LA Forensics: West Hollywood Hustle
It seemed probable that the perpetrator in the Bayis homicide had probably known ahead of time how he would commit the murder, so detectives looked through their records for similar crimes in the LA area. It took a while, but they found one, and it was still unsolved.
A police bulletin from 1986 detailed the case, including the search for a suspect. Between July 15 and 16, someone had murdered a 46-year-old gay school teacher, George Webber, in his apartment on North LaFayette Park Place, which was in the Rampart area of Los Angeles. A patrol officer went to the scene in response to a request to check on the man's welfare, as he had not been heard from.
A potted plant propped a screen door open and the inner door stood ajar as well. The landlord said it had been that way for more than a day. Inside the one-bedroom apartment, Randolph lay across the bed. Although he was nude, a bedspread covered him. He had been strangled with a thin ligature and his hands had been bound behind his back, but whatever had been used to bind and asphyxiate him had been taken from the scene. There were only telltale bruises on the victim's skin. A VCR and stereo speaker had been stolen from the property, as well as a maroon four-door 1980 Buick Century.
A former lover and long-time friend attested to the fact that Randolph enjoyed trying to seduce young men who were not gay. This same person had given Randolph the missing VCR and was able to supply the serial number. But that led nowhere, since such items were difficult to trace in a city the size of Los Angeles. But there was another missing item as well, which turned up three days after the murder.
Someone used Randolph's bank card at a First Interstate Bank ATM machine in South Central Los Angeles, someone who knew the Personal Identification Number (PIN). He probably did not realize there was a camera on him, as the bank had installed only a few at selected locations. Over the course of three days, the man used the card thirteen times, always during the early morning hours, and his photograph was taken each time. He withdrew a total of $520. The police used the photo to make an all-points bulletin, on which he was described as a white or Hispanic male, 20-25 years old, with a thin build. He was observed via the bank video to be riding a motorcycle, and a witness who had been there ahead of him affirmed this. But no one came forward with information.
The missing Buick was recovered on July 20, in Provo, Utah, about 1000 miles from Los Angeles. It had been parked there found for five days. A search produced a map of California and a pen that would possibly yield fingerprints. The car's interior was dusted as well.
Emma Duke, a latent print specialist for the LAPD recalled developing the prints for this case but finding no matches right away in any database. At this time, fingerprint analysis was done by visual inspection rather than by computer matching and took a long time. Duke explained that cars involved in homicides would be taken to the print shed and might be subjected to one (or both) of two processes: powders and chemical analysis. Superglue fuming involves pouring Superglue into metal discs and heating up water beneath it to create humidity. The subsequent fumes, Duke explained, "would attach themselves to the friction ridges of a latent print and then we are able to photograph whatever develops." They would use a magnifying glass to check the pattern for quality and for specific ridge characteristics that would help associate them with an individual. "If it's a good clear print," Duke said, "it's easy to make the match."
The bulletin that police posted about the Randolph incident included information about a similar murder in May that year in the same section of LA. In that case, a 54-year-old gay man was bludgeoned to death in his apartment, and his television was taken.
A follow-up article in the LA Herald indicated that police believed Randolph had encountered his killer at MacArthur Park, a notorious hangout for prostitutes, and had invited him home. As police questioned people who knew Randolph, they learned he had a penchant for Hispanic males. The final piece of evidence, which had implications for the Bayis case, was the presence of Marlboro cigarette butts in an ashtray. The detectives thought this crime was too similar to the Bayis murder to be coincidental.
For SID, the cigarettes were a welcome link.
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