ramirez also known as the night stalker was not as quiet as the Grim Sleeper. His victims were often middle-class people who were close to their families and who would be missed at their nine to five jobs. As a result, this case resonated with more of the population because they were able to relate to the victims. But, the Grim Sleeper, he knew that by preying on poor black women, he would be able to get away with it that it would just be seen as the perils of living in a bad neighborhood or being addicted to drugs. He just knew that they would fall through the cracks.

[00:06:49] So because public and police interests were elsewhere, it was very hard to find out more about who these women were besides their name, sex, and [00:07:00] race. And so not only did these women die, but it seems as if their whole identities have been swept away as well. Recently, some of the victim's loved ones have been taking advantage of social media and have been sharing these women's stories on the internet.

[00:07:16] And though these writers' identities cannot be confirmed. I will still add some other sentiments here just because something needs to be said about these lost women and their lives.

[00:07:26]the first of these murders occurred on August 10th when a 29 year old cocktail waitress, Debra Jackson was found murdered with three gunshot wounds to her chest. She was found in an alleyway near West Gauge Avenue in South LA. And at the time there were no leads and the case just went cold. After Debra more and more women began appearing in alleyways and dumpsters all around the south LA area. And when you look at the map that shows all of the sites in which these [00:08:00] bodies were discovered, there is a link in the show notes if you're just listening to the podcast, but you'll see that they are all condensed in the same area, pointing to the fact that this could be the work of one person.

[00:08:13] Also almost all these victims are African-American women who were local to the area.

[00:08:19]August 12th, 1986 in an alley off of West Vernon avenue in LA, the body of 35 year old Harriet Wright was found hidden under a mattress. Her death was caused by multiple gunshot wounds. And just like with the Deborah Jackson case there were no leads or suspects and the case just went cold.

[00:08:41] And later she was revealed to be the possible second victim of The Grim Sleeper. And on January 10th, 1987, the body of Barbara also known as Beth ware was found hidden under a pile of trash. And the [00:09:00] 1300 block off on east 56th street and the South Central area and the 911 call may by the witness who found a body.

[00:09:09] He was able to provide key details such as the type of vehicle the murderer drove and the full license plate number. And though the police were able to locate the vehicle, which was a white and blue van. The 911 call was not released to the public until 2009 when police realized that the caller could in fact be the grim sleeper. Now this is big because if they had released that 911 call on the news or during a press conference, anything, maybe someone would have recognized the voice, especially since we have reason to believe that it was the Grim Sleeper or to Southside Slayer, however, you may know him as, we have reason to [00:10:00] believe that he was local to the area, just because everywhere where he would dump the bodies, it was such close proximity to each other.

[00:10:09] That it almost seemed as if this was his neighborhood. And so maybe someone in the community would have recognized his voice, but it was just never, ever. Released during that time. And when it was released, it probably was just too late. because they didn't release it until 2009, who could remember from 1987 to 2009, like. That's such a gap. So I just can't even believe that

[00:10:40] Barbara is believed to be the fourth victim. Now, this is where the timeline gets a bit sketchy here. And I skipped the third victim, Thomas Steele, who was found dead on August 14th, 1986. And though it is believed that the grim sleeper murdered him because he may have found out about the killings, there's just not enough conclusive evidence to verify this.

[00:11:04]On April 15, 1987, the body of Bernita Rochelle Sparks was found in a trash bin with a gunshot wound to her chest. Before her death, friends of Bernita claimed that she was a sex worker and she was addicted to crack cocaine, but she was in recovery and she had this positive, new outlook on life.

[00:11:26] And allegedly she was constantly expressing a fear to her friends that she or one of her friends may be attacked by one of their clients. And she just kept warning everyone to be careful. But unfortunately, even though she kind of, it almost seemed as if she knew that one of her clients were dangerous, nothing more came from the case.

[00:11:49] And she is believed to be the fifth victim.

[00:11:52]And, you know, and whenever I read about Bernita, his case, I always just wonder, like, what did she know? Like, did she have [00:12:00] a bad experience with someone? And that information just got lost in time. And sometimes I just wonder if she knew the identity of the Grim Sleeper.

