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Lonnie David FRANKLIN Jr.






A.K.A.: "Grim Sleeper"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Sexual assault
Number of victims: 10 - 25 +
Date of murder: 1985 - 2007
Date of arrest: July 7, 2010
Date of birth: August 30, 1952
Victims profile: Debra Jackson, 29; Henrietta Wright, 35; Barbara Ware, 23; Bernita Sparks, 25; Mary Lowe, 26; Lachrica Jefferson, 22; Alicia Alexander, 18; Princess Berthomieux, 15; Valerie McCorvey, 35; and Janecia Peters, 25
Method of murder: Shooting - Strangulation
Location: Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on August 10, 2016

Photo galleries


Lonnie Franklin 1

Lonnie Franklin 2


The victims


Grim Sleeper is the nickname for convicted serial killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., responsible for at least ten murders and one attempted murder in Los Angeles, California. The attacker was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because he appeared to have taken a 14-year break from his crimes, from 1988 to 2002.

In July 2010, Franklin was arrested as a suspect, and, after many delays, his trial began in February 2016. On May 5, 2016, the jury convicted him of killing nine women and one teenage girl. On June 6, 2016, the jury recommended the death sentence, and on August 10, 2016, Los Angeles Superior Court sentenced him to death for each of the ten victims named in the verdict.

Personal life

Franklin was born on August 30, 1952. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles. He married and had two children. He was given a general discharge from the United States Army on July 24, 1975.


After police discovered several dead women in alleyways and dumpsters in South Los Angeles, California during the mid-1980s, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and police began investigating the murders setting up the "Southside Slayer" task force. At the time, the police thought that the murders were committed by one person labelled the "Southside Slayer".

These crimes were announced to the public on September 23, 1985. Eventually, the LAPD and the Sheriff's detectives realized that several serial killers were murdering women and it was a difficult task for the detectives to decide which murders were linked. Amongst their other murders, Louis Craine and Daniel Lee Siebert committed at least two of the murders each, and Ivan Hill and Michael Hughes at least one each.

A separate series of killings commenced with the murder of Debra Jackson, with a different MO involving a firearm. These became known, misleadingly, as the Strawberry Murders. Two decades later the perpetrator of these crimes was named Grim Sleeper due to a long period of apparent inactivity between crimes.

In May 2007, the murder of Janecia Peters, 25, was linked through DNA analysis to eleven, possibly twelve, unsolved murders in Los Angeles, the first of which occurred in 1985. The "800 Task Force" was then formed, consisting of seven detectives.

After a four-month investigation, the LA Weekly investigative reporter Christine Pelisek broke the news of the secret 800 Task Force, the linking of Peters' killing to a string of murders going back 23 years, and the fact that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton had been silent on the killer's existence.

The mayor and chief never issued a press release nor warned the South Los Angeles community of the killer's continuing activities. In some cases, the alternative newspaper was the first to inform the families that their daughters had long been confirmed as victims of a serial killer.

In March 2009, Christine Pelisek of the LA Weekly did an extensive interview with Enietra Washington, the sole survivor of the Grim Sleeper's attacks. She described him as "a black man in his early 30s [...] He looked neat. Tidy. Kind of geeky. He wore a black polo shirt tucked into khaki trousers." She also described him as a "thin, neat, polite and well-groomed African-American guy." He owned "an orange Ford Pinto with a white racing stripe on the hood." "[I]t looked like a Hot Wheels [toy] car," the survivor recalled. He offered her a ride. After she refused, "He told me, ‘That is what is wrong with you black women. You think you are all that.'" He was persistent. After some banter back and forth, she got into his car. She "was impressed by the car’s interior. The gear-shift handle was memorable, pimped out with a ping-pong-sized marble ball. The inside was all-white, with white diamond-patterned upholstery."

When she mentioned a party, he deftly invited himself and she said he was welcome to come. He then said that he needed to stop briefly at his uncle's house: "They wound through residential roads in his sporty car, ending up on a street whose name she did not take note of. The polite stranger parked outside a mustard-colored house partly obscured by hedges, got out, walked up to the house, briefly talked to someone inside, and returned about ten minutes later." They began arguing, when "He suddenly pulled a small handgun out of a pocket on the driver’s side of the Pinto, and shot her in the chest as he drove along the residential streets."

The killer apparently documented his attacks with a Polaroid camera: "She blacked out, but was startled awake by the bright flash of the camera. The man had taken her picture and sexually assaulted her. She remembers grabbing at him, and the two struggled. She pleaded to be taken to a hospital. He refused. Despite her half-conscious condition, she’s almost certain he told her he couldn’t take her to a hospital because he didn’t want to get caught."

In late August 2008, the same week the Weekly broke the sole survivor's story with information on the Grim Sleeper's body count of thirteen victims, an aide to Police Chief William Bratton said he was too busy to comment on the case.

In early September 2008, officials in Los Angeles announced that they were offering a $500,000 reward to help catch the killer, who has murdered at least ten women and a man in two sprees over the past twenty years.

On November 1, 2008, a story about the "Grim Sleeper" appeared on the television program America's Most Wanted. The program stated that the killer was most likely a black male but did not want to rule out anyone.

On February 25, 2009, for the first time, Chief Bratton held a press conference regarding the case at which police formally gave the killer the "Grim Sleeper" nickname chosen by L.A. Weekly. Bratton then released a call from the 1980s made to a 911 operator in which a man reports having seen a body, which later turned out to be a victim of the Grim Sleeper, getting dumped by the killer, with a detailed description and license plate number of a van connected with the now-closed Cosmopolitan Church.

In December, 2009 the LAPD re-released the original police sketch of the Grim Sleeper, based on the description given to them in 1988 by his only known survivor Enietra Washington: the sketch shows a black male with pockmarks across both cheeks.

In December, 2009 the LAPD also released three age-enhanced composite drawings showing the markedly different faces of three middle aged black males.


On July 7, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that an arrest had been made. District Attorney Steve Cooley identified the suspect as 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a mechanic who worked between 1981 and 1989 for the City of Los Angeles in the sanitation department and briefly for the police department. The arrest of Franklin reportedly was due, at least in part, to the use of familial DNA analysis.

Police had been unable to find an exact match between DNA found at the crime scenes associated with the Grim Sleeper and any of the profiles in California's DNA profile database. Thus, police searched the database to try to find stored profiles that demonstrated sufficient similarity to the profile from the crime-scene evidence to allow police to infer a familial relationship between the person who left the DNA at the crime scenes and the similar profile stored in the database.

Police eventually located similar DNA belonging to Franklin's son, Christopher, who had been convicted of a felony weapons charge. According to Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, detectives then used a piece of discarded pizza with Franklin's DNA to make the link. One Los Angeles undercover police officer pretended to be a waiter at a restaurant where the suspect ate. He collected dishes, silverware, glasses, and pizza crusts to obtain DNA. The identification was used to arrest Franklin after his DNA was obtained and deemed a match. Saliva found on victims' breasts was used to obtain a DNA match thus linking Franklin to the murders.

Law enforcement missed an opportunity to catch Franklin because his DNA was never collected. In 2003, he was convicted of a felony and was serving three years of supervised probation. When he was on probation, his DNA was supposed to enter the DNA database. In 2004, voters approved of Proposition 69. The law states that DNA must be collected for all people charged with a crime. It also requires the expansion of the DNA database. Authorities collected and sorted through thousands of DNA samples.

