Thirty-seven year-old Chester Dewayne Turner was identified following a complex yearlong investigation that involved extensive DNA testing. Turner was ultimately identified as the man believed responsible for a series of violent murders using California’s CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database. It is a database of convicted felons DNA.
Turner has been connected, through DNA, to 13 murders that occurred in the City of Los Angeles between 1987 and 1998. Eleven of these murders took place in a four-block wide corridor that ran on either side of Figueroa Street between Gage Avenue and 108th Street.
The two murders outside of this corridor occurred in downtown Los Angeles. One was within four blocks of Figueroa Street.
The investigative journey that ultimately led to the arrest of Turner began on February 3, 1998. At 7:00 am that day, a security guard discovered the semi-nude body of 38 year-old Paula Vance. She was found at the rear of a vacant business at 630 West 6th Street. Vance had been sexually assaulted and murdered.
The crime was captured on videotape from a nearby surveillance camera. When Detectives looked at the tape, it was of such poor quality the suspect could not be identified. Despite a lengthy investigation, the case remained unsolved.
In 2001 the Cold Case Unit began working on the Vance Homicide case. Foreign DNA that had been recovered from the victim was used to eliminate several potential suspects. The Serology Section of the LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division performed the DNA extractions and made sure the resulting profiles were uploaded in CODIS.
On September 8, 2003, Cold Case Detectives Cliff Shepard and Jose Ramirez were notified of a match between the DNA recovered from Paula Vance and a known offender, Chester Turner. At that time, Turner was serving an eight-year sentence at a California State Prison for a rape conviction.
Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 47 year-old woman on March 16, 2002, on Los Angeles Street between 6th Street and 7th Street at 11:30 p.m. Turner assaulted the victim for approximately two hours. Afterward, Turner threatened to kill the victim if she told the police. The victim did report the crime and Turner was arrested and convicted. As a result, Turner was required to provide a DNA reference sample for inclusion in CODIS. It was this reference sample that ultimately led to the identification of Turner as Paula Vance’s killer.
When the detectives were notified of this DNA match, they were also informed that there was a second DNA hit matching Turner to a 1996 unsolved murder that they had also submitted to CODIS. About 10:00 a.m. on November 6, 1996, the body of 45 year-old Mildred Beasley was found in the bushes at 9611 South Broadway, next to the Harbor Freeway. She was partially nude and had been strangled.
The Detectives then began a careful examination of Turner’s background. Nine additional unsolved murders were matched to Chester Turner using DNA evidence.