Juan Chavez

b2ux

Banned
Juan Chavez





A.K.A.: "Los Angeles ATM killer"

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Chavez said he was angry that homosexuals were spreading AIDS - Robberies
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: 1986 / 1989
Date of birth: 1966
Victims profile: Alfred Rowswell, 45 / Ruben Panis, 57 / Donald Kleeman, 48 / Michael Allen Cates, 46 / Leo Hildebrand, 52 (gay men)
Method of murder: Ligature strangulation
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentence to life in prison without parole on June 22, 1999. Committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell on September 9, 1999




Juan Chavez (5)

On June 22, 1999, Juan Chavez, 35, was handed five consecutive life sentences for killing five gay men between 1986 and 1989. Strangely Chavez said he killed the men in an attempt to stop the spread of AIDS. The crusading killer agreed to the life sentence under a plea bargain that saved him from the death penalty.

Prosecutor Mike Duarte said Chavez allowed himself to be picked up at locations frequented by gay Hispanic men and used the promise of sex to lure the men to their homes. Then, he tied them up forced them to disclose their ATM access codes, strangled them with exercise ropes, neckties and electrical cords, and stole their vehicles. Prosecutors believe Chavez may have killed other gay men.

The killing spree began in July 1986 when 46-year-old Alfred Rowswell was found strangled in his Los Angeles apartment. Rowswell's car was found later that year in Utah, but fingerprints on the windows initially proved inconclusive. Then in 1989, Chavez killed four men in two months: 57-year-old Ruben Panis, 48-year-old Donald Kleeman, 46-year-old Michael Allen Cates and 52-year-old Leo Hildebrand.

Los Angeles police detectives found a photo of a man using one of the victims' ATM cards and circulated it at local gay bars. But without more evidence the cases went nowhere. Detectives got a lucky break in 1994, when they finally matched a fingerprint on Rowswell's car to a prisoner in Washington state. The inmate said he got the car from Chavez. Detectives tracked down Chavez who was in prison for an unrelated 1996 kidnapping and obtained a confession from him.


Convict Pleads Guilty in Deaths of 5 Gay Men

March 17, 1999

A Los Angeles man who told police he hated homosexuals and had to “stop them” has pleaded guilty in the strangulation killings of five gay men a decade ago.

Juan Chavez, who is already serving one life term in Folsom prison for an unrelated crime, faces life in prison without parole when he is sentenced in June. The second life term will be added to his sentence, meaning he will probably never be freed.

Chavez, 35, pleaded guilty in the middle of his trial last week in exchange for an agreement by the district attorney’s office not to seek the death penalty.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Duarte said he made the deal because evidence in some of the cases was week.

“The victims’ families and the police all were in agreement on this one,” he said.

Four of the victims–Ruben Panis, Ronald Kleeman, Leo Hildebrand and Michael Cates–were killed from September to early November 1989. Panis, a fashion designer who outfitted Zsa Zsa Gabor and other celebrities, was found in the master bedroom of his two-story Wilshire district home. The fifth victim–Alfred Rowswell–died in July 1986.

Chavez told police he killed the men because he wanted to teach them a lesson.

“They pick people up. They don’t let them know that they are sick, and a lot of people be dying because of them,” he said during a police interview at Folsom. “So I better, you know, stop them.”

Duarte said it took police four years to break the case. Authorities originally did not consider the slayings related because the bodies were found in different places around Los Angeles County. The Sheriff’s Department investigated two of the cases, and different divisions of the Los Angeles Police Department handled the other three.

Duarte said the court proceedings lasted five years because of the continuing investigation and the complexity of the case. Dozens of suspects were investigated and hundreds of witnesses questioned.

Chavez said the victims picked him up, offered to pay for sex and drove him to their homes. Once there, he usually threatened them with a knife and tied their hands and feet before strangling them with a rope or piece of clothing, he said.

Each case differed in some details, but Chavez usually met with the victims while he was seeking to buy illegal drugs on Vermont Avenue between 6th and 8th streets or near Echo Park or Elysian Park, according to court papers.

