LAPD mug shot 1998
Lonnie David Franklin Jr.
August 30, 1952
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||March 28, 2020 (aged 67)|
San Quentin, California, U.S.
|Other names||Grim Sleeper|
25 Auto Killer
|Victims||10-25+ victims, 1 survivor (known)|
Span of crimes
|1985–2007 (known murders)|
|July 7, 2010|
Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. (August 30, 1952 – March 28, 2020), better known by the nickname Grim Sleeper, was an American serial killer who was responsible for at least ten murders and one attempted murder in Los Angeles, California. He was also convicted for rape and sexual violence. Franklin earned his nickname when 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 penalty, and on August 10, 2016, the Los Angeles Superior Court sentenced him to death for each of the ten victims named in the verdict. On March 28, 2020, he was found unresponsive in his cell at San Quentin State Prison and pronounced dead.
Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was born on August 30, 1952. He grew up in South Central Los Angeles, California. He married and had two children. He was given a dishonorable discharge from the United States Army on July 24, 1975, after having been released from prison for his conviction of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl in Stuttgart, West Germany.
Franklin and two other servicemen stationed in Stuttgart stopped to ask directions from the teen then offered her a ride home. When she accepted, they put a knife to her throat, drove her to a field and repeatedly raped her. She was able to feign interest in Franklin and asked for his phone number, by which police identified him.
In the 1980s, the LAPD marked the deaths of several women in South Los Angeles with the identification “NHI”, meaning "no humans involved", which was used for cases involving chronic drug users and prostitutes. Margaret Prescod formed the "Black Women Count" movement with community members to pressure the LAPD into acknowledging the deaths as serial killings and forming a task force in response. The coalition launched a media campaign and set a monetary reward aiming to capture the killer. The joint LAPD-Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigation determined that the crimes were committed by a single person labeled the "Southside Slayer". Their results were announced to the public on September 23, 1985.
According to investigators, evidence was found suggesting that several serial killers were murdering women in South Los Angeles. Louis Craine committed at least two of the "Southside Slayer" murders, and Michael Hughes, Daniel Lee Siebert, Chester Turner, and Ivan Hill committed at least one each. A separate series of killings commenced with the murder of Debra Jackson and a different modus operandi involving a firearm. These became known, misleadingly, as the "Strawberry Murders." Sheriff's Detective Rickey Ross was wrongfully arrested due to a ballistics error. Two decades later, the perpetrator of these crimes was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" due to the long period of apparent inactivity between murders.
In May 2007, the slaying of Janecia Peters, 25, was linked through DNA analysis to at least eleven unsolved murders in Los Angeles, the first of which occurred in 1985. That same year, in secrecy, the LAPD formed the "800 Task Force," composed of six detectives and overseen by the Robbery-Homicide Unit. After a four-month investigation, LA Weekly investigative reporter Christine Pelisek broke the news of the task force's existence, the link between Peters' killing and the earlier murders, and the silence of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton regarding the killer's existence. Villaraigosa and Bratton neither issued a press release nor warned the community. In some cases, LA Weekly was the first to inform the families that their daughters had long been confirmed as victims of a serial killer.
In early September 2008, Los Angeles officials announced that they were offering a $500,000 reward to help catch the killer. On November 1, the case was featured on the Fox program America's Most Wanted. On February 25, 2009, Bratton addressed the press for the first time regarding the case, at which time the police formally gave the killer the "Grim Sleeper" nickname chosen by LA Weekly. Bratton also released a 9-1-1 call from the 1980s in which a man reported seeing a body being dumped by Franklin, giving a detailed description and license plate number of a van connected with the now-closed Cosmopolitan Church.
In March 2009, Pelisek conducted an extensive interview with Enietra Washington, the sole survivor of Franklin's attacks. Washington 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 the interior and exterior of his vehicle.
On July 7, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that an arrest had been made. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley identified the suspect as 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a mechanic who worked between 1981 and 1988 for the City of Los Angeles in the sanitation department and briefly for the LAPD. Franklin was identified for arrest, at least in part, on familial DNA analysis.
