A security guard suspected of abducting and sexually assaulting 14 sex trade workers in the South Los Angeles area over the past four years pleaded not guilty today to kidnapping and other charges stemming from an alleged attack in Compton.
Ferdinand Ervin Flowers, 35, of Long Beach was arrested about 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 12 after his latest alleged victim -- a 19-year-old woman -- exited his car in an area where he is suspected of releasing previous victims, according to Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg.
Detectives conducting surveillance of the area made the arrest after seeing the woman get out of the car, Eisenberg said. Flowers allegedly approached her in Lynwood, then drove her to Compton, where he pulled a gun and demanded her money.
He's charged with three felony counts in connection with that case: kidnapping to commit rape and/or robbery, assault with the intent to commit rape and second-degree robbery, with a special allegation of personally using a firearm during commission of the crime, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
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The earliest assault Flowers is suspected of committing involved a victim abducted in January 2014 in South Los Angeles, according to the LAPD.
Flowers, who has a prior conviction for solicitation of a prostitute in 2010, is suspected of gunpoint assaults of 14 victims in 13 separate attacks, with two victims allegedly being taken at one time.
Four of the assaults occurred in 2014, but none were reported in 2015 and 2016, investigators said.
Other attacks may have occurred during 2015 and 2016 or at other times, and investigators want to speak with anyone who may have been victimized by the suspect.
Flowers, who had a registered handgun he likely used for work as a licensed security guard, allegedly used two vehicles during the assaults -- a black Dodge pickup truck with an extended cab and a white Honda Civic.
Both vehicles and his home were searched and a handgun was recovered, police said.
Following an assault on Dec. 15, police held a news conference seeking the public's help in identifying the suspect. LAPD Capt. William Hayes said then that the suspect would approach females involved in prostitution activity and engage them in conversation, then get them into his vehicle and take them to a remote industrial area, where he would allegedly sexually assault them at gunpoint before releasing them.
None of the victims, the youngest of which was 15, suffered serious injuries, police said.
The abductions occurred in the Alameda Corridor area, a 20-mile-long rail cargo expressway that links the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to the rail network near downtown Los Angeles.
The investigation was conducted jointly by the LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
The LAPD's investigation began with a sexual assault last May in the 77th Street Station jurisdiction in South Los Angeles, Hayes said. DNA evidence obtained from that victim led investigators to a DNA match in a sexual assault case in the sheriff's jurisdiction in January 2014.
A third case also was linked via DNA to the same suspect, Hayes said previously. Investigators compared those cases and others, and developed a pattern to the crimes, he said.
Flowers is being held in lieu of $1.25 million bail and is next due at the Compton courthouse on Feb. 15, when a date for a preliminary hearing is scheduled to be set. If convicted as charged, hes faces a maximum possible punishment of life in state prison and lifetime sex offender registration.
Anyone who may have been victimized by Flowers or has information that could help investigators was urged to call the Robbery-Homicide Division at (213) 486-6910.
After-hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to (877) LAPD-24-7. Anonymous tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers by calling (800) 222-TIPS.