Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: Mysterious Confession

An Old Witness

As Detectives Bengtson and Flores reviewed the case — both of them had been school kids when the murders happened — they realized that back in 1975, another of Lancaster's daughters-in-law, Jeanette, had come forward with the same information Rebecca had just given them. Both detectives knew they needed to talk to Jeanette, who had moved back home to Pennsylvania.

Andrew Lancaster, played by actor Alan Gray
Andrew Lancaster, played by actor Alan Gray
In Pittsburgh, Jeanette repeated her story. Lancaster had confessed to her what he called his four sins: the rape and murder of four women, three in San Pedro and one in San Francisco. But Jeanette mentioned to the cold case cops one thing she had not told the original investigators: she had kept a diary every year of her life since high school.

In her small diary, Jeanette had made an entry about what Lancaster, whom she called Dad, had told her — Dad confesses his sins to me.

To Detective Flores, it was an impressive piece of corroboration. "Now this is the witness herself saying on this specific date, in her own calendar, in her own writing, that Mr. Lancaster came forward and talked to her about these murders."

Yet, despite two credible witnesses who could testify that Lancaster had confessed to killing four women, the investigators didn't have enough to charge him with murder.

"It's a good starting point," Bengtson says, "but we had to find more."

What they needed was physical evidence, something to tie Lancaster to the scene of at least one of the killings.

To get that evidence, they turned to the L.A. County Coroner's Office. Rape kits had been used to collect fluid samples, including vaginal swabs, from all three San Pedro victims. Bengtson and Flores called the Coroner's Office and asked if the rape kits were still in storage.

The answer was a heartbreaking "No."

Thirty years had passed since the murders and no one at the Coroner's Office could find the rape kits.

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