Police had found no exact match between DNA found at the crime scenes and any of the profiles in California's DNA profile database, so they searched the database for stored profiles that demonstrated sufficient similarity to allow police to infer a familial relationship. They found similar DNA belonging to Franklin's son, Christopher, who had been convicted of a felony weapons charge in 2008. Christopher was too young to have committed the murders, but the familial DNA match led investigators to look at his father, Lonnie, as the likely perpetrator. According to Cooley, detectives then used a piece of discarded pizza with Franklin's DNA to make the link.
One undercover police officer pretended to be a waiter at a restaurant where Franklin ate, collecting 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 the victims established a DNA match linking Franklin to the deaths.
Law enforcement missed an opportunity to catch Franklin because his DNA was not previously collected. In 2003, Franklin was convicted of a felony and was serving three years of supervised probation. In 2004, voters passed Proposition 69, which requires that DNA must be collected from all felons and everyone arrested on some specified charges. It also requires the expansion of the DNA database. Authorities collected and sorted through thousands of DNA samples. While he was on probation, Franklin's DNA was supposed to be entered in the system but was not as probation officers did not collect samples from people who were on unsupervised probation between November 2004 and August 2005. The probation department did not have the resources to collect samples until August 2005.
On December 16, 2010, the LAPD released 180 photos of women, found in Franklin's home 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 Police Chief Charlie Beck.
In all, investigators found over 1,000 photos and several hundred hours of video in his home. The images show mainly black 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, dating back 30 years. The photos were released to the public in an effort to identify the women.
On November 3, 2011, Reuters reported that the police were considering 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.
Franklin was charged with ten murders and one attempted murder. He was held without bail until he received his death sentence. He is not charged in the death of an eleventh suspected victim, a black man, a crime for which DNA evidence was not found. On May 5, 2016, after nearly three months of trial and a day and a half of jury deliberation, Franklin was convicted of ten counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. On June 6, 2016, a Los Angeles County jury sentenced Franklin to death.
The known killings began in 1985 in South Los Angeles. The "Grim Sleeper" apparently took a 14-year hiatus after his last known crime in 1988 and the murders then resumed in 2002 (leading to the epithet by which he is known), but this history may be only an accident of the evidence collected. The last confirmed slaying was in January 2007. All of his victims were found outdoors, often in alleys a short distance from downtown Los Angeles.
All but one of his victims were black women. One of his suspected victims was a black man. Many of his victims were prostitutes. One witness recalls that Franklin frequently brought prostitutes into his home. He shot all of his victims with a .25 caliber gun. Franklin took many photographs of nude women and kept the records in his garage.
|1||Debra Ronette Jackson||F||29||August 10, 1985||Vermont-Slauson, Los Angeles|
|2||Henrietta Wright||F||34||August 12, 1986||Hyde Park, Los Angeles|
|3||Thomas Sylvester Steele ‡||M||36||August 14, 1986||Harvard Park, Los Angeles|
|4||Barbara Bethune Ware||F||23||January 10, 1987||Central-Alameda, Los Angeles|
|5||Bernita Rochelle Sparks||F||26||April 15, 1987||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
|6||Mary Katherine Lowe||F||26||November 1, 1987||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
|7||Lachrica Denise Jefferson||F||22||January 30, 1988||Westmont, Los Angeles County|
|8||Alicia Monique Alexander||F||18||September 11, 1988||Vermont Square, Los Angeles|
|9||Enietra Margette Washington‡‡||F||30||Survived||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
|10||Princess Cheyanne Berthomieux||F||15||March 19, 2002||Inglewood, California|
|11||Valerie Louise McCorvey||F||35||July 11, 2003||Westmont, Los Angeles County|
|12||Janecia Lavette Peters||F||25||January 1, 2007||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
‡ One of Franklin's suspected victims, although there is no DNA evidence to support the accusation. Police said that the male victim, Thomas Steele, possibly was a friend of another victim or had discovered the killer's identity.
‡‡ 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.
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.