On July 2005, Franklin was on unsupervised probation. During that time, Franklin's DNA never entered into the system. Probation officers did not collect DNA samples from people that are on unsupervised probation between the periods of November 2004 and August 2005. During that period, the probation department also did not have the resources to immediately collect samples. Officers did not collect samples until August 2005.

Franklin has a criminal record dating back to 1989. He was convicted of two charges of stolen property, one charge of misdemeanor assault, and one charge of battery. He served time for one of the charges of stolen property. He is charged with 10 homicides and 1 attempted murder. He is held without bail and could face the death penalty if convicted. He is not charged in the death of an 11th suspected victim, an African American man. There is no DNA evidence in that case.

On December 16, 2010, the Los Angeles Police Department released 180 photos of women found in Franklin's home. Police officials released the images after unsuccessful attempts to identify the individuals, possibly additional victims. "These people are not suspects, we don't even know if they are victims, but we do know this: Lonnie Franklin's reign of terror in the city of Los Angeles, which spanned well over two decades, culminating with almost a dozen murder victims, certainly needs to be investigated further," said Chief Charlie Beck of the LAPD. In all, investigators found over 1,000 photos and several hundred hours of video in the home.

The images show mainly African American women of a wide age range, from teenagers to middle-aged and older, often nude. Police believe Franklin took many of the pictures, which show both conscious and unconscious individuals, and date back up to 30 years. The photos were released in an effort to identify the women with the help of citizens.

On November 3, 2011, Reuters reported that the police were considering Lonnie David Franklin as a suspect in six more slayings of additional female victims. The police were investigating two of the six as potential victims killed during a 14-year lapse between an initial spate of "Grim Sleeper" murders that ended in 1988 and several more that began in 2002. Of the remaining four victims, two bodies were discovered in the 1980s and two were reported missing in 2005 but the remains of the other two were never found, police said.

Detectives said they linked Franklin to the six additional killings after reviewing hundreds of old case files and seeking the public's help in identifying a collection of 180 photographs of women and girls that were found in his possession.

On May 5, 2016, after nearly three months of trial and a day and a half of jury deliberation, Lonnie David Franklin was convicted of 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. On June 6, 2016, a Los Angeles County jury sentenced the serial killer to death, closing an important legal chapter in the grisly slayings that terrorized South L.A. for more than two decades.


The known killings began in 1985 in South Los Angeles, California. The Grim Sleeper took a 14 year hiatus after his last murder in 1988 but began murdering again in 2002. His last confirmed murder was in January 2007. All of his victims were found outdoors, a few miles from downtown Los Angeles.

All but one of his victims were black females. One of his suspected victims was a black man. Many of his victims were prostitutes. One witness recalls that Franklin would frequently bring prostitutes into his home. The Grim Sleeper would have sexual contact with victims before strangling or shooting them. He would shoot all of his victims with a .25 caliber gun. Franklin took several photographs of nude prostitutes and kept them in his garage.

These are the Grim Sleeper's known victims in chronological order of attack:

Number Name Sex Age Body found
1  Debra Jackson F 29  August 10, 1985
2  Henrietta Wright F 34  August 12, 1986
3  Thomas Steele M 36  August 14, 1986
4  Barbara Ware F 23  January 10, 1987
5  Bernita Sparks F 26  April 15, 1987
6  Mary Lowe F 26  November 1, 1987
7  Lachrica Jefferson F 22  January 30, 1988
8  Alice Monique Alexander F 18  September 11, 1988
9  Enietra "Margette" Washington‡‡ F 30  Survived
10  Princess Berthomieux F 15  March 19, 2002
11  Valeria McCorvey F 35  July 11, 2003
12  Janecia Peters F 25  January 1, 2007

One of the Grim Sleeper's suspected victims, though there is no DNA evidence to support this claim. Being the only suspected male victim, it is believed that Steele either knew about Grim Sleeper's history of murders, or that he was friends with one of the victims.
‡‡ Enietra "Margette" was told to use her middle name as her last name for her protection, but has since come forward as Enietra Margette Washington. Attacked on November 20, 1988, she is the only known survivor. After her escape, there were no other known attacks for almost a decade and a half.

Arrest and trial

On July 7, 2010, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, was arrested. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged him with ten counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and special circumstance allegations of multiple murders in the case. Franklin has been in jail since his arrest awaiting trial; the large volume of evidence in this case, some dating back thirty years, had caused a lengthy pretrial discovery.

The trial was delayed several times and opened on February 16, 2016. Closing arguments began May 2, 2016 and the jury began deliberating May 4, 2016. The jury convicted Franklin on all counts on May 5, 2016. On June 6, 2016, the jury recommended that Franklin should be sentenced to death. On August 10 the Superior Court sentenced Franklin on each count, naming the individual victims.


In 2014, British filmmaker Nick Broomfield created a documentary film about this serial killer, Tales of the Grim Sleeper.


'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer: Everything You Need to Know

Lonnie Franklin Jr. was convicted of killing 10 women and there may be dozens more victims – but he's heading to death row with his secrets

By Suzanne Zuppello -

August 18, 2016

Lonnie Franklin Jr. sat silent and emotionless in a Los Angeles courtroom for over six years, never uttering a word in his own defense, save for briefly mouthing, "I've never seen you before in my life," to Vivian Williams, the sister of victim Georgia Mae Thomas.

Franklin is better known as his serial-murdering alias, the Grim Sleeper – a name coined by L.A. Weekly in 2008 after a victim was linked to a string of murders that occurred in the 1980s. It's possible he's murdered as many as 25 women – which would make him one of the most prolific American killers – and this year was finally convicted for the deaths of nine women and a teenage girl.

After six years of waiting, three and a half months on trial, and one day of jury deliberation, he was sentenced to death on August 10th, 2016 – exactly 31 years after the death of his first confirmed victim, Debra Jackson, in 1985. After shooting Jackson three times in the chest, Franklin went on to use the same .25 caliber gun in nine attacks – assaulting and strangling more, while keeping photos of his victims as trophies in his home.

Despite his conviction, some details remain unclear – like the question of whether he was truly "sleeping" during the alleged downtime, or why it took the LAPD nearly 25 years to arrest the person responsible for the deaths of at least 10 victims.

Members of the South Central communities plagued by his crimes suggest this was due to the fact that his victims were black women, mostly addicts and prostitutes, while a 2008 report in L.A. Weekly noted the more recent delays are the result of politicking, as new murders were discovered during an election year. Here, everything you need to know about the man who terrorized L.A. for decades – and what we're still trying to figure out.

He Doesn't Fit The Profile of a Serial Killer

Upon arrest, Franklin was described by neighbors as "friendly and quiet." He often worked on cars in his front yard while chatting with passersby – not something that a person who fit the profile of a serial killer would do. More specifically, over 80 percent of serial killers are white, between the ages of 20 and 30. Franklin was a black male who committed his first known murder at the age of 32.

He Chose Victims the Authorities Wouldn't Care About

His victims strayed from the standard profile, too: while serial murders most commonly target white women, the victims of the Grim Sleeper were all black – though he did choose prostitutes, often targets for a serial killer. Moreover, the murders began in the mid-1980s in parts of Los Angeles where the use of crack cocaine was rampant.

Several other killers were known to comb the area as well, looking for prostitutes and drug addicts who were later found murdered in alleys, parks, or trash bins and dumpsters. The killings were so rampant that the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders was formed in 1989 in protest of the LAPD's lack of policing in areas where the murders occurred. The coalition felt it was irresponsible – and racially motivated – that information about the murders and the profile were not released in order to better protect black women in South Central L.A.