Chavez told police that the victims drove up to him while he was walking home or to a bus stop and would offer $50 for sex.

“Hey man, I don’t look for them,” he told police in 1993. “They come to me all the time.”

As the victims began disrobing at their homes, he would go to the bathroom so he could get out his knife and surprise them, he said.

In four of the five cases, Chavez took their bank cards and forced them to tell him their personal identification numbers. Mostly he stole cash, jewelry or electronics. In at least two cases, he also took the victims’ vehicles.

Although Chavez exclusively killed homosexuals–and used similar methods in each slaying–Duarte said he did not display the usual hallmarks of a serial killer. He did not, for example, take a souvenir from the crime scene, Duarte said, or leave an item that would become his trademark.

At one point, Duarte said, police had a list of more than 40 suspects. Investigators focused on Chavez when an acquaintance identified him in a picture from a camera at an automated teller machine taken while he was using the first victim’s bank card. The acquaintance also said Chavez had stolen the victim’s car and let the friend drive it, police reports said.

In December 1993, while in prison, Chavez confessed to that killing and gave incriminating statements in several of the other cases.

Duarte said Chavez’s parents abandoned him in Mexico when he was very young, and he was taken in by his grandmother. He ran away at the age of 7, Chavez told authorities, after she beat him. He came to the United States in 1980 and lived with a brother in Los Angeles.

In 1992, Chavez was convicted in Merced of kidnapping for ransom. He was sentenced to life in prison, plus 28 years, court papers say.

Man Who Killed 5 L.A. Gays in 1980s Gets Life Sentence

June 22, 1999

An illegal immigrant who said he grew up a street urchin in a tough border town was sentenced to life in prison Monday in Los Angeles after pleading guilty to murdering five gay men in the late 1980s.

Juan Chavez, 33, confessed to persuading five middle-aged men to take him to their apartments, where he tied them up and then strangled them. Though he told investigators he was angry that homosexuals were spreading AIDS, prosecutors said his motive was robbery–ATM cards, jewels and cars.

“When he was out there to pick up these guys, he was out to rob them,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Duarte.

However, according to Duarte, Chavez at one point did confess to investigators: “You don’t understand, I want to get these men before they get me. They’re spreading AIDS.”

Chavez was charged with five counts of murder and five counts of robbery in 1994. At the time, he was serving time in Folsom State Prison for kidnapping.

Early this year, at the beginning of the trial, Chavez pleaded guilty to the murder charges to avoid a possible death sentence. The robbery charges had been dropped because they were too old to be prosecuted. In Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Jacqueline Connor sentenced Chavez to five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Chavez met his victims at well-known gay pickup spots, according to court records. Men looking to have sex offered him money in Echo, Elysian, LaFayette and MacArthur parks, though he did not dress or act like a prostitute, said his attorney, Ralph A. Courtney III.

His first known victim, according to prosecutors, was Alfred Rowswell, 46, who was found strangled in his LaFayette Park apartment in July 1986. Rowswell’s car was found later that year in Utah, but fingerprints on the windows initially proved inconclusive, Duarte said.

Then in 1989, Chavez killed four men in two months: Ruben Panis, 57, of Los Angeles; Donald Leeman, 48, of Los Angeles; Michael Cates, 46, of West Hollywood; and Leo Hildebrand, 52, of Alhambra.

Los Angeles police detectives found a photo of a man using one of the victims’ ATM cards and circulated it at local gay bars. But without more evidence the cases went nowhere.

The break for detectives came in 1994, when they finally matched a fingerprint on Rowswell’s car to a prisoner in Washington state. The inmate said he got the car from Chavez.

Detectives quickly matched the ATM photo to Chavez’s half brother, whom they took into custody but never arrested. On Dec. 14, they interviewed Chavez in prison. The suspect was worried about his brother being implicated in the murders and confessed the following day, according to court records. His half brother was never charged in the crimes.

According to police, the defendant said: “I thank God you guys found out about this, because you know what, that way I can clear my mind. My conscience has been bothering me for a long time.”