After a lengthy pretrial discovery and several delays, the trial 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 rendered a verdict of death. On August 10 the Superior Court sentenced Franklin on each count, naming the individual victims.
On March 28, 2020, Franklin was found unresponsive in his cell and was pronounced dead at 7:43 p.m. His cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy; however, there were no signs of trauma.
Film and television
- In 2014, British filmmaker Nick Broomfield created a documentary film about Franklin, Tales of the Grim Sleeper.
- In 2014, Lifetime premiered a movie, The Grim Sleeper, based on the case. It was produced by Michael Jaffe Films Ltd. and stars Dreama Walker, Macy Gray, Ernie Hudson, and Michael O’Neill.
- The story was covered during season 1 of the Investigation Discovery show The Face of Evil in episode 4 titled, "The Grim Sleeper", which premiered on May 9, 2019.
- "'Grim Sleeper' serial killer Lonnie Franklin dies on death row at San Quentin". Los Angeles Times. March 29, 2020.
- "'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer Lonnie Franklin Dies in California Prison Cell". PEOPLE.com.
- "Man Found Guilty For All 10 'Grim Sleeper' Killings Of Women". The Huffington Post. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- Christine Pelisek, Grim Sleeper Returns: He's Murdering Angelenos, as Cops Hunt his DNA, LA Weekly, August 28, 2008
- Grim Sleeper Serial Killer Hunted Archived 2016-06-10 at the Wayback Machine, SkyNews Report
- "Arrest in 'Grim Sleeper' killings of ten women, man". NBC News. July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Scott Glover and Paul Vercammen. "Jury convicts 'Grim Sleeper' of 10 murders". CNN. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- "Trial Begins for Accused 'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer". ABC News. February 17, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- Times, Los Angeles. "Jurors vote for death sentence for 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer". latimes.com. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
- Gerber, Marisa; Queally, James (August 10, 2016). "The 'Grim Sleeper' is sentenced to death for string of murders". latimes.com. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
- "'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer Lonnie Franklin Once Gang Raped a German Teen". PEOPLE.com.
- "Grim Sleeper jury to hear testimony from earliest known victim". ABC7 Los Angeles. May 26, 2016.
- "New Technique of Using Family's DNA Led Police to 'Grim Sleeper' Suspect". ABC News. July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- Jones, Jack (September 24, 1985). "Man Sought in Slayings of 10 L.A.-Area Prostitutes". Los Angeles Times.
- "Map: Serial Killers in South L.A." Los Angeles Times. August 3, 2010.
- Jill Stewart (July 15, 2010). "Missing the Grim Sleeper by a Hair". LA Weekly. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- "Most Wanted fugitives website (defunct)". America's Most Wanted. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2015.[full citation needed]
- Pelisek, Christine (February 25, 2009). "Tape May Hold Clue to Identifying Grim Sleeper Serial Killer – Los Angeles News – The Informer". Blogs.laweekly.com. Archived from the original on August 3, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Christine Pelisek (August 28, 2008). "Grim Sleeper Returns: He's Murdering Angelenos, as Cops Hunt his DNA". LA Weekly. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Christine Pelisek (March 12, 2009). "Grim Sleeper's Sole Survivor". LA Weekly. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Christine Pelisek (March 12, 2009). "Grim Sleeper's Sole Survivor". LA Weekly. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- "LAPD make arrest in Grim Sleeper serial killings". Latimesblogs.latimes.com. July 7, 2010. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- McCarthy, Terry (December 5, 2011). "The Case of the Grim Sleeper". Time Magazine.
- "LA 'Grim Sleeper' Probe to Check Unsolved Killings". Yahoo! News. July 9, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- Simon, Mallory (July 8, 2010). "Police Suspect in Los Angeles Grim Sleeper case to be arraigned". CNN.com. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Leonard, Jack (July 15, 2010). "Authorities Missed A Chance to Catch Grim Sleeper Suspect". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- Whitcomb, Dan (December 16, 2010). "L.A. police release photos of possible Grim Sleeper victims". Reuters. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- Hayes, Kevin. ""Grim Sleeper" Photos: LAPD Deluged with Calls - Crimesider". CBS News. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- "Five Women Tentatively Identified in 'Grim Sleeper' Cas - ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
- Kandel, Jason (November 3, 2011). "Police tie "Grim Sleeper" suspect to six more killings". Reuters.