Similar frustrations were aired during Bill Bratton's early 2000s reign as Police Commissioner in L.A., when he and elected officials paid no public mind to the resurgence of murder in black neighborhoods. "The killings weren't going down in Silver Lake or Westwood," wrote Christine Pelisek in her breakthrough 2008 L.A. Weekly profile of the murders. "There has been no big press conference by Bratton, who recently weighed in on Lindsay Lohan's love life. The camera-loving [Mayor Antonio] Villaraigosa recently beseeched the public to eat more nutritiously."

Even with the identity of the killer ravaging poor, black neighborhoods still unknown, the LAPD did not alert communities of possible danger, or assemble a special task force to solve the Grim Sleeper murders after two new bodies were discovered in 2002 and 2003. Although the LAPD saw a pattern in the murders of the late 1980s and early 2000s, they did not share this new discovery with the families of those killed.

An Imperfect Crime Left New Evidence and a Survivor

Enietra Washington is the only known survivor of Franklin's crimes, and the woman whose bullet wounds were matched with those in cold cases, finally adding a description of the attacker to the LAPD's little existing evidence.

In taking the stand to testify against the man who shot and raped her in 1988, Washington noted how Franklin pulled up alongside her in an orange Ford Pinto, offering her a ride. After she initially declined the offer, Franklin fired back "That's what wrong with you black women. People can't be nice to you," according to Washington. She "felt sorry for him" and ultimately accepted the ride. After a while in the car, Washington suddenly felt blood coming from her chest. She realized she'd been shot and asked Franklin why, to which he responded that she'd disrespected him. He soon pushed her from the vehicle and left her for dead, but not before raping her and taking her photo. Yet she lived, finding help and telling a story that would contribute to the capture of Franklin.

A Controversial Use of DNA Brought Him Down

Eventually, in 2007, Bratton assembled a task force to solve the murders. Ballistics evidence from the .25 caliber gun used, DNA from the crimes and Washington's description of her assailant all played a key roles in the capture of the Grim Sleeper, considered the "longest-operating serial killer west of the Mississippi." Yet despite these clues, what clinched the investigation was when Attorney General Jerry Brown allowed the controversial use of a DNA probe into California's felon database.

In early 2010, using DNA collected from the scenes of the murders, detectives linked the crimes to a relative of Franklin's whose DNA was in the system – his son Christopher, who had been arrested for felony weapons possession in 2009. District Attorney Steve Cooley has said he believes this is "the first time a familial DNA search has been used successfully" in the state.

Armed with this evidence, undercover officers finally obtained DNA samples of Franklin. Following him to a birthday party in an L.A. restaurant, an officer acting as a bus boy collected Franklin's plate, cup, and pizza crust which have enough DNA to finally convict him of murder. In court, Franklin's lawyers cited "reasonable expectation of privacy" as the reason the DNA should be thrown out, but the claim of discarded food being private was overruled.

There Might Be a Lot More Victims

Upon his arrest in 2010, Franklin's home was searched, and detectives took nearly 1,000 photos of women and teenage girls – some nude, unconscious, bleeding, some presumably dead – into evidence. After identifying the known victims, police began to wonder if there were more murders tied to the Grim Sleeper. At a press conference last spring, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters, "We certainly don’t believe we are so lucky or so good as to know all of his victims. We need the public’s help."

It's common for serial killers to take breaks in between killings, but at least in his case, a 14 year gap does not seem likely. Though not charged for his murder, police believe Franklin is responsible for the death of Thomas Steele, who was assumed to be the friend of one of Franklin's victims, as well as anywhere from 14 to 100 unsolved murders of Jane Does. Franklin maintains his innocence in all charges brought against him, so DNA and witnesses may be the only means to solve these crimes.

Investigations are ongoing, and detectives speculate as to whether Franklin was truly hiding after the botched murder of Washington in 1988. And if anyone could cover up a dead body, it was Franklin – as a sanitation worker for the city he had access to landfills, leading officials to speculate that he could have disposed of any number of bodies, undetected.

Regardless of what is to follow with the other investigations, Franklin is the last in a line of nearly 750 inmates on death row at San Quentin State Prison, where no one has been put to death since 2006. His conviction will automatically be appealed, a right afforded to anyone sentenced to death, but it's safe to assume that Franklin will live out his life in jail, and not go on to kill again.


The 'Grim Sleeper' is sentenced to death for string of murders

By Marisa Gerber and James Queally - Los Angeles Times

August 10, 2016

A man approached Laura Moore at a bus stop in the spring of 1984 and offered a warning: You shouldn’t be out here alone.

“Bad guys will pick you up,” he told her. “Let me take you where you have to go.”

Moore, then 21, agreed, reluctantly. As the man drove off, he told her to put on her seat belt. When she refused, she said, he reached under his seat, grabbed a gun and shot her six times. Wounded, she managed to escape, but turned back to study his face. That man, Moore said, was Lonnie David Franklin Jr., now better-known as the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer.

She recounted the story in court Wednesday at a hearing where Franklin was sentenced to death, capping a lengthy legal saga that centered on the gruesome killings of more than a dozen women in South L.A.

“This is not a sentence of vengeance,” Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Franklin as relatives of his victims looked on, some of them in tears. “It’s justice.”

Franklin, 63, was convicted earlier this year of killing nine women and a teenage girl from 1985 to 2007. During the penalty phase of his trial, prosecutors connected him to several additional slayings. Detectives believe he may have killed at least 25 women.

The judge read the names of the 10 victims Franklin was found guilty of killing. In each case, Kennedy told him, “You shall suffer the death penalty.”

As she spoke, some of the victims’ relatives cried, others sighed. One man repeated: “Amen, amen, amen.”

The sentence came toward the end of an emotional hearing where more than a dozen family members and friends of victims read statements, many of them repeatedly asking why Franklin chose to attack members of his own community.

“The defendant took my daughter, murdered her, put her in a plastic bag — a trash bag — like she was trash,” Laverne Peters, whose 25-year-old daughter was found in a garbage bin in 2007, told the court before Franklin was sentenced. “My hope is that he spends the rest of his glory days in his jail cell, which will become his trash bag.”

“Amen,” other family members in the audience said.

Five of the jurors who convicted Franklin attended, occasionally nodding. Before the hearing, one of the victim’s sisters thanked a juror and said, “God bless you.” The juror winked at her.

During the hearing, a woman spoke of losing her best friend, but said she still hears her voice in dreams. A victim’s uncle said he remembered how loudly she used to cry when he babysat her as a child — a reminder, he said, of how she did everything in her life passionately. At one point, the nephew of Henrietta Wright, whose body was found under a mattress in an alleyway in 1986, addressed Franklin directly, saying, “You’re a cold-hearted dude.” Franklin nodded slightly.

When Moore, the surviving victim, addressed Franklin, her body began to shake.

“Why, why, why?” she asked. “Really, why?”

Moore wasn’t listed in the criminal complaint against Franklin, but Los Angeles police Det. Daryn Dupree — the last remaining detective who worked on the task force that investigated the Grim Sleeper killings — said he is “very confident” that she is one of his victims.

Franklin sat stoically as Kennedy sentenced him — just as he had throughout the trial. But earlier in the morning, he did react to statements delivered by some of the victims’ relatives.

Mary Alexander, whose 18-year-old daughter was murdered, spoke directly to Franklin.

“I’d like for Mr. Franklin to turn around and face me,” she said.

Franklin turned his head slowly, locking eyes with Alexander.

