Frustrated Los Angeles police said yesterday that a bit actor who confessed to being the "Hillside Strangler" had nothing to do with the crimes.
Lt. Dan Cooke said that a police investigation had turned up no connection between the 37-year-old actor, Ned. T. York, and the killings of 12 young women and girls whose bodies were found on various hillsides in the Glendale area during a three-month period ended Dec. 14.
"If we had a real good suspect, we'd be having the Goodyear blimp going by with his name splashed all over the side," Cooke said. "We'd be shooting off rockets. We'd be real excited. This is a nothing case. There's nothing there."
However, it was not immediately clear whether York would be released or held on an unrelated charge. Cooke said that a search of the actor's house in the Hollywood hills turned up a "Thai stick," a heavily concentrated piece of marijuana.
When York called the police Wednesday to say he was the strangler, they at first paid no attention him. But after York made statements implicating a friend who was acquainted with Kristina Weckler, 20, the seventh strangler victim, police went to York's home and arrested him.
He was brought into police headquarters wearing only a pair of blue bathing trunks.
Police officials reportedly had a difference of opinion about whether York should be booked on suspicion of murder. But York fell asleep, apparently from exhauston, during preliminary questioning the police decided to hold him until they could question him further and search his home.
"We really had no alternative," said Cooke.
Under California law a person booked on suspicion of committing a felony must be released within 48 hours unless formal charges are filed.
York was the first and only person to have been arrested in connection with any of the strangulation killings, despite an intensive and continuing investigation by the 93-member Hillside Strangler Task Force, which the police formed in mid-November.
What appeared to be a break in the case came earlier this week with disclosure of a letter sent to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The writer confessed that he committed strangulation killing, and blamed them on his mother. He said he had also murdered her. According to police, York made statements indicating he wrote the letter.
Police were skeptical from the start about York's confession, and made no claim that the murders had been solved. But some television and radio stations in the Los Angeles area were less restrained.
Television stations here photographed the 6-foot-4, 240-pound York in his bathing trunks, interviewed his neighbors to find that he was a "quiet person," tracked down his estranged wife, and made much of his bit television roles as a policeman and his participation in "born again" Christian groups.
For police it was just the latest and most publicized in a long series of frustrations. As a member of the Hillside Strangler Task Force put it today, "the killer's still out there, and we haven't got him."