After years of futility, the LAPD stepped up its investigation of the serial killing case in 2007 when Police Chief Charlie Beck's predecessor, William J. Bratton, formed a task force to work exclusively on the case.
With so many years having passed since the killer first struck and the police only belatedly linking the long string of victims to a single killer, the team of detectives was left at a severe disadvantage. Investigators pored over old case files in search of important clues that might have been overlooked. They tried to re-create the seedy, violent world of South Los Angeles in the 1980s that the early victims and killer had inhabited.
One after another, leads that at first seemed to hold promise dissolved frustratingly into dead ends. But with public pressure mounting, the detectives tried whatever approaches they could, however seemingly farfetched.
They asked undercover vice officers to collect DNA samples from middle-aged African Americans arrested for soliciting prostitutes, hoping to identify a suspect.
The entire department was put on notice that members of the task force were to be summoned to homicide scenes that resembled the work of the serial killer in any way.
Most tantalizing was a 911 phone call an LAPD operator received in 1987. The caller said he had seen a man dump Ware's body out of the back of a van into an alley and gave the vehicle's license plate before hanging up. On the night of the call, the van was traced back to a now-defunct church in the area, but detectives at the time failed to pursue the lead aggressively, much to the dismay of Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who headed the task force.
Kilcoyne and his team tried, 20 years later, to breathe life back into the investigation of the van. Detectives tracked down about 10 men associated with the church and took DNA samples to test against the suspected killers.
A visit to the retired deacon at his home outside of Macon, Ga., turned up nothing, as did a visit to a Florida prison.
The hunt epitomized the agonizing slog the detectives faced day in and day out.
"We never gave up on this investigation, not for one minute," Beck said in a statement issued by his office. "Our detectives worked relentlessly, following up on every lead they received. Their hard work has resulted in today's apprehension of this vicious killer. I am hopeful that the hard work of these men and women will bring some closure to the families who tragically lost loved ones during the last 23 years."
Times staff writers Hector Becerra, Andrew Blankstein, Robert Faturechi , Jack Leonard, Ann M. Simmons and Richard Winton contributed to this report.