“I’d like to know, why?” Alexander asked, gripping the lectern.

Franklin whispered something in response.

She repeated her question, louder: “Why?”

Again, he whispered. (Dupree told reporters after the hearing that he saw Franklin mutter, “I didn’t do it.”)

“I know she didn’t do anything to hurt you,” Alexander told Franklin, “I know that.”

Franklin’s face softened and he nodded.

Alexander told Franklin that she had thought a lot about forgiveness but said she was finding the concept extremely difficult.

“I’m still battling that,” Alexander said.

Franklin nodded once more and turned back toward the judge.

When another victim’s sister told Franklin that she recognized him, he got angry, shouting, “That’s a bald-faced lie.”

In imposing the sentence, Kennedy said she had struggled throughout the case to understand what motivated Franklin.

“It doesn’t matter why,” she said. “There could never be a justification for what you have done.”

The killer, one of California’s most prolific, targeted victims who were generally young, vulnerable and, at times, ignored. The attacks failed to raise alarms the way other famous serial slayings by killers such as the “Hillside Strangler” or the “Night Stalker” did.

The deaths in the mid- to late ’80s coincided with a surge in slayings linked to the crack cocaine epidemic. In addition, several other serial killers were operating in the same area in those years. Michael Hughes was convicted of killing seven women; Chester Turner of 14 women and a fetus. Both are on California's death row.

But the Grim Sleeper proved to be the most persistent. He targeted women who were drug addicts or prostitutes and often dumped their naked bodies alongside roads or in the trash. Many of the women were initially listed as Jane Does. The deaths drew little, if any, media attention.

Police kept the slayings quiet despite suspicions that a serial killer was stalking black women — a decision that led to outrage and condemnation from many who attribute Franklin's longevity as a killer to police indifference.

Authorities were able to link the slayings through ballistic and genetic evidence at the crime scenes that pointed to a single killer. But identifying the DNA proved difficult.

A break finally came in the case in 2010, when a search of state offender records turned up a partial match. The person wasn’t the suspected serial killer, but a close relative was.

Before long, investigators focused on the convict’s father, Franklin. After tailing him to a pizza joint in Buena Park during the summer of 2010, police collected a slice of partially eaten pizza. They tested it for DNA and, finally, had a match.

A search of Franklin’s home on 81st Street — not far from the South L.A. corridor where many of the victims’ bodies were found — turned up a .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Two criminalists testified at trial that it was same weapon that killed one of the victims.

Franklin’s attorney, Seymour Amster, told jurors that DNA from other men was found at some crime scenes — a sign, he said, that someone else could have played a role in the slayings.

In May, a jury convicted Franklin of 10 counts of murder. His victims, in order of death, were: Debra Jackson, 29; Henrietta Wright, 35; Barbara Ware, 23; Bernita Sparks, 25; Mary Lowe, 26; Lachrica Jefferson, 22; Alicia Alexander, 18; Princess Berthomieux,15; Valerie McCorvey, 35; and Janecia Peters, 25.

Most of the women were shot to death. Berthomieux was strangled.

Franklin was also convicted of attempted murder in connection with an attack on Enietra Washington, who survived and testified against him.

“You’re truly a piece of evil,” Washington told Franklin Wednesday. “You’re a Satan representative… You’re right up there with Manson.”

Franklin initially earned the “Grim Sleeper” nickname because a gap in the killings between 1988 and 2002 suggested he had gone dormant. But detectives believe Franklin never really “slept.”

After the initial conviction, prosecutors presented more evidence against Franklin during the penalty phase of the trial. A woman testified that Franklin, as a U.S. Army private stationed abroad, was one of three assailants who gang-raped her in Germany in 1974.

The high-stakes trial devolved at times into bitter back-and-forths between attorneys, and the discord continued Wednesday.

Before the sentencing, Amster made two last-ditch efforts to keep his client off death row. Kennedy quickly shot down a motion for a new trial based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct as well as a motion calling for a sentence of life without parole instead of death.

Hours after the sentencing, Amster released a written statement decrying the death penalty in California as a pointless waste of tax dollars.

“Considering the outcomes are often the same since the inmates will almost certainly die from causes other than execution,” Amster said in the statement, “the only significant difference is the millions of dollars wasted on a death verdict.”

California’s death penalty has been the subject of intense legal battles in recent years — there are 746 people on California’s death row, and no one has been executed in the state since 2006.


LA serial killer known as the 'Grim Sleeper' who worked as a trash collector and dumped victims' bodies in garbage bins is found guilty of 10 murders over two decades

  • Lonnie Franklin, Jr., 63, a former trash collector in LA, was found guilty of killing ten women over two decades in the city

  • He was dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' killer because of a 14-year suspected gap in killings after one victim survived

  • The victims, the youngest a 15-year-old girl, were dumped in alleyways and garbage bags and either shot or strangled

  • He often took photos of them and cops discovered a gruesome trove of 1,000 photos hidden behind a wall in his house

  • Police were accused of not working hard to solve the case since the victims were young, poor African-American women, some prostitutes

By Associated Press -

May 6, 2016

A former trash collector in Los Angeles was convicted Thursday of 10 'Grim Sleeper' serial killings that spanned two decades and targeted vulnerable young black women in the inner city.

Lonnie Franklin Jr. showed no emotion as a clerk read the ten murder verdicts in Los Angeles County Superior Court after a two-month trial in the potential death penalty case.

Franklin also was found guilty of one count of attempted murder.

Jurors were told to return May 12 for the trial's penalty phase. Franklin could receive the death penalty.

The killings from 1985 to 2007 were dubbed the work of the 'Grim Sleeper' because of an apparent 14-year gap after one woman survived a gunshot to the chest in 1988.

The crimes went unsolved for decades and community members complained that police ignored the cases because the victims were black, poor and some were prostitutes and drug users.

Much of the violence unfolded during the nation's crack cocaine epidemic when at least two other serial killers prowled the part of the city then known as South Central.

The ten victims, including a 15-year-old girl, were fatally shot or strangled and dumped in alleys and garbage bins. Most had traces of cocaine in their systems.

Franklin, 63, a onetime trash collector in the area and a garage attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department, had been hiding in plain sight, said Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.

Police eventually connected Franklin to the crimes after a task force was assigned to revisit the case that dozens of officers failed to solve in the 1980s.

The sister of the youngest victim of the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer says she was elated when she heard guilty verdicts in a Los Angeles courtroom.

Lonnie Franklin Jr. faces a possible death sentence after being convicted Thursday of 10 counts of first-degree murder in slayings spanning two decades.

Samara Herard, the sister of 15-year-old victim Princess Berthomieux, says she had waited so long for justice she almost didn't think it was going to happen.

Herard says her sister had a heart of gold and deserved to live a full life. She says she wasn't surprised Franklin showed no emotion during the verdict because he didn't value life.

The DNA of Franklin's son, collected after a felony arrest, had similarities to genetic material left on the bodies of many of the victims.

An officer posing as a busboy later retrieved pizza crusts and napkins with Franklin's DNA while he was celebrating at a birthday party.

It proved a match with material found on the breasts and clothing of many of the women and on the zip tie of a trash bag that held the curled-up body of the final victim, Janecia Peters.

She was found January 1, 2007, by someone who was rifling through a trash bin and noticed her red fingernails through a hole in the bag.

Silverman described the victims as sisters, daughters and mothers who suffered frailties but had hopes and dreams.

She projected photos of the ten women from happier days, many smiling from head shots that captured their youth and the hairstyles of the times.

