‘Grim Sleeper’ Serial Killer Trial Begins For Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
The Grim Sleeper’s earliest known victim was found in 1985: Debra Jackson, a cocktail waitress, shot three times in the chest in South Los Angeles. The killer’s most recent victim was in 2007: Janecia Peters, discovered in a dumpster, strangled, shot and stuffed into a trash bag. In between, there are eight other known victims.
DNA confirmed and fire-arm matched suspect, Lonnie Franklin Jr., who is a married father of two and a former LAPD mechanic and sanitation worker. He was charged in 2010 with 10 murders and one attempted murder, pleading not guilty.
The murders began during LA’s crack epidemic and Franklin targeted those addicted to the drug luring them with the promise of crack.
“He knew they didn’t worry about their safety and they were only focused on getting more,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said of the drug. “They were perfect targets. It was a perfect place in time for a serial killer to roam the streets without detection.”
His victims ranged between 15-35. Most were found without bras, underwear, or identification. Eight of Franklin’s alleged murders were in the 80s. Inexplicably, the murders resumed again in 2002, 2003 and 2007. Most of the victims were drug addicts or prostitutes, although his youngest victim was a 15-year-old foster care runaway who had no drugs in her system.
Franklin’s DNA was caught when his 28-year-old son was arrested for carrying a weapon and had to give a DNA swab. Franklin’s son was identified as a relation to the killer so detectives tracked Franklin to a pizza place in Long Beach, taking his leftover cutlery for DNA testing. The DNA matched DNA found on one of the Grim Sleeper’s victims, Barbara Ware.
Franklin showed no remorse in his police interview. When presented photos of his alleged victims he called them fat and ugly, laughing at the women. After searching his house, the police found the a firearm which matched the murder weapon that killed Janecia Peters, LAPD handcuffs, 10 different firearms, as well as photos of women, including Peters and his one survivor, Enietra Washington, who was shot in the chest but survived and has since identified Franklin as her assailant. Police are speculating that Franklin may have killed six additional women to the ten he is already convicted with.
Franklin’s neighbors have said that it was hard to reconcile the murder charges with the happy-go-lucky, helpful man that he knew. Steve Robinson, a friend of more than 2 decades who lived across the street from Franklin said that “he was just a good guy” although Robinson does agree that “all the evidence points toward him.”
The defense did not give an opening statement but defense attorney Seymour Amster told ABC News that there is more to the story.
“The defense has thoroughly prepared for this case,” said Amster. “And we belief that before it’s done there will be a different story told than what the prosecution is stating.”
The case has already inspired a documentary about Franklin and a made-for-TV movie about the local reporter for the LA Weekly which drew attention to the cold case. The LAPD has been criticized for failing to alert the community about the Grim Sleeper, despite about 30 detectives investigating the serial killings in the 80s, and for poorly pursuing the cold case when killings began again in the early 2000’s.