A prosecutor urged jurors Tuesday to add another name to the infamous list of serial killers in Los Angeles, joining Night Stalker Richard Ramirez, Freeway Killer William Bonin, Charles Manson and the Hillside Strangler.
The latest name is Chester Turner, accused of strangling 10 women, mostly crack-cocaine addicted prostitutes -- one of them pregnant -- in South Los Angeles.
Unlike Ramirez, Bonin and the others, who often dumped corpses along freeways, Turner casually left his victims where he killed them, prosecutors say. DNA linked Turner to all the crimes, and a man, now free, was wrongly convicted of four murders now attributed to Turner. A verdict could produce an even more intense legal battle over the death penalty, which prosecutors want to impose.
Turner's crimes were those of a savage predator fixated on "violence, dominance and control," from which he got sexual satisfaction, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace told grim-faced jurors in closing arguments.
The defense suggestion that others committed the crimes, coincidentally after Turner had sex with each victim is "lunacy," Grace told jurors.
"That coincidence cannot happen. It would not happen. There are not 10 other killers out there. He's sitting here looking at you," Grace said.
Defense lawyer Anthony Robusto reminded jurors that there were no witnesses. He pointed to differences in the crimes -- all victims were strangled but only two were killed with ligatures -- and suggested there was no evidence that the killer was also a rapist. He called on jurors to be "tough enough and intelligent enough to look at the evidence and not make assumptions."
"We've gone into a world that many of us would rather have not known existed. Women are objects who are brutalized and dehumanized," Deputy Dist. Atty. Truc Do, a co-prosecutor, said. "Here life has no meaning; life is thrown away like trash. People are left in dirty places.
"Life itself is degraded. Humanity does not exist. This is the world of Chester Turner, the most prolific serial killer in our city's history."
The case is in its fifth week before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William R. Pounders. The courtroom was packed with victims' survivors and friends.
The women who died in the 1980s and '90s were "perfect prey," Do said. Turner sat quietly while Do spoke, looking -- along with the jurors who will decide his fate -- at huge blow-ups of the victims.
"Chester Turner knew the power of their addiction was their weakness, and he exploited that," Do said. "Their addiction left them on the edges of society and made them an invisible class.
"These bodies were thrown away, left in forgotten and dirty places, left in a Porta Potty, and you can see that the nature of these murders was sexual," Do said. Strangulation is "the most up-close and personal way to kill. An intimate way to kill."
Do called the killings "sex merged with murder."
Turner did not testify but has denied killing the women. The defense has suggested that DNA evidence linking him to all 10 victims can be explained because Turner was a drug dealer who sold to prostitutes and often took payment in trade.
The victims, in the order they died, were Diane Johnson, 21; Annette Ernest, 26; Anita Fishman, 31; Regina Washington, 27, and her fetus; Andrea Tripplett, 29; Desarae Jones, 29; Natalie Price, 31; Mildred Beasley, 45; Paula Vance, 38; and Brenda Bries, 37.
Do cited defense and prosecution experts in stating the probability that anyone other than Turner had sex with all the victims at one in a quintillion.
"A billion is one followed by nine zeros -- versus a quintillion, which is one followed by 18 zeros. It would never happen that somebody else out there on this entire planet would have the same DNA profile as Mr. Turner," Do said.
Do urged jurors to use common sense. A grainy surveillance video shows one victim following a man into an alley. He throws her to the ground and rapes her for 18 minutes. After nine minutes, the victim extends her right arm outward and never moves it again.
She was found in the same position the next morning.
"He continues his sex assault of this victim even when she was incapacitated. This tells you Chester Turner derived his sexual pleasure from the kill. Nine minutes into the attack, she is completely incapacitated. You know she is dead," Do said.
Each victim, Do said, was a daughter, a sister or a mother.
"Humanity does exist here. Even for these women -- these troubled souls -- justice exists," Do said. "I trust you will find justice for these 10 victims."
Most of the killings took place along the Figueroa corridor, beginning at a time when the crack cocaine epidemic was at its height.
Four occurred within six blocks of Turner's home. Police believed several serial killers preying on prostitutes and street people were active, making detection difficult.
Turner was convicted of rape in 2002, and his DNA was entered into a law enforcement database. Three years ago, Los Angeles police detectives matched DNA from the first victims to Turner, and realized the wrong man had been convicted.
David Allen Jones was cleared by DNA tests after serving 11 years in prison. Jones has an IQ of 60 and speaks like a third-grader, according to his lawyer, yet after interrogation he confessed to being the serial killer who had evaded detection for years.
Jones received $720,000 in compensation.
"Chester Turner thought these women didn't count, that he could kill them, throw them aside, and nobody would speak for them," Grace argued as the trial drew to a close.
Wrapping up the case Tuesday afternoon, Grace named loved ones of each victim who have been waiting for as long as 20 years for justice.
Quiet sobbing broke out in the courtroom as he read the list, and ended in applause when he urged: "Do not let them wait one day more."