Prime Suspect in 1994 Beverly Hills Murder of Gay Rights Activist Dies in Mexico

beverly hills-police-department
Beverly Hills Police Department.

The prime suspect in the 1994 killing of a Chicago gay rights activist in Beverly Hills died of natural causes in Mexicali, Mexico, in June 2007, police announced today.

Kenneth Osborne “had been suspected in other crimes with the same M.O.,” Beverly Hills Police Department Lt. Lincoln Hoshino told City News Service in response to an inquiry about the killing of Jon A. Simmons.

Osborne’s death was confirmed “through the assistance of Mexican authorities,” Hoshino said.

“BHPD detectives had received information that Osborne was possibly willing to confess to the murder of Mr. Simmons, but his travel to Mexico made it impossible to locate and interview him before his death,” Hoshino said.

Although DNA evidence remains outstanding without a match, Osborne’s death closes the case, according to Hoshino.

The Simmons killing was one of three unsolved killings in Beverly Hills over the last 25 years, Hoshino said. The most recent occurred on Aug. 25, 1997.

Simmons was killed by a single bullet to the head. His body was found Oct. 2, 1994, by then-West Hollywood Councilman Paul Koretz, who was walking his bichon frise on Cinthia Street, between the 700 blocks of North Oakhurst and Sierra drives.

Koretz, now a Los Angeles councilman, said a female pedestrian told him she thought she saw a body in the alley, about a block south of Sunset Boulevard. He walked closer and found the victim naked and lying face down.

A burned-out car rented by Simmons was found more than 20 miles away in El Monte later that day, according to Beverly Hills police.

The 39-year-old Simmons was visiting Los Angeles en route to a Hawaiian vacation. Family members said he had been at the Abbey Cafe in West Hollywood the night before his body was found and may have visited other bars nearby, police said.

In 2009, Beverly Hills police Lt. Tony Lee told City News Service the department was “actively investigating the case with new leads that they’ve received.”

The Beverly Hills Police Department’s Cold Case Homicide Unit resubmitted evidence to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Scientific Services Bureau for DNA analysis in 2005, but no new leads resulted, then-Lt. Mitch McCann said in a 2005 interview.

In May 2004, ballistic evidence collected at the scene was submitted to the Integrated Ballistic Information System and was returned with “an inconclusive match to an unsolved 2003 Long Beach shooting,” McCann said.

Simmons was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s liaison to the gay and lesbian community and helped get an ordinance passed to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

“Jon was a dedicated public servant committed to human rights and a strong advocate for the gay and lesbian community,” Daley said in a 1994 statement.