Here are updates on the man accused in the “Grim Sleeper” case, so-called because the accused through the years took breaks between murdering his victims.
Updated: Dec. 17, 2010
Lonnie D. Franklin Jr. is charged with a string of killings in Los Angeles over 25 years. He was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper,” a serial killer who appeared to go on a three-year killing spree, paused for more than a decade and then began again.
But Los Angeles police now wonder whether he was sleeping at all.
The Los Angeles Police Department in December 2010 released 180 photographs of women found in the home of Mr. Franklin, who is already suspected of killing 10 people in South Los Angeles and dumping their bodies in streets or alleyways.
They hope the trove of pictures will be seen by people across the country who might recognize a face and help the authorities solve other killings. Mr. Franklin is accused of killing seven black women between 1985 and 1988 and three others between 2002 and 2007. Mr. Franklin, who was arrested in July 2010, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in jail.
Many of the Grim Sleeper’s victims were black women struggling with drugs. They were found dead in South Los Angeles, a troubled neighborhood where drug crimes, gang violence and an uneasy relationship with the police combined to hinder the arrest of Mr. Franklin.
Several things had happened in the years between the clusters of killings, which stopped in 1988 after a victim survived, and started again in 2002. DNA technology had advanced, and a new state law required felons to give up samples, which was leading to many more connections of violent crimes.
Mr. Franklin was identified as a suspect after the state DNA lab discovered a DNA link between evidence from the old crime scenes and that of Mr. Franklin’s son, Christopher, who was recently convicted of a felony weapons charge.
In early July 2010, Mr. Franklin, a former police department garage attendant and city sanitation worker, was charged with 10 counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and a special circumstance of “multiple murders.” Detectives began combing through 30 cold-case homicide files with similarities to those already linked to Mr. Franklin.
The information developed from the state’s familial search program suggested that Christopher Franklin was a relative of the source of the DNA from the old crime scenes. The police confirmed the association of Lonnie Franklin through matching of DNA from a discarded pizza slice. The match provided the crucial link in a seemingly unsolvable crime that struck terror and hopelessness throughout one of the city’s poorest areas for years.
While the practice is common in England, it has been limited largely to Colorado in the United States. But in 2008, the California Department of Justice began using familial searches — in the face of significant protests — to solve hard crimes. The state restricted the practice to major, violent crimes in which all other investigative techniques had proved fruitless.
Those who oppose the technique argue that there are inherent privacy concerns, and that it serves, in essence, as a form of racial profiling because a higher proportion of inmates are members of minorities.
Lawyer Agrees to Work ‘Grim Sleeper’ Case for Free
The Associated Press
August 9, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Page modified August 9, 2010 at 1:37 PM
Lonnie Franklin Jr. appeared in court Monday with his new attorney and had his arraignment rescheduled for Aug. 23. His lawyer, Louisa Pensanti, says she will work pro bono and has experience handling multiple murder cases.
Franklin is charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. He was arrested in July after authorities said DNA evidence linked the mechanic to the series of killings.
The slayings occurred from 1985 to 1988, and again from 2002 to 2007. The 14-year pause led to the killer’s nickname of the “Grim Sleeper.”
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
LOS ANGELES (AP) – A South Los Angeles man accused of being the so-called “Grim Sleeper” who killed 10 women is set to be arraigned.
Lonnie Franklin Jr. is due in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday morning to answer to counts of murder and attempted murder. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Franklin was arrested in July after authorities said DNA evidence linked the local mechanic to a series of killings that took place from 1985 to 1988, and again from 2002 to 2007. The 14-year pause led to the killer’s nickname of the “Grim Sleeper.”
Neighbors say they never suspected Franklin of being the killer before his arrest.
A day after he was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing a 5-year-old girl, Antonio Rodriguez attacked the alleged “Grim Sleeper” serial killer while the two were in custody at county jail, a sheriff’s deputy testified Wednesday.
