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Serial killer on the loose in California, police say

  • Story Highlights
  • Los Angeles police say same person responsible for 11 slayings in California
  • Most victims were drug users or prostitutes, police say
  • Investigators connected slayings through DNA evidence
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From Stan Wilson
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Los Angeles, California, police detectives are looking for a serial killer who they believe killed at least 11 people, many of them prostitutes, over a 23-year period.

Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said DNA evidence and ballistics tests have convinced detectives that the same killer is connected to the slayings in Los Angeles and Inglewood.

The victims were prostitutes or drug users who were sexually assaulted and then shot and dumped in alleyways or in Dumpsters, police said.

"We have a lot of evidence, and the connection between so many cases of DNA will allow us to eventually solve this," Beck said.

The most recent killing, in January 2007, was tied exclusively to DNA analysis to another case after 13 years. However, detectives have not been able to identify the killer through state or federal DNA databases of convicted felons.

According to Beck, authorities are still examining more than 50,000 inmates in state prison for similar crimes, but not all of them have DNA profiles.

One theory investigators are exploring about the gaps between the killings is the possibility that the killer served time in prison. Authorities are scouring files of inmates who were in prison serving time during periods of the killer's apparent inactivity.

All of the victims are young African-American females except for one black man.

The first known slaying occurred in 1985, when 29-year-old Debra Jackson was shot multiple times in the chest, police said.

Three years passed before detectives realized that the same weapon used to kill Jackson was used in seven other killings.

In 1988, a woman was sexually assaulted and shot. She survived and gave police a vague description of the suspect. However, Beck said the description was not enough for authorities to draw a composite sketch.

Those cases went cold until detectives connected three additional murders since 2002 based primarily on recently developed DNA technology.

Beck said authorities preserved fluid samples of DNA the killer left behind in earlier killings and found conclusive similarities on the body of three victims, including the most recent slaying from 2007.

Dozens of suspects that detectives previously considered were also ruled out based on DNA evidence, according to Beck.

Another theory investigators are examining is the possibility the killer may have left the state of California and committed crimes in other parts of the country.

"This is the mind of a maniac, but we have a tight victim profile and powerful evidence that has taken us across the country," Beck said. "The victims are the most vulnerable in society, and we know the suspect is involved in prostitution. Eventually, we will find him."

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