The images were in stark contrast to gory crime scene and autopsy photos also displayed of half-naked bodies sprawled among garbage - images that made family members wince, weep and recoil in the gallery.

Defense lawyer Seymour Amster challenged what he called 'inferior science' of DNA and ballistics evidence. During his closing argument, he introduced a new theory: a 'mystery man with a mystery gun and mystery DNA' was responsible for all the killings.

He said the man was a 'nephew' of Franklin's who was jealous because his uncle had better luck with romance, though he offered no supporting evidence or any name.

Amster based the theory on the testimony of the sole known survivor, Enietra Washington, who was shot in the chest and crawled to safety after being shoved from an orange Ford Pinto in November 1988.

She testified that her assailant said he had to stop at his 'uncle's house' for money before the attack.

Washington later led detectives to Franklin's street.

Silverman scoffed at the 'mystery nephew' notion, saying it was as rational an explanation as a space ship killing the women.

She said the killer had just lied to Washington about an uncle and was probably stopping at his house to get his gun.

The attack fit the pattern of seven previous killings and showed how the killer carried out the crimes, Silverman said.

The bullet removed from Washington's chest matched ammo retrieved from the previous victims and she provided a detail that would later prove telling.

Washington described how her attacker took a Polaroid photo of her as she was losing consciousness.

Police searching Franklin's house more than two decades later found a snapshot of the wounded Washington slouched over in a car with a breast exposed. It was hidden behind a wall in his garage.

Franklin had over 1,000 photos of women hidden in his house, and hundreds of hours of videotape of women. At least 35 of those women remain unidentified.

Most of the pictures appeared to be taken in or around Franklin's motor home, car, and his backyard garage, with some appearing to be asleep, unconscious, or even dead, according to LA Weekly.


Grim Sleeper serial killer trial begins, years after slayings terrorized South L.A.

Corina Knoll and Stephen Ceasar - Los Angeles Times

February 16, 2006

Debra Jackson, a 29-year-old waitress, was discovered shot in the chest three decades ago in an alley. The body of Janecia Peters, 25, was found in a dumpster in 2007. There were at least eight other women. And one who got away.

They were young and black and leading troubled lives. Most were killed along a corridor in the Manchester Square neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Each was initially labeled Jane Doe.

Police kept the cases quiet — a decision that later led to outrage over what seemed a disregard for the victims as well as the community’s safety. The slayings were eventually linked to a serial killer, dubbed the Grim Sleeper.

When affable Lonnie Franklin Jr., a former Los Angeles police garage attendant and city garbage collector, was arrested in the case in 2010, it shocked residents but signaled a key moment in the search for justice for a region that has often felt marginalized when it comes to solving homicides.

On Tuesday, as Franklin's capital murder trial began in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, Deputy Dist. Atty. Beth Silverman told jurors the victims were especially vulnerable to someone who knew the South Los Angeles streets and alleys by heart. At a time when crack cocaine was devastating the community, Franklin had preyed on susceptible women, some of whom worked as prostitutes, luring them into the isolation of his car with the promise of drugs, she said. All but one tested positive for narcotics. Their bodies were later “dumped like trash.”

As she spoke, gruesome photos were projected onto a screen: Valerie McCorvey's half-naked body left in the street, ligature marks etched into the 35-year-old’s neck; Peters folded into a fetal position, her head and hands seen through a hole in a black garbage bag; Alicia Alexander, 18, found nude and underneath a mattress in an alley.

The images elicited gasps and whimpers from courtroom spectators. A woman covered her eyes and collapsed into the man beside her, who buried his head in his hands and wept.

Franklin, 63, wearing a blue button-down shirt and tie, stared ahead, never turning to look at the photos.

Silverman said jurors at one point will view video of Franklin’s interrogation by police. “Pay close attention to his body language and his conduct during that interview process as he laughs and makes light of the photos of the dead women lying on the table in front of him,” she said.

A search of Franklin’s home resulted in 800 items of evidence, including 10 guns, one of which matched the bullet that struck Peters in the spine, Silverman said. A photo of Peters, her breast exposed, was found in a refrigerator in Franklin’s garage.

The defense declined to give an opening statement, but will have the opportunity to do so after the prosecution rests.

Former LAPD Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, the first witness called, said it was Peters’ 2007 slaying that prompted the search for a serial killer after the attacker’s DNA matched two earlier cases. Then-LAPD Chief William J. Bratton ordered up a task force to search for related killings. “We started connecting the dots,” Kilcoyne said.

The controversial DNA evidence that pointed to Franklin will probably be argued at length between a prosecutor and a defense attorney whose interactions at earlier hearings have been contentious. Hundreds of potential jurors — warned that the case may take about three months and possibly feature more than 400 witnesses — were asked their thoughts on DNA analysis and interpretation in a 31-page questionnaire.

In 2008, officials collected DNA data from state prisoners, hoping for a hit on the Grim Sleeper. Nothing turned up. A year later, then-state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown approved a new technique that allowed officials to check whether a crime suspect's DNA partially matches anyone in the state's offender DNA database.

The “familial search” for the Grim Sleeper came up with a name: Christopher Franklin. Arrested in 2008 and charged with firearm and drug offenses, he had been required to submit his DNA. His father was Lonnie Franklin.

Police focused on the elder Franklin, tailing him to ensure he was a DNA match. A detective posing as a busboy at a restaurant collected a discarded pizza crust, fork, napkin, drinking glass and cake crumbs.

Last year, Franklin’s attorneys said that an expert hired by their team had determined that DNA collected from two crime scenes linked to their client matched convicted serial killer Chester Turner. The judge ruled that their expert wasn't qualified to testify. In court papers, the defense also listed more than a dozen other men as potential sources of DNA found at crime scenes tied to Franklin.

Turner — convicted of killing 14 women, many of whom were found in an area straddling Figueroa Street — was among a handful of serial killers in Los Angeles County targeting women during the 1980s and 1990s at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic. Ivan J. Hill, known as the 60 Freeway Slayer, strangled women in the San Gabriel Valley. Michael Hughes targeted women who had drug problems, dumping three of them in a commercial area of Culver City. Samuel Little choked his victims, leaving their bodies in alleyways or abandoned garages.

The Grim Sleeper, however, has been called the most enduring serial killer of the group, continuing to kill for decades. It’s a distinction that angers many who attribute the murders to an indifference toward the victims.

“It’s been wrenching for the families, demoralizing for the community,” said Margaret Prescod, an activist who believes the victims’ race was a factor in the cases going unsolved. She has pushed for more than two decades for authorities to be more aggressive.

“Everybody remembers the young blond who was killed in Aruba, and rightly they should,” Prescod said. “But meanwhile you have all these women in South L.A. and they didn’t get the same attention. They’re considered the riffraff of society.” She added that Enietra Washington, the lone survivor who escaped as a 30-year-old in 1988, didn’t know for two decades that she had encountered a possible serial killer.

Prescod, who acts as an advocate for victims’ families, also said the women’s line of work and drug problems should be de-emphasized. “That doesn’t mean they should be killed, that their lives should be devalued.”

Franklin faces 10 counts of murder and one of attempted murder, but investigators suspect that he is responsible for additional deaths. LAPD detectives had continued to search for victims after Franklin's arrest, publicly releasing photos of unidentified women found inside his home.

After reviewing hundreds of unsolved homicides and missing person reports, they announced in 2011 that they had traced six more killings to Franklin. By then, the complicated case was moving sluggishly toward trial. In a strategic decision, police decided against seeking additional charges out of fear it would lead to even more delays.

