“This is for real”
Sarai Ribicoff was 23 years old, a Phi Beta Kappa Yale graduate, a reporter for The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the niece of Senator Abraham Ribicoff. She had much to live for when she went for dinner with John Shoven, a Stanford economics professor, in November 1980. They left Chez Helene Restaurant on Washington Boulevard, not far from her home, at about 10pm. They began walking to her car when they were accosted by two members of the Crips gang who had secreted themselves in the doorway of a local dress shop. One gang member, Frederick Thomas said, “This is for real” as he ordered them to hand over any valuables. Mr Shoven gave them his wallet, which contained $200, but Miss Ribicoff was pushed to the ground after saying that she did not have a purse with her.
Thomas tried to rip off her gold necklace as she was on her knees. He put his gun to her head and pulled the trigger, but it failed to go off. Thomas lowered his gun and shot Miss Ribicoff in the back before turning the weapon on Mr Shoven. He pulled the trigger but missed and managed to shoot himself in the wrist in the melee. Thomas and the other thug, Anthony LaQuin McAdoo, ran away after being chased by two knife-wielding chefs from a nearby restaurant.
They went to an apartment at 919 5th Avenue at Broadway, where McAdoo’s sister’s cousin Maureen Young lived. They told her that a rival gang had shot Thomas in a drive-by shooting so she took him to Marina Mercy Hospital. McAdoo did not want to go with him but was persuaded into the car.
In the car, McAdoo said, “The n****r must think I’m crazy. He shot the person and he wants me to take the gun and shoot the damn thing in the air.” Thomas told him to “Shut your fucking mouth.” Frederick Thomas leaves court after his arraignment.
Chez Helene Restaurant, Washington Boulevard, Venice, California, USA
Wednesday 12 November 1980
Thomas was arrested at the hospital but McAdoo stayed on the run until January 1981 when he surrendered. Originally, he agreed to testify against his former friend but then changed his mind after prison threats. When the trial finally started in November 1981, McAdoo did testify.
Professor Shoven testified, “Sarai was pleading that she did not have a purse, which he seemed to want. He put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger… it did not go off… He then lowered the gun to her torso and shot her. He waved the gun at me and shot but missed.”
Thomas was found guilty of murder but on 22 December the jury could not decide on whether to sentence him to death so Superior Court Judge Laurence Rittenbrand declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the trial. He was sentenced to life and McAdoo got 25 years as an accomplice.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Frederick Thomas had a long criminal record at the time of the murder for violence and possession of drugs. The first public defender assigned to the case had to refuse to take it because of a conflict of interest: he had dated the victim.