[00:12:12] The next woman to be found was Mary Catherine Lowe. And she was a 26 year old black woman who was found dead on October 31st, 1987 on the 8,900 block of Western avenue in Gramercy park. Her body was found hidden in a bush and she was severely beaten with a gunshot wound to the chest so it was a complete case of overkill. Her pants were unzipped and her underwear was missing. And this hinted at a possible sexual assault, she is believed to be the sixth victim.

[00:12:55] The next body was found on January 30th, 1988. And it was [00:13:00] the body of Latricia Jefferson. She was a 22 year old black woman, and she was found at the 2000 block of west 102nd place and the Westmont area. And she was hidden under a mattress with a napkin. Over her face and on the napkin where scribbled the word aids, Los Angeles police believed that she was the seventh victim.

[00:13:27] Now this really. Really stuck out to me that he not only through threw her out like trash, like he did his other victims, but he also had the complete audacity to write aids on her face. You know, he put it on a napkin and place it on her face just As if her death wasn't humiliating enough, he had to just take it a step further by slapping aids on her face.

[00:13:58] That's just, I just [00:14:00] can't believe that this murder was pretty much ignored or that nothing really came from it. I just don't understand. There's so many women showing up. Dead and nothing has been done yet. And so that's why I'm going through all their names. So that way you can really see how often this is happening.

[00:14:30] It is like, it is insane. It is literally insane that this is continuing over and over again. And. No one seems to care up until 2007. The next victim was his second youngest victim and her name was Alicia Monique Alexander. And she was just 18 years old. She was found nude under a mattress and in an alleyway amongst trash in Vermont Square LA in 1988. So she was just very young.

[00:15:07] I mean, she was just 18 when a lot of us are still in high school. The next victim was even younger. So, this is scaring me because his earlier victims were grown women. And now he's starting to prey on teenagers and minors because his next victim was Princess Cheyenne Berthomieux. And she was only 15 years old when she died. Her body was found nude and strangled and beaten in an alleyway hidden in shrubs on March 19th, 2002. It is reported that her body was not found for 10 days. And Princess is likely to 10th victim of the grim sleeper.

[00:15:55] Like many of the other missing women in the case. And this case princess was not in close contact with her family. And the last time she saw her family was December 21st. I remember she was found in March, so that's pretty much a whole season of not seeing. Her family. And those often stated that the Grim Sleeper’s victims were only women who are sex workers and drug addicts.

[00:16:23] It's important to note that Princess was just a girl. Princess’s story is the definition of a tragedy. And from the beginning, it seems that she had no chance of having a happy ending. At the age of three, she was placed in the foster care system because she was tied up and gang raped by her father and his friends.

[00:16:48] And she was just a toddler. Samira her foster sister is quoted as saying in regards to Princess, “She mattered. She was so wonderful. I don't want anyone to think that she wasn't absolutely positively adored and loved.” So when we talk about these victims, think about Princess's story and think about how the class and racial disparity that is going on between the victims in this case.

[00:17:18] And other killings of children around this time had really changed the way that Princess's story was reported, because we all heard of Madeline McCain. There wasn't even a body or a confirmed death until recently hit me up if you want to know more about that.

[00:17:37] But at the time, you know, there just wasn't any information that she was deceased, but we just heard more of her story, then Princess's story. And both of them are worthy of their stories being told repeatedly and spread. So that way their cases can be solved. So [00:18:00] it just breaks my heart, that princess being so young, that her story, I just never heard of it.

[00:18:05] I just never heard of her being a victim of the grim sleeper. Because like most people before delving into this case, I always just thought that the victims were adults, not children. So only four months after finding and identifying Princess's body, Valerie McCorvey, a 35 year old black woman was found dead on July 11, 2003 on Denker avenue, between 108 and a hundred and ninth streets in the Westmont area. And this made Valerie the 11th victim.

[00:18:43]However, there is one official survivor of the Grim Sleeper and her name is Enietra Washington. Now I want you guys to listen closely to Enietra’s story because it can seriously happen to anyone.

