Los Angeles: Los Angeles Police Department Robbery Homicide Detectives have announced the arrest of a 72-year-old man who has been positively linked to two LAPD Cold Case homicides. The suspect, John Floyd Thomas Jr., is also linked by DNA evidence to murders being investigated by the Inglewood Police Department and Los County Sheriff’s Department. Additionally, he is suspected in as many as thirty murders and scores of rapes occurring in the Southland during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
During November 2001, under the guidance of Robbery-Homicide Division the Los Angeles Police Department created a Cold Case Homicide Unit. Over the years, detectives assigned to this unit have been responsible for reviewing unsolved murder cases, assessing evidence from those cases, and identifying the potential for application of new forensic techniques, which includes, but is not limited to DNA testing.
As part of the review process, detectives screened the unsolved murder of Ethel Sokoloff. At the time of her tragic death in 1972, Sokoloff was 68 years old. She was found in her home, beaten and strangled. The apparent motive of the murder appeared to have been of a sexual nature. The cold case detectives’ review of this case revealed that there was biological evidence within the victim’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit, and that this evidence had never been analyzed for the presence of foreign DNA. Subsequently, a request was made to Scientific Investigation Division.
Detectives also identified the unsolved murder of Elizabeth McKeown who was killed in 1976. At the time of her death, McKeown was 67 years old. A review of the investigative materials revealed that McKeown was attacked after parking her vehicle at her home. She too had been brutally beaten and strangled. Again, the apparent motive of this murder appeared to be of a sexual nature. Similar to the Sokoloff case, it was believed that by using DNA analysis on the biological evidence obtained from within McKeown’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit, it would potentially provide a direct lead to the suspect responsible for committing this senseless crime. Detectives requested that Scientific Investigation Division examine the evidence for the presence of DNA.
A male DNA profile was developed in each of these independent cases and was uploaded into the California CODIS databank. During 2004, a case-to-case DNA match was made linking the male DNA profile from the Sokoloff case to the male DNA profile identified in the McKeown murder. Although the DNA profiles matched one another, the name of the offender was not identified in the database.
Between 2004 and 2009, cold case detectives worked diligently in an effort to identify this potential murder suspect. While continuing their investigation, detectives frequently compared a potential suspects DNA profile to that recovered from the Sokoloff and McKeown sexual assault evidence kits. Approximately 14 DNA profiles were compared and eliminated, they were not connected.
In September 2004, detectives were notified that DNA case-to-case matches had been made to three unsolved murders that occurred between 1976 and 1986 in the City of Inglewood and Los Angeles County.
On March 27, 2009, the California Department of Justice notified the Los Angeles Police Department that a CODIS DNA match had been made and the killer identified in the murders of Ethel Sokoloff and Elizabeth McKeown, and the victims in the cases being investigated by the Inglewood Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The offender has been identified as John Floyd Thomas. He is now 72 years old and a resident of Los Angeles. A review of Thomas’s criminal history revealed that he was arrested a number of times between 1955 and 1978. His criminal convictions consist of multiple burglaries, many of which involved sexual assaults of his victims. Other than an arrest for prostitution in 1993, Thomas has not had any other known law enforcement contact during recent years.
On March 31, 2009, detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department arrested John Floyd Thomas for the murders of Ethel Sokoloff and Elizabeth McKeown, and his bail was set at one million dollars.
Cold Case detectives will focus on connecting Thomas to additional cases during those years when he was not in custody for other crimes. Detectives will begin in the mid-1950s when his criminal history began in the Los Angeles area. The review will likely include cases occurring through the decade of the 1980s. During that approximate 35-year span, Thomas was in custody for a total of roughly twelve years.