Suspect charged in cold-case murder of brother of LA County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Thirty-six years after Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' brother was stabbed and killed, authorities have announced an arrest in the cold case murder.

Michael Anthony Locklin, now 61, was initially considered a person of interest in the 1981 case but was not charged until last week. In a statement released Thursday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said Locklin is charged with one count of murder with the special circumstance allegation of murder in the commission of a robbery.

The arrest stems from the killing of 37-year-old insurance adjuster Michael Thomas at his South Los Angeles home in August 1981.

Thomas' body was found at the residence in the 4600 block of Santa Barbara Boulevard, now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, after he failed to attend church services and later did not show up for work.

Thomas' brother, Mark Ridley-Thomas, served on the L.A. City Council and in the state Legislature before being elected as a county supervisor in 2008. He addressed supporters Thursday at the groundbreaking for affordable senior housing on 105th Street, but he declined to comment citing advice from the district attorney.

According to prosecutors, Locklin was identified as the suspect through DNA evidence. The Los Angeles resident was being held without bail Thursday.

LAPD Capt. Peter Whittingham said Locklin's DNA was linked to the homicide eight years after the crime, but the technology then was not reliable.

"The matching of the blood type appeared not to be significant enough to warrant a filing or prosecution, but we knew who it was," Whittingham said.

By then, Locklin was already locked up in prison for the sexual assault of a minor.

"He was in custody serving a sentence of 36 years...," Whittingham added.

Detectives reopened the case in April and learned that not only had Locklin been released, the registered sex offender had been living in the Inland Empire since 2006.

South Bureau investigators tracked down Locklin, and obtained more DNA. Analysis using more sophisticated technology definitively links Locklin to the crime, Whittingham said.

The homicide investigators did not know that Thomas was the supervisor's brother until they began to re-interview witnesses.

If convicted as charged, Locklin faces the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole, the DA's office said. Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty.

A Los Angeles Police Department investigation into the case is ongoing.

Thomas' case is the eighth cold case in which South Bureau detectives have made an arrest since January. One of the cases dates back to 1979.

Whittingham said the Cold Case Unit has 800 to 1,000 other unsolved cases and that sometimes a tip can make the difference.

"To those who have been waiting for years, the message to those who thought their cases were forgotten, they are not," Whittingham said.
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