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Austrian Charged With Killing 3 L.A. Prostitutes : Crime: Free-lance writer is indicted in Vienna in slayings of eight call girls in Europe and three here. Though there are no witnesses, police say the deaths have 'amazing similarity.'

August 31, 1993|From Staff and Wire Reports

VIENNA — A prison author whose daring bolt from Austria and eventual arrest in Miami drew headlines last year was indicted Monday in the murders of 11 prostitutes, including three in Los Angeles.

Jack Unterweger, 43, was indicted in the murders although state prosecutor Heimo Lambauer admitted that there are no witnesses linking Unterweger to any of the killings.

Austrian authorities are "convinced of Jack Unterweger's guilt," Lambauer said Monday after filing the 30-page indictment 18 months after Unterweger was arrested in Miami in February, 1992, and extradited to his native Austria.

He cited "an amazing similarity of the way the murders were committed" and Unterweger's proven proximity to the crimes when each was committed as sufficient to win a conviction.

Unterweger's lawyer, Georg Zanger, said "the indictment is obviously based on prejudicial reporting by the media. There are no new facts."

The Los Angeles victims linked to the Unterweger case were Shannon Exley, 35; Irene Rodriguez, 33, and Peggi Jean Booth, 26, who also used the name Sherri Ann Long. All were found strangled with their bras during the summer of 1991, when Unterweger was known to have been in the city, U.S. authorities said. The bodies of Exley and Rodriguez were found in Boyle Heights; Booth's in Malibu.

Because of several striking similarities in the three killings, investigators for the Los Angeles Police Department, which was in charge of the Boyle Heights cases and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which handled the Malibu case, soon found themselves comparing notes.

Unterweger held jobs as a free-lance journalist, and, during his visit to Los Angeles, he requested and got a ride in a police patrol car through areas of the city frequented by prostitutes. Back in Austria, he wrote magazine articles about Los Angeles prostitutes.

He came under renewed suspicion in February, 1992, when Austrian authorities issued a warrant in connection with two prostitute murders in the southern Austria city of Graz.

Unterweger fled with his 18-year-old girlfriend. After taunting authorities with telephone calls to TV shows and newspapers, he eventually was arrested in Miami.

In addition to the three murders police believe he committed in Los Angeles, police have linked him to the deaths of seven prostitutes in Austria and one in Hungary.

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