Jury or­ders death for se­rial killer Ch­ester Turner in the mur­ders of 11

The for­mer crack co­caine dealer from Los An­ge­les is to be for­mally sen­tenced July 10.

Los Angeles Times - - Cal­i­for­nia - By John Spano

When Mil­dred White’s 26year-old daugh­ter was found stran­gled in 1987, her friend and neigh­bor Jerri John­son Trip­plett con­soled her.

The women bowled to­gether every week, and Trip­plett was a huge com­fort as White tried to move on with her life — with the slaying of her daugh­ter, An­nette Ernest, un­solved.

In an aching twist six years later, it was Trip­plett who needed to rely on their bond. Her daugh­ter, An­drea Lavonne Trip­plett, 29, was also found slain.

“When it hap­pened years later to Jerri’s daugh­ter, I went over to com­fort her,” White said by tele­phone Tues­day. “I told her, ‘I’ve been there, and I know where you’re at right now.’ And I know that feel­ing.”

On Tues­day, a jury de­cided that Ch­ester Dewayne Turner, a 40-year-old crack co­caine dealer, should be ex­e­cuted for the deaths of the daugh­ters and eight other women, one of them pregnant. Ernest was the sec­ond of the 10 women mur­dered; An- drea Trip­plett the fifth.

Turner be­came the most pro­lific se­rial killer in the city’s his­tory when he was con­victed of the mur­ders April 30 by the same jury that de­cided his pun­ish­ment, with only two choices avail­able: death or life in prison without the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

He thus joined the ros­ter of the L.A. area’s in­fa­mous killers: Charles Manson, Night Stalker Richard Ramirez, Free­way Killer Wil­liam Bonin and the Hill­side Stran­gler.

Turner is to be for­mally sen­tenced July 10 by Los An­ge­les County Su­pe­rior Court Judge Wil­liam Pounders.

In court Tues­day morn­ing, most jurors kept their eyes fixed on the judge, not on Turner.

He will be­come the 665th in­mate on Cal­i­for­nia’s death row. In the last 30 years, the state has ex­e­cuted 13 death-row in­mates; 12 have com­mit­ted suicide.

From 1987 to 1998, Turner raped and stran­gled his vic­tims, most of them women in South Los An­ge­les ad­dicted to crack co­caine. He stran­gled eight with his bare hands. Four of the killings took place within six blocks of Turner’s home.

The last two vic­tims died on skid row, af­ter Turner had moved down­town.

Jerri John­son Trip­plett had tes­ti­fied about the agony of liv­ing through her daugh­ter’s death.

“As a par­ent, you never think you’re go­ing to look down and bury your child,” she said. Yet, Tues­day she voiced am­biva­lence about ex­e­cut­ing Turner.

“I’m a Chris­tian, and I can’t say I want the death penalty for him. I wanted him to live to be a hun­dred so he could think about this every day,” Trip­plett said. She and White learned a few years ago that po­lice be­lieved the same man had killed their daugh­ters.

De­fense at­tor­ney John Tyre said it will cost tax­pay­ers seven times more to ex­e­cute Turner, in­clud­ing the au­to­matic ap­peals, than to keep him in prison for life. He said the money could be bet­ter spent help­ing sur­vivors or try­ing to build up the com­mu­nity where Turner killed.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Bobby Grace said: “I be­lieve the jurors came to fair and just ver­dicts. You never cel­e­brate the fact that some­one will die, but you can take sat­is­fac­tion that jus­tice is done.”

Grace con­grat­u­lated Cliff Shep­ard, the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment de­tec­tive whose re­lent­less in­ves­ti­ga­tion caught Turner.

The fi­nal ver­dict is that Turner was a “lazy se­rial mur­derer,” Shep­ard said.

In one of his last crimes, Turner “just walked out of his apart­ment, around the cor­ner and killed some­body. It still just floors me.”

“He was pick­ing on the most help­less of them all: peo­ple who were ad­dicts, peo­ple with men­tal prob­lems,” Shep­ard said. “He as­saulted one woman who didn’t have the men­tal abil­ity to tes­tify against him. It was per­fect for him.”

Nowa­days, Turner would have been caught long be­fore he could have killed so many peo­ple, Shep­ard said.

“I think in to­day’s world, with the tech­nol­ogy we have, it wouldn’t be re­peated,” he said. “I agree with civil lib­er­tar­i­ans about pri­vacy. But Eng­land is do­ing this: They’re some­times test­ing whole towns [for DNA]. I wouldn’t mind see­ing DNA drawn from chil­dren when they’re born for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pur­poses.”

The vic­tims, in the or­der they died, were Diane John­son, 21; An­nette Ernest, 26; Anita Fish­man, 31; Regina Wash­ing­ton, 27, and her fe­tus; An­drea Trip­plett, 29; De­sarae Jones, 29; Natalie Price, 31; Mil­dred Beasley, 45; Paula Vance, 38; and Brenda Bries, 37.

Phyl­lis Fish­man, mother of Anita, said she was happy with the ver­dict.

“He’s off the streets. To me, that’s a mir­a­cle,” she said. “I only wish it had hap­pened 10 years ago, or 20 years ago.”

john.spano@la­times.com

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