Man Charged With Murder in 1977 South L.A. Killing of Woman Who Was Raped, Stabbed to Death in Front of Children: DA

More than 40 years after a South L.A. mother was raped and killed in front of her two young sons, a man has been charged with murder in her death, though some of the initial charges were dropped because the crimes are outside the statute of limitations.

An amended complaint was filed against Kenneth Ray Matthews, 60, on Monday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said. Matthews’ arraignment was continued until May 30.

Matthews was arrested last week after a fingerprint match and DNA test tied him to the crime scene at the home of Leona Davis in the 8700 block of Menlo Avenue in South L.A.

Davis had just put her sons, age 4 and 7, to bed when she was attacked on Dec. 6, 1977.

Matthews raped her and stabbed her in the neck in front of the children, then he stole things from the home and fled, according to the DA’s office.

The original charges against Matthews were murder, forcible rape and attempted first-degree residential robbery, as well as special circumstance allegations of murder during the execution of a rape and murder during the commission of a robbery, the DA’s office said. The rape and robbery charges were dropped in court Thursday because “they fell outside the statute of limitations,” the DA’s office said.

Matthews faces life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty if he is convicted. Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

The Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division is investigating the case.

LAPD investigators focused on Matthews after a fingerprint found at the victim’s home returned a match in a criminal  database, according to the Los Angeles Times. Then DNA from a 1977 rape kit was matched to Matthews, the newspaper reported.

It was not clear, the Times reported, what the relationship was between Matthews and Davis.