For those who have sat through numerous court proceedings over the last five years, the first day of testimony was about progress and pain.

After court ended, Porter Alexander walked slowly down the hallway, struggling to speak about the daughter found dead at 18 and the grisly images that had been displayed.

“To sit there and see all the trauma that those young girls endured,” he said. “I don’t have the words.”


Lonnie Franklin Jr., the alleged Grim Sleeper, is suspected in the deaths of eight more women

The South Los Angeles man is awaiting trial in the slayings of 10 during more than two decades. The search for more victims continues.

April 06, 2011

By Joel Rubin - Los Angeles Times

Last summer, when they caught the man believed to be the Grim Sleeper serial killer, Los Angeles police detectives assigned to the case knew their job was far from over.

They had tied Lonnie Franklin Jr. to the killings of 10 women in South L.A. during a period that spanned more than two decades. More work, however, was needed to answer the troubling questions that remained: Had he killed others? If so, how many? Who were they?

On Tuesday, after months spent combing through dozens of unsolved homicide files, countless missing person reports and eerie photographs of women found at Franklin's residence, police went public with suspicions that eight additional women may have been his victims.

Franklin, 58, was indicted by a grand jury last month in the 10 slayings to which police say he is linked through a combination of DNA and ballistics evidence. Franklin has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody awaiting trial.

He is accused of killing seven women between 1985 and 1988 and three between 2002 and 2007, earning him the Grim Sleeper moniker from the L.A. Weekly newspaper because of what appeared to be a period of inactivity separating the killings. Throughout the investigation, however, police have been openly skeptical of the idea that the slayings stopped during the 13-year gap.

It was far more likely, they said, that Franklin killed others who were not linked to him or whose bodies were never recovered. He targeted women on the margins of society — many of them drug addicts and occasional prostitutes, police allege. Moreover, the bodies of several of his suspected victims were found in trash bins and Franklin worked as a garbage collector in the 1980s, raising the prospect that bodies of other victims could have been dumped in landfills and never found, police have said.

Two of eight women discussed Tuesday disappeared during the 13-year period. A third went missing in 1982, before the first of the 10 known killings.

No physical evidence implicates Franklin in any wrongdoing related to the eight additional women. By going public, police said, they are hoping people with information about the women will come forward either to eliminate them as potential victims or help confirm the detectives' fears.

Of the eight women discussed Tuesday, three are of particular concern: Ayellah Marshall, a high school senior when she disappeared in 2005; Rolenia Morris, a 25-year-old who also was reported missing in 2005; and an unidentified woman whose photograph was found at Franklin's residence when he was arrested.

Police discovered Marshall's Hawthorne High School identification card, Morris' Nevada driver license and photos of Morris in "compromising positions" and a photo of the unidentified woman in a refrigerator in Franklin's garage, said LAPD Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who heads the investigation into Franklin.

In the refrigerator police also found photos of Janecia Peters, one of the 10 women Franklin is accused of killing, as well as a photograph of another person, but that one was too dark to be of any use in the investigation.

Kilcoyne said investigators fear the cache of items and images found in the refrigerator was of special significance to Franklin, because he kept it separate from photographs of scores of other women found elsewhere in his residence, which he shared with his wife. Police have said Franklin's wife has refused to talk to them.

"We hope for the best," he said. "We wish nothing more than to find them alive and well, but the circumstances are gloomy."

In addition, the families of four other missing women approached police after Franklin's arrest, concerned about the possibility that they were victims, Kilcoyne said. Those women, according to Kilcoyne, lived lifestyles similar to those of the confirmed victims, including drug use and occasional prostitution. They also were known to frequent Franklin's South L.A. neighborhood at the time they disappeared, Kilcoyne said.

Detectives believe Inez Warren, who was killed in 1988, may have been a victim of Franklin because her killing has similarities to the others Franklin is accused of committing. Like many of Franklin's suspected victims, Warren was known to use drugs and turn occasionally to prostitution, and her body was found in an alley off Western Avenue with a single gunshot wound to the chest from a small-caliber handgun.

Detectives had previously suspected Franklin in another unsolved murder but have since dismissed the possibility, Kilcoyne said.

Also on Tuesday, Kilcoyne once again displayed 55 still photos of women that were found at Franklin's home. They were part of a larger collection of photos that police released to the public in hopes of identifying the women and tracking them down or adding them to the list of possible victims. The 55 women remain unidentified.


Grim Sleeper suspect's photos of women released

LAPD seeks the public's aid in identifying about 160 women whose images were found on the property of accused serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr.

December 17, 2010

By Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin - Los Angeles Times

In July, when Los Angeles police arrested Lonnie Franklin Jr., the suspected Grim Sleeper serial killer, they scoured his South L.A. property for evidence. Among the unsettling discoveries was a cache of about 1,000 photographs and hundreds of hours of home video showing women, many of them partly or fully nude and striking sexually graphic poses.

It was an eerie find in a case involving a man who is thought to have sexually assaulted his victims before or after killing them. Police also cannot account for large swaths of Franklin's life, including a 14-year gap between his alleged killings, during which investigators suspect he killed other women.

Detectives set out to identify the women on the film and tape, knowing that some could be additional homicide victims. There were several photos of each woman, and police whittled the collection down to 180 images. They believe that about 20 of the pictures show women also captured in the other photographs.

For months they slogged through images in missing persons databases and coroner records, hoping for lucky matches. The work proved fruitless. With the detectives no closer to identifying the women, police turned to the public Thursday for help. At a news conference, they released cropped versions of the images that show the women's faces, hoping the women themselves, their family members or acquaintances will recognize them and contact investigators.

Police said they were sensitive to the harm and embarrassment the release of the photographs could cause women who never told their family or friends about the encounters. In the end, however, they decided that the need to identify the women outweighed the potential harm. For similar reasons, the Times has decided to publish the photographs on its website.

"As a police department, we have an obligation to account for the welfare of these women," said veteran homicide Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who headed the task force that hunted Franklin. "We're trying to fill in the life and times of Lonnie Franklin over the past 30 years, and talking to people is a big part of that. These are obviously women who had a conversation or two with this guy.... I won't be surprised if we find some of them were his victims."

Police have employed the strategy before in other high-profile serial cases. Most notably, investigators went public earlier this year with a trove of photographs of women and girls taken by killer Rodney James Alcala. But with Alcala's and some other similar cases, police waited until after the killers had been convicted before releasing images.

LAPD officials decided they could not wait. With little known about Franklin, they hope the women will be able to provide answers that have so far eluded detectives.

"The question of the day is, 'Why?' " Kilcoyne said. 'What was he doing to get these women to do this sort of stuff on film? Typically, people use drugs as leverage, but we didn't find one iota of evidence that he was into that."

Franklin is accused of murdering 10 women and attempting to kill another who survived. Authorities say they have linked Franklin, 58, to the killings through a combination of DNA and ballistics evidence. The former city sanitation worker and LAPD garage attendant has pleaded not guilty and remains in custody.

Louisa Pensanti, Franklin's attorney, expressed concern about the release of the photographs, saying prosecutors have not yet provided her with copies of the images as part of the legal proceedings. She added that the move will make it difficult for Franklin to receive a fair trial. "I think it's proper that they try to find out everything they need to, but to do it now, and in this way, will taint the jury pool," Pensanti said.

The discovery of the photographs came at the end of a long, frustrating search for the killer, whom the LA Weekly dubbed the Grim Sleeper for the long stretch between killings.