[00:18:59][00:19:00] It was the night of November 20th, 1988 and, and Enietra Washington was getting ready to go to a party with her best friend Linda Lewis. She was wearing her favorite top: a cream and blue peasant style blouse, and a cream denim shirt. She was walking to Linda's house when she noticed a flashy orange Ford Pinto with white racing stripes.

[00:19:22] As the car was pulling up near her, the car stuck out to her because, and this is a quote, it looked like a hot wheels car. The man in the car was neatly dressed. He was African-American. And to her, he looked to be about 30 years old and he offered her a ride, but she declined and Eneitra states that, “He told me, and this is another quote that is what's wrong with you, black woman. You think that you are all that.” And Eneitra took this comment and jest I don't think I would have, but she took it in jest and after some banter between her and a stranger, she decided to take him up on his offer and she got into the passenger seat of his car. I'm going to pause here because we need to remember that this is 1988 in a close-knit neighborhood where everyone generally knew everyone though.

[00:20:15]Though the south side of LA is far from typical American suburbia. We need to acknowledge that locals in this neighborhood were familiar with each other and looked out for each other. Also in the eighties, hitchhiking was not uncommon, and it doesn't hold the dangerous stigma that it does today.

[00:20:34] So in this time period in this neighborhood, it was not uncommon to try to sweet talk a potential date by offering them a ride. Unfortunately, this practice still happens today and different types of communities, like, for example, I went to a state university and this was a common practice. Random people will try to pick up other people in the parking lot under the guise of, Hey we're out of parking spots can I gave you a ride to your parking spot? So that way I can then take it when you're done with it. And so that happened a lot in my school. And I always found that really, really scary because you just don't know who these people are specifically. If it's a big public institution where literally anybody can, can get on campus.

[00:21:30] So what I'm trying to say is that this practice still happens today. It's just. In different forms. So I just want everyone to be aware and say no to the rides. Just say, no,

[00:21:42]Walking's good for your health. Anyway. So anyway, once in the car Enietra becomes increasingly impressed with this man. His car was well kept. It had a custom interior and he was just a smooth talker. He was able to casually invite himself to the party. And she agreed.

[00:22:02] But before going to party, he claimed that he had to stop by his uncle's house to pick up money. They drive to a neighborhood and turn onto a street that in nitro did not recognize. He pulled up to her house where he got out of the car and talk to someone that Eneitra could not see for about 10 minutes.

[00:22:20] And when he returned to the car and started to drive again, there was a sudden shift in his personality. He asked her, why did you dog me out? And he mistakenly called her by the name of a well-known prostitute in the area whom a Enietra says that she looks like, and. Enietra asked him, “who do you think you’re talking to?” But before she can say anymore, the man pulled out a gun out of his left pocket and just shot her in the chest. And Enietra eventually falls unconscious only to wake up to the bright flash of a camera as her attacker takes photos of her. She does not realize it, but at the time Enietra had just been sexually assaulted by the Grim Sleeper. So Enietra does the only thing that she can do despite bleeding out from a point blank gunshot wound to the chest, she lunges at him and grabs him and they struggle while Enietra begged him to take her to the hospital.

[00:23:20] She claims that he declined stating that he didn't want to get caught. Instead, he pulled over, beat her what his gun and pushed her out of the car, leaving her on the street to die, but she fought. And still fighting for her life, Enietra stumbled through several blocks in a state of complete shock until she reached the house of Linda Lewis, her friend that she was going to the party with.

[00:23:49] This was where Linda and her husband found her laying on the porch shot, beaten and assaulted, but alive and ready to fight. Later Enietra would recount that, and this is a quote, “I told him that if I died, I'd come back to haunt him. I didn't feel no pain.” Little did she know that she will be back to haunt him, but in a courtroom as a key witness for his trial

[00:24:18] So today we're going to take a short intermission. What I like to call a knitter mission because we are going to talk about some, this. So this is my brand new podcast, True Crime and Knit.

[00:24:30] And with every sea