LOS ANGELES -- To find a witness to a body being dumped from a van in South Los Angeles in 1987, police Wednesday released the 911 recording as part of an investigation of the "Grim Sleeper," a serial killer who preyed mostly on prostitutes.
The killer, whose DNA was recovered from crime scenes, is believed responsible for murdering at least 10 women and one man over a 23-year span. For years, he was dormant, but police believe he struck again Jan. 1, 2007.
All the victims were black and most were found within a few blocks of Western Avenue. Most were prostitutes or drug addicts, or both, and some were raped, detectives said.
One victim escaped from the Grim Sleeper after she was shot and raped.
Detectives also believe the man who saw the body dumped on Jan. 10, 1987, saw the killer. The call came in at 12:19 a.m. from a pay phone, and the man said he saw a man removing a woman's body from a blue-and-white 1976 Dodge van.
The said the body was left in an alley behind 1346 E. 56th St. and covered with a gasoline tank. That woman was later identified as Barbara Ware, 23.
He "described the Barbara Ware crime scene exactly the way responding officers found it and detectives documented it," police Chief William Bratton said at a news conference.
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The man told the dispatcher the van's license plate was 1PZP746, and police found it about 30 minutes later at the now-defunct Cosmopolitan Church, then at 6075 S. Normandie Ave. The hood of the van was still warm, even though it was 38 degrees outside, Detective Dennis Kilcoyne said.
"This man called and gives a vehicle description, a license plate, and some four miles away there's a car and it just happens to be the way he described it -- blue and white. It's warm to the touch, and there's something there. Personally, I think the answer is there to this whole series," he said.
In the church that night was a group of parishioners who told detectives they had used the van until 11:30 p.m. that evening. The vehicle did not show signs of being hotwired or broken into, and authorities do not know how many people at the church had access to the keys.
"Our call comes in at quarter after midnight, so that's about 45 minutes, give or take, maybe an hour window, that this van was used for other purposes," Kilcoyne said.
Ware had been dead for three or four hours before her body was dumped, he said.
The 911 caller declined to identify himself.
"I know too many people. OK, then, bye-bye," he said, hanging up.
Kilcoyne said he did not believe the caller and the killer were the same. The caller spent too much time on the phone and gave so much specific information that he could have been caught, he said. No other phone calls were made in other "Grim Sleeper" killings.
More than 20 years ago, the lone survivor -- a woman identified as Victim No. 9 -- described the Grim Sleeper as a 30-ish black man with short hair, driving an orange Ford Pinto.
Anyone with more information about the killer was asked to call Kilcoyne at 213-473-0346 during normal office hour, or tip line 877-LAPD-24-7.