|Lonnie David Franklin Jr.|
August 30, 1952 |
Los Angeles, California
|Other names||Grim Sleeper
|Victims||10-25+ victims, 1 survivor (known)|
Span of killings
|1985–2007 (known murders)|
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.
In the 1980s, following the deaths of several women in south Los Angeles, California, community members formed the "Black Women Count" movement. The group pressured police into setting up a task force and into acknowledging the deaths as serial killings. The coalition launched a media campaign and set a monetary reward aiming to capture the killer. The joint Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department-LAPD 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 at least one each. A separate series of killings commenced with the murder of Debra Jackson and a different MO 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 11 unsolved murders in Los Angeles, the first of which occurred in 1985. This 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, the LA Weekly investigative reporter Christine Pelisek broke the news of the task force's existence, the linkage of Peters' killing to the earlier murders, and the silence of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief William J. Bratton regarding the killer's existence. The mayor and police chief 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, Police Chief 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 L.A. Weekly. Bratton also released a 911 call from the 1980s in which a man reported seeing a body being dumped by the Grim Sleeper, giving a detailed description and license plate number of a van connected with the now-closed Cosmopolitan Church.
In March 2009, reporter Pelisek 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 the interior and exterior of his vehicle.
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. (born August 30, 1952), a mechanic who worked between 1981 and 1988 for the City of Los Angeles in the sanitation department and briefly for the police department. 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. 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 the victims established a DNA match linking Franklin to the deaths.
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. 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 DNA database. In July 2005, Franklin was on unsupervised probation, but his DNA was not entered into the system. Probation officers did not collect DNA samples from people who were on unsupervised probation between November 2004 and August 2005. During that period, the probation department did not have the resources to 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 was charged with ten murders and one attempted murder. He was held without bail until he received a death sentence. He is not charged in the death of an 11th suspected victim, a black man, a crime for which DNA evidence was not found.
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 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 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. The "Grim Sleeper" apparently took a 14-year hiatus after his last known crime in 1988 and the murders that 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 sex workers. One witness recalls that Franklin frequently brought sex workers 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||Jackson, DebraDebra Jackson||F||29||August 10, 1985||Vermont-Slauson, Los Angeles|
|2||Wright, HenriettaHenrietta Wright||F||34||August 12, 1986||Hyde Park, Los Angeles|
|3||Steele, ThomasThomas Steele ‡||M||36||August 14, 1986||Harvard Park, Los Angeles|
|4||Ware, BarbaraBarbara Ware||F||23||January 10, 1987||Central-Alameda, Los Angeles|
|5||Sparks, BernitaBernita Sparks||F||26||April 15, 1987||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
|6||Lowe, MaryMary Lowe||F||26||November 1, 1987||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
|7||Jefferson, LachricaLachrica Jefferson||F||22||January 30, 1988||Westmont, Los Angeles County|
|8||Alexander, Alice "Monique"Alice "Monique" Alexander||F||18||September 11, 1988||Vermont Square, Los Angeles|
|9||Washington, Enietra "Margette"Enietra "Margette" Washington‡‡||F||30||Survived||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
|10||Berthomieux, PrincessPrincess Berthomieux||F||15||March 19, 2002||Inglewood, California|
|11||McCorvey, ValerieValerie McCorvey||F||35||July 11, 2003||Westmont, Los Angeles County|
|12||Peters, JaneciaJanecia Peters||F||25||January 1, 2007||Gramercy Park, Los Angeles|
‡ One of the Grim Sleeper'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.
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.
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