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BABY boomers reared in South Central Los Angeles during 1959 remembered:
■ The sleepless nights.
■ Images of women peeping through cracked Venetian blinds, drapes, and sheer curtains at unfamiliar men walking down the block. While others stood boldly on their front porches with hands-on-hips glaring at the strangers.
■ The empty sidewalks once bubbling with kids skating, lively exchanges, laughter, and a steady stream of pedestrians. Suddenly transformed into women walking in pairs or in groups carrying baseball bats, and men waiting at the bus stops for female acquaintances to escort home.
WHEN the conviction of the Grim Sleeper, Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., on May 5, 2016, for killing at least 10 women and attempted murder rekindled the boomers’ memories, and their recollections of another South Central Los Angeles serial killer, the "Bouncing Ball" strangler.
The strangler’s reign of terror started in 1959 and ended in the fall of 1960. His seven victims were mostly elderly widows and physically challenged women.
It was a time of innocence - Children played outdoors and ventured to the store by themselves, screen doors were kept unlatched, the front and back doors were usually unlocked during the daytime; and door-to-door salesmen hawked household cleaners, Bibles, magazine subscriptions, life insurance policies, cookware, Watkins liniments and salves, and Fuller brushes.
Most likely the strangler read the obituary sections of newspapers for the addresses of the recently widowed, and he cased the neighborhoods. Interestingly, he wore expensive Ivy league attire. Where did he obtain his clothing? Was his clothing acquired through a housekeeper, chauffeur, or cook that worked for a wealthy employer? Did he purchase his clothing at second-hand stores?
On June 26th, 1960, Mrs. Adela G. Williams, 62, reported her encounter with the strangler to the LAPD. She observed him bouncing a ball outside the bedroom of Mrs. Mercedes Langeron, 72. The suspect was a Negro, six feet, 18 - 35 years old with straight hair and dressed in Ivy league clothes per her description.
When the suspect glimpsed Mrs. Williams, he remained unruffled and bounced the ball as he left the house. Soon thereafter she discovered her roommate’s body. Thus, the "Bouncing Ball" strangler moniker was spawn by the press.
A sense of calm returned to the community like the birds after a storm with the arrest of Raymond W. Clemmons in July of 1960. He confessed to strangling Nina T. Theorin with her pink capris. For that reason, the LAPD suspected Clemmons was the "Bouncing Ball" strangler.
However, Clemmons took a lie detector test which concluded he wasn’t involved with the “Bouncing Ball” slayings. So once again a thick fog of fear and panic settled over the community. But just as summer departed the murders of elderly women ceased in the fall of 1960.
It's speculated the Bouncing Ball strangler left Los Angeles or he died. The strangler's name, his motivations behind the killings, and the circumstances surrounding his possible death remain unknown. Unlike Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., the Grim Sleeper, who expired in San Quentin State Prison on March 30, 2020.
Surely, someone knows who the "Bouncing Ball" strangler is or was – Why are they remaining tight-lipped?
How ironic if the "Bouncing Ball" strangler is still alive and if he’s physically or mentally challenged. Given he targeted society’s most weak and vulnerable members, elderly women and the physically impaired as his victims.
1. Police Seek Clues to Strangler of 7 Women. (1960/29/6), Los Angeles Times (1923 -1995), ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times.
2. ‘BOUNCING BALL’ Killer Described as Victim, 84, Dies. (1960/8/9), Los Angeles Sentinel (1934-2005), ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Sentinel.
3. NAB STRANGLER KILLER: Confessed Slayer Gave Victim Ride. (1960/14/7), ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Sentinel.
4. ‘Pink Capris’ Slayer Draws Life Sentence. (1960/17/11), ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Sentinel.
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I'm I. Cowthern -- I enjoy watching old black and white movies and listening to jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and classical music.