There seemed to be no shortage of serial killers hunting the streets of Los Angeles during the ’70s and ’80s, and at least one of them might still be on the loose.
As news coverage of serial killers swept the city: The Toolbox Killer, The Hillside Strangler, The Night Stalker, The Freeway Killer, and more, there wasn’t much focus on the the vulnerability of the homeless community. Then, in 1978 Skid Row Stabber began to prey on homeless men in Los Angeles, brutally killing 11 homeless men over a three-week period, leaving their bodies in various alleyways and parking lots within a four-block radius, according to the LA Times.
His identity remains unknown to this day.
The Skid Row Stabber’s reign of terror came two years after Vaughn Orrin Greenwood was identified as the Skid Row Slasher, according to The Spokesman-Review. Greenwood was charged with killing 11 transients in the 60s and 70s, and now a new killer stepped in and struck panic into the impoverished neighborhood.
Detectives with the LAPD arrested two suspects they believed could be the Skid Row Stabber, according to the LA Times, but released them for lack of physical evidence. They finally set their sites on Bobby Joe Maxwell after finding his palm print on a park bench near one of the crime scenes.
“Investigators cast Maxwell as a Satanist who killed to deliver souls to the devil,” the paper wrote. Authorities found notebooks at one of Maxwell’s relative’s homes, including a drawing of a Satanic symbol that resembled an illustration located near one of the bodies.
Although the evidence against him was circumstantial, Maxwell was arrested and charged with murder in April 1979.
Even when facing the death penalty, Maxwell always maintained his innocence.
Maxwell’s 1984 trial hinged on the testimony of Sidney Storch, a jailhouse informant who claimed Maxwell confessed to the killings.
Years later, Storch was at the center of a jailhouse scandal in where inmates fabricated confessions from cellmates in exchange for lighter sentences, according to the LA Times. Storch passed away before facing charges of perjury.
Maxwell was convicted of two murders and sentenced to life in prison.
After serving 30 years behind bars, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned Maxwell’s conviction and granted him a new trial, according to CBS News. The Court of Appeals found Storch to be a “habitual liar,” according to the 41-page decision.
“One of the most prolific of these snitches was Storch, who was unmasked as [a] serial liar,” reports The National Registry of Exonerations. “Storch had testified at numerous trials that defendants had confessed their crimes to him.”
Storch admitted to reading the newspapers to glean information about Maxwell’s alleged crimes.
In 2017 Maxwell suffered a massive heart attack while waiting for his new trial to begin. He fell into a coma and never regained consciousness.
In 2018, 40 years after the Skid Row Stabber claimed his victims, prosecutors dropped all charges against Maxwell, according to the LA Times. He never had the chance to hear his name cleared.
Maxwell died in 2019.
The real Skid Row Stabber has never been identified.