The killer's first known slaying occurred in the summer of 1985, when a 29-year-old woman was shot three times in the chest and her body left in an alley near West Gage Avenue, police said. Three years passed before ballistics tests alerted police that the same handgun used to kill the first woman had been used in seven other killings.

The case went cold until 2004, when DNA testing linked the earlier killings to genetic evidence found on the body of a 14-year-old girl found strangled and beaten in an Inglewood alley in March 2002 and a woman killed in 2003. Then, in January 2007, DNA tests linked the killer to another woman's slaying.

The killer's DNA profile did not match any of the millions taken from convicted felons and arrestees that are kept in law enforcement databases. Kilcoyne and half a dozen detectives painstakingly tried to track down prostitutes, drug dealers and pimps who were active in the area during both periods of killings, hoping someone would be able to lead them to the killer. Several tantalizing leads went nowhere.

The break came this summer when a new, controversial form of DNA matching that searched for potential relatives of the killer led detectives to Franklin's son. Undercover officers trailed Franklin for days until they surreptitiously collected a DNA sample that, police said, tied Franklin to the killings.

Authorities combed his house, as well as a garage, vehicles and a trailer in the backyard, finding most of the photos in the trailer. The people in the images appear to span a wide range of ages, from teenagers to women in their 40s or older. Many of the subjects are smiling. In some, however, the women appear dead, heavily drugged or asleep.

Steve Katz, co-executive producer of the TV show "America's Most Wanted," said Thursday that police have long been releasing photos of possible victims of crimes. The reach of the Internet, he said, has made the strategy more effective. "In days gone by, it would be a local story, maybe picked up by the national networks," Katz said. "It was difficult to get those pictures out in front of a wide audience."

Last week, police in Albuquerque, N.M., released photographs of seven unidentified women thought to be connected to a serial killer who is linked to the murders of 11 other women.

In 2008, Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide investigators released pictures of 47 women. The photos had been taken in the 1980s by William Bradford, a professional photographer, who was convicted in 1987 of the slayings of two models. In the two weeks after the release of the images, sheriff's officials fielded more than 2,000 calls from around the country and Europe. Most of the women or family members confirmed the subjects in the photos were alive, although investigators could not account for about a dozen of them and believe strongly they may have been murdered.

"We'll never know," said retired Sheriff's Capt. Ray Peavy.

In the Alcala case, detectives seized hundreds of images from a storage locker the convicted killer rented, but waited three decades to release them as prosecutors struggled through several trials for a conviction.

Detectives have already fielded a wave of phone calls in the Grim Sleeper case. After Franklin's arrest, family and friends of about 75 missing women called, wanting to know if he could have been responsible for their disappearances.

Detectives were able to dismiss Franklin as a suspect in most of those cases but are pursuing the possibility that he's tied to a handful of them, Kilcoyne said.


DNA leads to arrest in Grim Sleeper killings

LAPD task force traces evidence from a slice of pizza to Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, whom neighbors call 'a very good man.'

July 08, 2010

By Maura Dolan, Joel Rubin and Mitchell Landsberg - Los Angeles Times

For well over two decades, the killer had eluded police. His victims, most of them prostitutes in South Los Angeles, had lived on the margins of society, and their deaths left few useful clues aside from the DNA of the man who had sexually assaulted them in the moments before their deaths.

A sweep of state prisons in 2008 failed to come up with the killer or anyone related to him. Then, last Wednesday, startling news came to the LAPD: A second "familial search" of prisons had come up with a convict whose DNA indicated that he was a close relative of the serial killer suspected of killing at least 10 women.

Working through the Fourth of July weekend, LAPD detectives drew up a family tree of the prisoner, then began analyzing all the men on it. Were they the right age? Did they live near the murder scenes? Was there anything in their background to explain why the serial killer had apparently stopped killing for 13 years, then resumed in 2003?

From that painstaking process, according to LAPD officials who requested anonymity, the prisoner's father emerged as a likely suspect. An undercover team was sent to follow him; they retrieved a discarded slice of pizza to analyze his DNA. On Tuesday, they confirmed that it matched the DNA of the suspect in the killings.

On Wednesday, police went to the South L.A. home of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, and arrested him without incident, authorities said.

Franklin is charged with 10 counts of murder in the deaths of Debra Jackson, 29, Henrietta Wright, 35, Barbara Ware, 23, Bernita Sparks, age unknown, Mary Lowe, 26, Lachrica Jefferson, 22, Alicia Alexander, 18, Princess Berthomieux, 15, Valerie McCorvey, 35, and Janecia Peters, 25. He is also charged with one count of attempted murder, apparently stemming from the assault on the only victim who is known to have survived.

The killer was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" by the L.A. Weekly.

As word of the arrest spread across South Los Angeles, neighbors and relatives of the victims began to gather near Franklin's home, and a contradictory picture of the suspect emerged.

Franklin was a garage attendant at the LAPD's 77th Street Division station in the early 1980s, according to city and police sources. He worked as a garbage collector for the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation during the years that the first eight killings occurred, beginning with the death of Jackson on Aug. 10, 1985, and ending with the death of Alexander on Sept. 11, 1988.

Franklin has at least four prior convictions, two for felony possession of stolen property in 1993 and 2003, one for misdemeanor battery in 1997, and one for misdemeanor assault in 1999, according to court records. He was sentenced to a year in jail for the first stolen property charge and 270 days for the second one.

On a tidy street of single-family homes in South Los Angeles where Franklin lived for decades, residents described him as a kind and compassionate neighbor who volunteered in the community, helped elderly residents of the block and fixed their cars for free.

"A very good man. His daughter just graduated from college, I believe," said Eric Robinson, 47. "He's a good mechanic, worked out of his garage. I've been here since 1976 — that's how long I've known him. I'm not pretty shocked, I'm all the way shocked."

Dante Combs, 27, said he visited Franklin last week to ask him to install a timing belt on his car.

"You needed your car fixed, he'd do it dirt cheap. He'd help you out however he could, cut your grass, put up your Christmas lights," Combs said as he stood behind the yellow crime tape that sealed off Franklin's block. "He helped all the elderly on the block."

In the afternoon, families of Grim Sleeper victims began arriving on the block. Many of the killings occurred not far from Franklin's home, and the family members said they needed to come to his home to bear witness.

"She was found on Western and 92nd, in a dumpster," Diane McQueen, 55, said as she stood behind the crime tape, clutching a funeral program for her niece Peters, the last victim attributed to the serial killer. "It hit my family real hard. I had lost hope this day would come. I feel a lot of joy it did at last."

"I wanted to see what his house looked like, what his neighborhood looked like, the place where he grew up," Donnell Alexander, 47, brother of victim Alicia "Monique" Alexander. " It was curiosity. What I found was that it wasn't far from where I grew up. His neighbors looked like the people I see every day. They weren't aliens. And he wasn't hiding in the community."

In announcing the arrests, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley praised the LAPD and the California Department of Justice, which carried out the DNA "familial search" after Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown approved the use of the relatively new tool.

Only California and Colorado have formal policies that permit the use of software to look for DNA profiles of possible relatives of a suspect.

After years of futility, the LAPD stepped up its investigation of the serial killing case in 2007 when Police Chief Charlie Beck's predecessor, William J. Bratton, formed a task force to work exclusively on the case.

With so many years having passed since the killer first struck and the police only belatedly linking the long string of victims to a single killer, the team of detectives was left at a severe disadvantage. Investigators pored over old case files in search of important clues that might have been overlooked. They tried to re-create the seedy, violent world of South Los Angeles in the 1980s that the early victims and killer had inhabited.

