An unemployed construction worker already facing trial in three murders was charged Friday with two of the much-publicized Southside Slayer killings of young prostitutes in the predominantly black areas of Los Angeles, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates announced.
Louis Craine, 31, has been in custody since May 29 after a woman was found slain in Southeast Los Angeles. Evidence gathered in that killing led police to link Craine to the two Southside Slayer deaths.
Craine is the third suspect to be charged with killings that were investigated by the Southside Slayer Task Force, a joint police-sheriff team that once numbered 50 detectives but recently was reduced to 16.
On Friday, Craine was charged with slaying Sheila Rae Burton, also known as Sheila Rae Burris, a 30-year-old divorcee from Illinois who was found stabbed and strangled Nov. 18, 1984, in an alley near the 9800 block of Maie Avenue in Los Angeles.
Burton was the fourth victim on the list of murders investigated by the task force that was formed in January, 1986, amid concern that a serial killer might be responsible for the slayings on the city's Southside. Despite the three arrests, most of the murders dating back to 1983 remain unsolved.
Craine was also charged with the murder of Gail M. Ficklin, a 24-year-old maid with a police record for prostitution. The 11th victim on the task force's list, Ficklin was found on Aug. 15, 1985, in an alley just off the 9800 block of Grandee Avenue in Los Angeles. She had been strangled.
Ficklin and Burton were among 18 young women, most of them prostitutes, killed between the fall of 1983 and May, 1987.
The number of murders investigated by the task force had been 17, but Gates disclosed Friday that another victim--who was murdered the day of Craine's arrest last May--was being added to the list.
Victim No. 18 was identified as Carolyn Barney, whose body was found in the 9700 block of South Graham Avenue.
"There were differences in the way he (Craine) killed them," Gates said of the slayings. "(But) on the last one, there was some similarity, and that's why the task force was asked to move into that investigation."
He refused to discuss what the similarity was.
Gates said Craine's arrest pointed up investigators' belief that no one person committed all the crimes, although fears had spread throughout the community that a single murderer, dubbed the Southside Serial Killer, was stalking the streets.
"I think right at the beginning we thought that there might be one single person, but very early on most of us believed that there was more than one suspect," Gates said. "The sheer numbers and the times they (the murders) were occurring had to lead you to believe there was more than one suspect."
Two other men have been arrested in three other Southside Slayer killings. Daniel Lee Siebert, a convicted killer imprisoned in Alabama, was charged last year with two of the slayings. The second man, Charles Mosley, was convicted of the 1986 death of a third victim.
Besides the three Southside Slayer murders Craine is accused of committing, he also faces murder charges in the deaths of Loretta Perry, whose body was found Jan. 25, 1987, in the 9500 block of South Defiance Avenue, and Vivian Louise Collins, who was slain March 18, 1987, in the 1600 block of East Century Boulevard.
Court documents show Craine is facing charges of murder and sodomy with special circumstances. In addition, he faces two sexual assault charges involving a prostitute and an assault with a deadly weapon charge against a family friend.
The district attorney's office said it will seek the death penalty against Craine.
Documents on file in Los Angeles Superior Court provide details about the murders and other crimes that Craine is charged with.
The documents--preliminary hearing transcripts--quoted Los Angeles Homicide Detective Victor Pietrantoni, who based his court testimony on a six-hour interrogation of Craine, who he said waived his rights and talked freely.
Pietrantoni testified that Barney, a known prostitute, was picked up by Craine last May as the suspect drove by in a station wagon. They reportedly struck up a conversation, then parked the car near Craine's home, where they engaged in oral sex, according to the detective.
Craine then sodomized Barney, and she asked for more money. They got into a struggle, and Craine put his forearm against her throat for about 15 minutes, the detective said in the documents.
"He thought she'd gone to sleep," the investigator said.
Craine released the pressure and realized there was something wrong but left the body in car and went inside and slept. The next day, the body was removed from the car and thrown into a vacant lot across the street, Pietrantoni said.
In the Collins case, Craine and his brother, Roger, reportedly decided to hire a prostitute and found Collins. They then went to a vacant house in the 1600 block of East Century Boulevard.