Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Police Use DNA to Identify Possible Serial Killer — who Died in 2008

Larry D. Hubbard

Larry D. Hubbard

Larry D. Hubbard was serving time in a Florida prison for a 1974 robbery conviction, but in 1977 he escaped. It seems that he left Florida and moved to California, where for the next 30 years he lived in Los Angeles, and later in Pomona, about 30 miles East of Los Angeles. Hubbard, 54, was arrested at work in California in 2007 for the outstanding Florida warrant. On June 23, 2007, during the process of extradition to Florida, he surprised everyone by hanging himself in his cell. Hubbard survived the suicide attempt, but died on January 13, 2008, from complications. In the meanwhile California cold-case investigators linked two unsolved homicides from 1980 to two more committed in 2000, with virtually the same M.O., but the DNA match only gave them a link, not the killer’s identity. That would not be confirmed until June 22, 2012.

The first victim, Sonia Smith, 25, was killed on August 19, 1980. She was found bound, raped and strangled in an abandoned field in Los Angles. The second, Phyllis McClinton, also 25, was killed in an almost identical way on November 4, 1980, and her body also dumped in an abandoned Los Angeles field. At the time investigators of the McClinton murder developed a person of interest in the case after a 1980 assault on a Los Angeles prostitute. The surviving victim accused Hubbard of trying to choke and bind her in ways investigators found eerily similar to McClinton’s case. Though Hubbard was identified as a person of interest in the murders, he was not identified as a fugitive from Florida. He was charged with false imprisonment and sentenced to six months in prison and four years of probation.

By July 2007 investigators had matched the killer’s DNA from the 1980 murder of Smith to two murders committed in 2000 in Pomona. The first Pomona victim, Vanessa Williams, was killed on August 11, 2000. She was found naked and strangled to death in a vacant field in Pomona. In October the body of Pomona resident Christine Fields, 27, was found strangled to death in a field in Riverside County, but investigators from Riverside County believed that she had been killed elsewhere, and the body moved.

Though cold-case detectives were aware of Hubbard as a person in interest in McClinton’s murder, it wasn’t until a 2010 review of Smith’s case file that they found an evidentiary connection between those two murders.

In 2011 detectives requested a sample of Hubbard’s blood from the Florida coroner. The results matched the killer’s DNA in the Smith, Williams and Fields murders. Though they strongly believe that they have solved those three murders, and that of McClinton, detectives suspect that Hubbard is responsible for more unsolved or undetected murders, and are reaching out to the public for help. Anyone with possible information is being asked to contact Detectives Luis Rivera and Elizabeth Estupinian at the Robbery-Homicide Division of LAPD’s Cold Case Special Section at (213) 486-6810.

Feature Article: The DNA Revolution


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