Courtney later asked the judge not to use Chavez’s confession as evidence. He said the defendant was coerced into giving it because he was afraid that his half brother would be arrested. The judge denied the request.

Courtney said Chavez and his half brother had been left with their grandmother as young children. After the woman hit Chavez with a pipe, the two became runaways in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

They crossed the border to Texas and then moved to California. Chavez had a wife and two children. He worked a series of low-level jobs, from dishwasher to steam-iron operator, in Los Angeles and committed a string of petty crimes, Duarte said.

“He was just a crook, stealing what he had to steal,” said Duarte.

Juan Chavez

"You don't understand, I want to get these men before they get me. They're spreading AIDS."

This one is a pretty rare case, a serial killer that operated during the 80's but was not convicted until 1999. I guess you could say he was pretty unlucky to get caught after 10 years of inactivity, even if that was forced upon him. So let me begin this story with his arrest, and the events leading up to it.

As with so many serial killers Juan had a pretty shitty childhood. His parent shot through when he was very young which meant Juan and his half brother had been left in their grandmother care as young children. After the woman hit Chavez with a pipe one too many times, the two became runaways in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Eventually the boys crossed the border (illegally) into Texas and then moved on to California.

Chavez went on to marry and have two children. He worked a series of low-level jobs, from dishwasher to steam-iron operator, in Los Angeles and committed a string of petty crimes to add to the pitiful income the lower classes are expected to live on in the USA.

But the interesting bit doesn't happen until 1994. Juan Chavez was sitting in Folsom State Prison for a botched kidnapping when police, who were investigating an old string of murders involving gay men in Los Angeles, finally matched a fingerprint on one of the victims car to a prisoner in Washington state. When they contacted the inmate he said he got the car from Chavez.

Once police had Chavez's name they quickly turned all attention to him as the main suspect in the unsolved murders. They matched a photo taken at an ATM, where a different victims credit card was used, to Chavez's half brother. On Dec. 14, they interviewed Juan Chavez in prison. Being a pretty family orientated guy, Juan was worried about his brother being implicated in the murders so he confessed to five murders the following day.

According to one officer who testified at Chavez's trial he said, "I thank God you guys found out about this, because you know what, that way I can clear my mind. My conscience has been bothering me for a long time."

So what did he do?

According to Chavez, men looking to have sex offered him money in Echo, Elysian, LaFayette and MacArthur parks, even though he did not dress or act like a prostitute. Obviously the fact that men kept offering him money for sex eventually got him down (and angry) so he started killing them. He never really explained why he was in well-known gay pickup spots at such regularity, but I guess that's beside the point.

His first known victim, according to police, was Alfred Rowswell, 46, who was found strangled in his LaFayette Park apartment in July 1986. Rowswell's car was found later that year in Utah, but fingerprints on the windows initially proved inconclusive.

Obviously no one tried to pick Chavez up over the next few years as there were no new victims until 1989 when Chavez killed four men in two months: Ruben Panis, 57, of Los Angeles; Donald Leeman, 48, of Los Angeles; Michael Cates, 46, of West Hollywood; and Leo Hildebrand, 52, of Alhambra. I guess he must have inadvertently dressed in a slightly homosexual way, but this would definitly have been without Juan knowledge I'm sure.

Juan's M.O. was that when these men inadvertently thought he was a rent-boy (because he definitely wasn't) he would to persuade the men to take him to their apartments. He would then tie them up and strangle them. It was never planned and the robberies only took place as an afterthought. The men were strangled with whatever took Juan's fancy (other than the naked men, oops, they never did, 'cos he wasn't gay, was he) and included exercise ropes, neckties and electrical cords.

Prosecutors at Juan's trial played up the robbery angle throughout the trial, but Juan came up with a new defence during that - "You don't understand, I want to get these men before they get me. They're spreading AIDS."

But this silly insanity attempt was never going to work for poor Juan, so he eventually pled guilty to five murders as a trial could have led to him facing the death penalty. He was sentenced to 5 life sentences without the possibility of parole.

His half brother was never charged with any crime, so at least something went right for Juan.
 
Top