May 5th, 2009
09:49 AM ET

Working with a suspected serial killer


[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/04/30/westside.killings/art.mugshots.lapd.jpg caption="John Floyd Thomas Jr. may have begun his killings as far back as 1955."]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

To cops, John Floyd Thomas Junior is perhaps the most prolific serial killer in the history of Los Angeles. Suspected of being the so-called Southland Strangler, the 72-year-old Thomas is charged with murdering 2 elderly women. But homicide detectives believe the death toll may be much higher.

When he was arrested, Thomas was employed as a claims adjuster at the California State Compensation Fund. People who worked with him remember a friendly, mild-mannered colleague who, on occasion, sent religious emails to co-workers.

So what’s it like to share an office with a suspected serial killer? We asked Earl Ofari Hutchinson. Thomas was his co-worker for 10-years at the State Compensation Fund. Here’s what Hutchinson had to say about the man he thought he knew:

Always a Smile
“We would talk casually. Light banter – friends, family, usually things that were going on in the office and sometimes things that were going on in the community. Over a period of time, just talking with him, this was an individual who struck me as very concerned very engaging, always very friendly. Always had a smile on his face, always very placid. Soft spoken.

Religious Emails
“There was a period there where i would get e-mails. and in the beginning I didn't know who I was getting these e-mails from. Until I realized it was John. It would be scriptural sayings. It would be passages from the bible. It would be inspirational things for the day to live your life by, and I said "ah, " I didn't realize he was a very religious spiritual person.

Working with Women
“John was well thought of. He was a good employee from what I understood. He was well thought of by coworkers, and interestingly enough I would say the 85 to 90 per cent of those he worked with were women. So everyone that I have talked with in the times that I would see him he was always with women in the office because of the nature of the job.”

Shock and Disbelief
“I said that's John. At that time my mouth dropped to the floor. It took my breath away at that point, to think that someone that you were that close to over a long period of time…would do the kinds of things that he is alleged to have done.

The reaction that I got when the story broke that he may in fact be this serial rapist and killer going back many years was one of shock, disbelief and ‘heck no.’ We can't believe this is the person they are saying did all of these monstrous things.The disbelief and shock is just incredible, simply because remember he was so well thought of by so many people.”

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Carol

    What happened to innocent until proven guilty? I sure know that if I am ever acused of such a crime I want a "fair shake" and to be heard before I'm thrown to the wolves!

    To Pastor Ernest Sambo, I just want to say – what is "pathetic" to me is a PASTOR throwing stones. If you know the Word, then you know it's all in His blood. Christ died for the sinner. Peace.

    May 6, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  2. ghaste

    Pretty scary stuff.....Very respectful people being caught in horrific crimes. Not sure what to say?

    May 6, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  3. Ashley09

    And thats where people are wrong so damn gullible believing that just because someone smiles in your face there a good person; a sick man always hides the disease and the gullible man dies first. People need to beware there are sick people in this world!!! It's not a joke and it's scary to know that some wack-job gets a thrill out of killing someone or enjoy it for that matter. The ones that smile all the time could be the main ones that have that dirty secret to hide. So watch you back and dont easily trust because you could be next.

    May 6, 2009 at 8:27 am |
  4. Paul

    The only surprise should be is that people do not understand that the dangerously mentally ill do show any obvious symptoms.

    May 5, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  5. Georgia L. Angel

    My parents & grandparents always told me not to judge a book by it's cover. This man fits this saying to a T. You never know what is behind their eyes or in their mind that is so different from their every day appearance.

    May 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  6. Mary Beth Haguewood

    That's whats so scary about this type of killer. They could be your next door neighbor or ANYONE. Ted Bundy worked next to Ann Rule, the crime writer, and she didn't have a hint. She later wrote a book called The Stranger Beside Me about this. Look at the BTK, his own wife, and the people of his church, NEVER suspecte him! We are living in a scary world.

    May 5, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  7. Monday

    Makes you wonder who is next to you in the office...You just never know about people. Yikes... and its always the nice soft spoken guy....

    May 5, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  8. Arnie

    No one truly knows anyone – ever!!!

    May 5, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  9. Nadia

    The devil walks among us, disguising himself so well. It just goes to show you, be careful of those around you. You may think you know someone, and you could be horribly wrong. That's very creepy if you think about it......

    May 5, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  10. pastor ernest sambo

    In fact it is emberacing to learn that this person has been a professing christian!! May be we got to wait until proven guilty. But if this is true, it will be very pathetic

    May 5, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  11. zuzana

    oh yeah this is horrible when one reveals that his or her coworker who appeares to be very nice and religious person is a killer. A friend of my mother works wiht a guy who is 27 and he has always looked so nice and friendly, but then she learnt that he killed his mother when he was 16 and was sent to prison for 8 years. After he was released he is working now with a friend of my mother in a shop as an shop assistant. If one sees this guy, one will never believe that could have murdered his own mother. Well,also a nice face could hide evil.

    May 5, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  12. pastor ernest sambo

    Anderson, You are a hard worker. I just love the way you bring new news to us all. May God bless you. Some of these killers got to be given a tough lesson if they dont want ot change.

    May 5, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  13. Siegbert Tarrasch

    People shouldn't be shocked by now. These guys are "hyper-normal". They learn early-on that their desires are wrong and not acceptable; so they meticulously train from a very young age to "simulate normalcy". In fact, the odds are that either such a person is going to be an obvious freak-show on the fringe of society or they will be the guy next door with wife and children and job and community groups, etc.; they've spent their whole lives hiding and they do it well. That is why we need to get them to come to us early, before they have struck; it's the only way. Waiting for them to kill, rape, molest, etc. however many times before the law starts trying to find them is clearly not the answer. There should be a plan to receive them first and then ad campaigns to get those that haven't struck yet to seek help. Until we do that, this is just going to keep happening and get worse and worse.

    May 5, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  14. Leah

    As an avid fan of True Crime, nothing surprises me anymore. i find myself looking at the people I know, work with, family, etc. and I wonder if there is anything about them that would shock me. This reminds me of Ann Rule's The Stranger Beside me.

    May 5, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  15. enea ostrich: Seal Beach, CA

    this puts all legitimate people who post to really wonder what this world is coming to with sick people like this. it's awful.

    May 5, 2009 at 10:54 am |