LOS ANGELES -- Police are investigating six murders in Los Angeles County believed committed by a serial killer who slips into darkened homes through unlocked doors and windows and attacks his victims as they sleep.
'People are more worried about this than the Hillside Strangler case,' said Officer George Willoth of the LAPD Devonshire Division in the San Fernando Valley. 'This guy is going into your home. This guy is more spooky.'
Five suburban police departments and the Sheriff's Department on Thursday announced a joint probe into attacks, making it the largest local law enforcement investigation since the 1977-78 Hillside Strangler killings in which 10 young women were kidnapped, raped and murdered.
Police say the suspect is linked to six slayings and may be responsible for up to 13 slayings and more than 15 other rapes, beatings and kidnappings in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys since February.
'There are similarities and dissimilarities,' Deputy Rick Adams said Saturday. 'It is possible -- possible -- it was done by one suspect ... but nobody has said from us that it's definitely (one suspect). It's possible it's related to the six or seven killings.'
The suspect has been described by survivors and witnesses as a tall, white male with curly brown hair and stained, gapped teeth.
Investigators have said the suspect attacks his victims at night by entering their homes through unlocked doors and windows. In some cases, the victims -- both men and women -- have been shot, bludgeoned, slashed, beaten and raped. In some cases, their homes have been ransacked and burglarized.
'We believe the attacks are random, that there's no focusing on an individual or a particular house,' Sheriff Sherman Block said at a news conference Friday. 'There's nothing to indicate he won't strike again.'
The string of attacks have stretched from Northridge, 27 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, to Diamond Bar, about 30 miles east of downtown.
The most recent incident linked to the serial killer occurred Thursday with the death of a 35-year-old Diamond Bar man who was shot in the head in his bed by an intruder who entered the home through an open window.
Investigators suspect the same man in the March 17 shooting death of a 35-year-old woman in her San Gabriel Valley condominium; the fatal beating June 2 in suburban Monrovia of an 84-year-old woman, and the June 28 slaying in Arcadia of a 32-year-old woman whose throat was slashed.
Other killings possibly linked in the series include the June 2 throat slashing of a 75-year-old woman in Arcadia and the shooting of Thai immigrant whose wife was raped and the couple's 8-year-old son beaten in their Sun Valley home.
Residents have been urged to lock all windows and doors, install adequate lighting outside and alert authorities to suspicious behavior.
'We're trying to avoid making any comments that will generate hysteria but we have a very distinct obligation to the community to alert them to what's going on,' Block said Friday. 'More than anything else, we want them to undertake certain precautionary measures for their own safety.'