One after another, leads that at first seemed to hold promise dissolved frustratingly into dead ends. But with public pressure mounting, the detectives tried whatever approaches they could, however seemingly farfetched.

They asked undercover vice officers to collect DNA samples from middle-aged African Americans arrested for soliciting prostitutes, hoping to identify a suspect.

The entire department was put on notice that members of the task force were to be summoned to homicide scenes that resembled the work of the serial killer in any way.

Most tantalizing was a 911 phone call an LAPD operator received in 1987. The caller said he had seen a man dump Ware's body out of the back of a van into an alley and gave the vehicle's license plate before hanging up. On the night of the call, the van was traced back to a now-defunct church in the area, but detectives at the time failed to pursue the lead aggressively, much to the dismay of Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who headed the task force.

Kilcoyne and his team tried, 20 years later, to breathe life back into the investigation of the van. Detectives tracked down about 10 men associated with the church and took DNA samples to test against the suspected killers.

A visit to the retired deacon at his home outside of Macon, Ga., turned up nothing, as did a visit to a Florida prison.

The hunt epitomized the agonizing slog the detectives faced day in and day out.

"We never gave up on this investigation, not for one minute," Beck said in a statement issued by his office. "Our detectives worked relentlessly, following up on every lead they received. Their hard work has resulted in today's apprehension of this vicious killer. I am hopeful that the hard work of these men and women will bring some closure to the families who tragically lost loved ones during the last 23 years."

Times staff writers Hector Becerra, Andrew Blankstein, Robert Faturechi , Jack Leonard, Ann M. Simmons and Richard Winton contributed to this report.


Police on the hunt for serial killer

A task force looking into the deaths of 11 in South L.A. has linked one man to the crimes using DNA evidence.

August 29, 2008

Joel Rubin and Richard Winton - Los Angeles Times

An elusive serial killer, linked to 10 slayings in South Los Angeles and Inglewood over nearly two decades, resurfaced early last year to kill again, Los Angeles police officials said.

Long stretches of time between known killings and a disjointed, often dormant investigation that spanned different generations of detectives left police unclear for years that a single man was behind the slayings. The latest slaying was tied conclusively to the others by DNA analysis in May 2007.

"The day those tests came in, we realized we had a serial killer on our hands who has been active for 23 years," said LAPD Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who heads a task force of seven detectives charged with solving the killings.

Except for one black man, the killer has targeted young black women. He sexually abused the women, detectives said, and left almost all of their bodies in a corridor along Western Avenue in South Los Angeles, often in alleys. Detectives suspect that most of the women were working as prostitutes at the time they were killed.

Kilcoyne and his team have been working quietly, trying to breathe life into the investigation without tipping off the killer. They have retraced cold leads and are collaborating with state officials on an exhaustive search of prison records. Detectives have begun examining nearly three dozen other cases that bear similarities to serial killers' slayings. The latest killing was reported this week by the LA Weekly.

For more than two decades before that, however, the killer slipped on and off the LAPD's radar.

The first known slaying occurred in the summer of 1985, when 29-year-old Debra Jackson was shot three times in the chest, police said. Her body was left in an alley near West Gage Avenue. It was a particularly dark period for the city, when widespread cocaine use, rampant crime and vicious killings were rife in South L.A. Three years passed before police realized that something larger was occurring, when ballistics tests showed that the same handgun used to kill Jackson had been used in seven other killings.

Detectives handling the investigation were stymied. In late 1988, the killer shot a woman in the chest with the same gun, sexually assaulted her and "left her for dead," Kilcoyne said. She survived, giving police their first, albeit vague, description of the man as an African American in his mid-30s. She also described his car -- an orange Ford Pinto. The new information led detectives to pull registration records on every Pinto in Los Angeles County, Kilcoyne said, but the search led nowhere.

Then the trail went cold. For about 13 years, no new deaths were linked to the killer.

"Everything dried up. They ran out of clues, they got on to other things," Kilcoyne said of the detectives working the case. The cases "got moved further and further back on the shelf."

The killer had been all but forgotten until a few years ago, when recently developed DNA analysis technology made it clear he was still at large and still killing. In 2001, LAPD detectives under the direction of Police Chief Bernard C. Parks began delving into the thousands of unsolved cases that had built up over the years.

In 2004, Det. Cliff Shepard was poring over old murder cases from South L.A. and found a preserved DNA sample that was taken from the body of one of the killer's earlier victims. Analysis of the DNA showed that it showed conclusive similarities to samples found on the body of a 35-year-old woman killed in 2003 and on 14-year-old Princess Berthomieux, who was found strangled and beaten in an Inglewood alley in March 2002.

"All of a sudden we had two more," Kilcoyne said.

But, again, the case faded with detectives no closer to finding the killer. And again he seemed to disappear with no more killings tied to him.

In 2006, an Inglewood detective made headlines when he traveled to a Fresno prison to get a DNA sample from a 65-year-old white inmate who had made incriminating statements about killing prostitutes in L.A. to law enforcement officials. But tests showed he was not the killer.

Then, on the first day of 2007, a homeless man found the body of Janecia Peters, 25, on South Western Avenue. She had been shot and covered with a garbage bag. When DNA tests linked her killer to the earlier slayings, Police Chief William J. Bratton ordered Kilcoyne to launch the task force.

Investigator checked the killer's DNA against a federal DNA database of known criminals but found no matches.

One popular theory among detectives, Kilcoyne said, was that the killer was in prison during the two distinct periods when no killings were connected to him. Following that lead, investigators at the California Department of Corrections have been working with the LAPD task force to sort through a list of about 50,000 inmates from Los Angeles County who were convicted of violent crimes during one of those periods and do not have DNA samples on record. The two agencies are filtering the lists in search of men who were in prison during both periods of the killer's apparent inactivity.

But Kilcoyne said the killer may have just avoided detection and committed crimes that have not been connected to him. "We cannot be so arrogant to think that everything this guy has ever done came with an LAPD crime report attached to it," he said.

The task force has identified 33 old LAPD cases that have similarities to the killings and have begun the painstaking process of reviewing them. Task force members also automatically receive alerts when other LAPD detectives or uniformed cops report a homicide involving females found outdoors. They have visited more than 15 crime scenes, but none have had the marks of the suspect they are looking for.

One promising route the LAPD has not yet been able to try is comparing the serial killer's DNA with samples in the criminal database in search of one of his close relatives. The "familial searches" can be done, but only with the permission of Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.

The technique is controversial, with critics calling it an invasion of privacy. A spokesperson for Brown declined to comment on whether, or when, Brown would approve a familial search on this case. LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, meanwhile, said the department "would love to pursue it if it becomes available."

Unsolved slayings

Detectives say 11 killings that occurred mostly in South Los Angeles are tied to the same assailant:

Aug. 10, 1985 - Debra Jackson, 29

Aug. 12, 1986 - Henrietta Wright, 35

Aug. 14, 1986 - Thomas Steele, 36

Jan. 10, 1987 - Barbara Ware, 23

April 15, 1987 - Bernita Sparks

Nov. 1, 1987 - Mary Lowe, 26

Jan. 30, 1988 - Lachrica Jefferson, 22

Sept. 11, 1988 - Alicia "Monique" Alexander, 18

March 19, 2002 - Princess Berthomieux, 14

July 11, 2003 - Valerie McCorvey, 35

Jan. 1, 2007 - Janecia Peters, 25

Source: LAPD



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