- Rubin, Joel (October 29, 2011). "Police link 6 more slayings to Grim Sleeper suspect". Los Angeles Times.
- Olivia, Katrandjian; Lauren Effron; Lauren Sher; Neal Karlinsky (October 29, 2011). "Six More Deaths Linked to Grim Sleeper Serial Killer". abc NIGHTLINE. abc NEWS.
- Blankstein, Andrew; Rubin, Joel (July 16, 2010). "Police Collect Hundreds of Pieces of Evidence from Grim Sleeper Suspect's Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- "Lonnie Franklin Jr. found guilty in 'Grim Sleeper' case". ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- Times, Los Angeles. "Guilty verdicts in Grim Sleeper serial killer case". latimes.com. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- Gerber, James Queally, Marisa. "Jurors vote for death sentence for 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer".
- "Arrest Made in L.A. 'Grim Sleeper' Killings". FOX News. July 7, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- "Accused LA Serial Killer Said to Visit Prostitutes". Yahoo! News. July 8, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2010.[dead link]
- "'Grim Sleeper' Timeline". grimsleeper.wordpress.com. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- "Grim Sleeper's victims were vulnerable, young and at times ignored". Los Angeles Times. May 5, 2016.
- The Associated Press (July 7, 2010). "Police make arrest in 'Grim Sleeper' killings". NBC News. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- Grim Sleeper's Defense Attorney Asks To Photograph Nearly 900 Pieces Of Evidence, CBS Los Angeles (December 2, 2013)
- MELLEY, BRIAN (February 6, 2015). "Judge sets June trial date in 'Grim Sleeper' serial killings".
- "Trial delayed in 'Grim Sleeper' serial killings case". Los Angeles Times. May 22, 2015.
- Judge Postpones Trial Date In Grim Sleeper Killings, CBS Los Angeles (17 August 2015).
- Grim Sleeper Trial Delayed Yet Again as Antics Continue, LA Weekly (17 August 2015).
- Grim Sleeper serial killings: Repeatedly delayed trial is set for Oct. 14, Los Angeles Times (17 August 2015).
- 'Grim Sleeper' serial killings trial delayed again, Los Angeles Times (18 September 2015).
- Grim Sleeper serial killer trial begins, years after slayings terrorized South L.A., Los Angeles Times (16 February 2016)
- 'Day of reckoning is here': Grim Sleeper murder trial begins in Los Angeles, The Guardian (17 February 2016)
- Closing Arguments Begin In 'Grim Sleeper' Trial, CBS Los Angeles (2 May 2016)
- Jury Begins Deliberating Case Of Accused 'Grim Sleeper' Killer, CBS Los Angeles (4 May 2016).
- Los Angeles jury convicts 'Grim Sleeper' of 10 murders CNN (5 May 2016)
- 'Grim Sleeper', convicted serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr., sentenced to death ABC7 Los Angeles (6 June 2016)
- "'Grim Sleeper' serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. found dead in prison cell". NBC News.
- "Overlooked by authorities in America, a British filmmaker tackles the Grim Sleeper", Toronto Star, 25 April 2014, WD5.
- "The Face of Evil". May 9, 2019.
- Brittny Mejia, Grim Sleeper: Defense Backtracks on Expert Witness," Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2015
- Christine Pelisek, LA Weekly Catches Grief Over Serial Killer Nickname, LA Weekly, September 2, 2008
- Joel Rubin and Richard Winton, Police on the Hunt for Serial Killer Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2008
- Los Angeles Police Department "Grim Sleeper" page – features photographs of unidentified potential victims
- CNN.com – Grim Sleeper CNN Special Report; includes list of victims, connections, evidence, suspects, theories, and key persons involved
- GoogleMaps locations Google map of Grim Sleeper locations