LA Forensics: Mysterious Confession
A Clever Ploy
In June 2003, Detective Dinlocker made arrangements to meet Lancaster at a doughnut shop across the street from his camper. When Dinlocker arrived, Lancaster was already there, drinking a cup of coffee.
The detective sat down and told Lancaster that he was investigating an auto theft ring operating in Torrance. He asked Lancaster, who was known to spend a lot of time outside his camper whittling his walking sticks, if he had noticed anything suspicious about the man who owned the property where his camper was parked.
The man worked on a lot of cars, mostly expensive Porsches, Dinlocker said. Did Lancaster think any of them were stolen?
The old man's answer surprised the detective. "I thought you were here about some murders that happened in 1974 in San Pedro," Lancaster said.
Dinlocker stuck to his cover story. He was there to ask for Lancaster's help in an auto theft investigation, not to discuss murders that happened before the detective had even started high school.
Lancaster seemed satisfied.
"He was very cordial when I went in to meet him and he seemed to absolutely believe my ruse," Dinlocker says.
The detective and the murder suspect talked for 45 minutes. Lancaster told Dinlocker — who admitted to being a bit of a World War II buff — about his service in the Navy during the war. Then Lancaster invited Dinlocker to his camper to look at his walking sticks. The detective accepted the offer.
As the two men walked out of the doughnut shop together, Lancaster left his coffee on the table.
"He discarded the cup," Dinlocker says. "He left it there on his own and walked out of the store. There was a cover officer inside with me who was reading a newspaper and a few minutes after we left the doughnut shop, he recovered the cup of coffee."
Bengtson and Flores had their sample. Now all they needed was a match.