After more than two decades, and at least 11 murders, police are searching for a serial killer in Los Angeles.
They say several young black women and one man died at the killer's hands, beginning in 1985. The cluster of killings stopped in 1988, but then, 14 years later, police say they linked new murders to the same man, nicknamed the "Grim Sleeper." The most recent murder happened in 2007 and, because of DNA evidence, that's when LAPD realized a serial killer was on the loose.
A handful of detectives are now working full time on the case and the LAPD is offering a $500,000 reward -- the city's biggest ever -- advertised on billboards near where the victims were found. Investigators also released a 20-year-old 911 call last month in which a witness says he saw a van pull up in a dark alley and dump a body, which was identified as Barbara Ware.
The caller tells the dispatcher, "Yes, I'd like to report uh, uh murder or a dead body or something."
He gave several details, everything from the license plate number of the van -- which was a dead-end lead -- to the way the body was discarded. But he refused to tell the 911 operator his name, saying he didn't see the killer.
LAPD Detective Bill Fallon is following up on the 20-year-old call like it was yesterday.
Among the questions that remain: Is the caller a witness or the killer himself? And why the 14-year break in the killings? Was the killer in prison, living elsewhere? Or did he just stop for a while?
"I believe it's a young man that's very angry with women," Fallon said. "Some woman, I believe, somewhere has hurt him down the line, and he's taken it out on the women."
Fallon and the rest of the Grim Sleeper task force, headed by Detective Dennis Kilcoyne, hope to find the Grim Sleeper before he wakes to kill again.
Kilcoyne said almost all of the victims were women.
"We have 12 individuals, starting in 1985," Kilcoyne said. "Our third victim, Thomas Steele, was the only male involved in this." Eleven people have died so far, and there was one confirmed attempt and near killing, all in the same area.
It all began in 1985. Ronald Reagan was president, "Back to the Future" was the hottest thing on the big screen and a new drug called crack was beginning to transform the streets of Los Angeles.
It was a busy year to be a cop in Los Angeles. The streets were like killing fields, with a murder rate of nearly 800 per year.
It was in this environment, among the chaos and drug, that a serial killer began his work.
Fallon took "Nightline" on a tour of an alley that has become a human dumping ground. He brought his partner along to act as a security presence in the dangerous gangland.
"A transient was walking down this alley looking for cans and bottles and he started digging in that Dumpster and he saw our victim," Fallon said. "Right here, right where the chain is hanging on the gate."
At police headquarters, Kilcoyne shared old binders, what he calls the "murder books," filled with crime-scene photos, tire tracks and other old evidence like scraps of paper.
"The commonality is that they're all from the same general area of the city in south Los Angeles," Kilcoyne said. "I don't think I would label them all as prostitutes per se, but they certainly have troubled lifestyles. They're broken people and easy targets."