Rodriguez had just finished meeting with his attorney at Men’s Central Jail on Friday and was being uncuffed from his seat when he broke away from the deputy and punched Lonnie D. Franklin Jr. twice in the head, according to Deputy Ignacio Gracia of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Franklin, who was arrested July 7 and is suspected of raping and killing at least 10 people over the last 30 years, was seated near Rodriguez in the attorney meeting room and was handcuffed to his seat when Rodriguez struck him, Gracia said.
Gracia, who restrained Rodriguez after the blows, said the attack appeared to be unprovoked. Rodriguez apologized to Gracia after, the deputy testified.
“I was shocked,” said Rodriguez’s attorney, Robert A. Schwartz, during a break in the testimony. “I think he may have scored some credibility points with the other inmates.”
Franklin and Rodriguez are both “K-10” or “high-powered” inmates which means they are kept away from the general prison population because of the notoriety of Franklin’s alleged crimes and because of Rodriguez’s tendencies toward violence.
Rodriguez, 29, said he felt “he had to” attack Franklin based on allegations that the 57-year-old man raped and murdered almost a dozen women, Schwartz said.
The testimony about the alleged attack came during the penalty phase of Rodriguez’s trial as the prosecution seeks the death penalty.
Rodriguez has been in custody since Nov. 13, 2004, the day after his girlfriend’s daughter, Desarie Saravia, died of multiple blunt force injuries. The jury last week convicted him of eight counts including first-degree murder, sexual penetration, corporal injury to a child and child abuse.
He has also served three other stints in prison.
Jurors also found Rodriguez guilty of abusing Desarie’s brother, Brian, and are expected to recommend next week whether Rodriguez will spend life in prison without parole or face Death Row.
Rodriguez’s sister, Alma Esquivel, asked the jury to spare her brother’s life.
“With me, he’s always concerned,” Esquivel testified after being called to the stand by the defense. “When I was pregnant with twins – it was a high-risk pregnancy – he sent me letters (from prison). He gave me motivation to keep on going.”
Esquivel, a mother of three, said she never saw Rodriguez mistreat her children.
Rodriguez is one of seven siblings who always took the blame in a home that was terrorized by a drunkard father who beat their mother, Esquivel said.
Their father hit the children with a belt, made them stand for hours in time-outs or had them kneel on bricks, Esquivel said.
“(He was) an animal,” said Esquivel, sobbing. “He was mean to us. He was verbally abusive to us. He never took us anywhere. He never told us he loved us.”
Rodriguez, wearing a light blue shirt, grimaced as he fought back his own tears while his sister cried on the stand.
The abuse was eerily similar to testimony heard earlier in the trial that Rodriguez hit Desarie and Brian with a belt or cord and made them stand facing the wall in hours-long time-outs.
The family moved around the San Fernando Valley often and the father would disappear for months at a time, Esquivel said. Their mother supported the children on welfare and by cleaning houses or recycling cardboard. Their father eventually disappeared for good.
“I wanted him to leave,” Esquivel said. “We were happy that he was gone.”
Testimony continues Thursday at San Fernando Superior Court and the defense is expected to call medical experts to testify that Rodriguez suffers from brain injuries or abnormalities that at times, make him unable to control his behavior.
Other killings may be tied to Grim Sleeper suspect
Police look at 30 cases similar to those linked to Lonnie David Franklin Jr.
|Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, was charged with 10 counts of murder involving women killed over three decades in South L.A. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / July 8, 2010)|
Sources with the Los Angeles Police Department told The Times that the 30 cases share similarities to the slayings linked to Lonnie David Franklin Jr., who appeared briefly in court Thursday, where he was charged with 10 counts of murder involving women killed over three decades in South L.A. Some — but not all — of the victims in the unsolved cases lived on the margins of society, including drug users, prostitutes and those suffering from mental illness.
Franklin was ordered held without bail Thursday, and his arraignment was postponed to Aug. 9. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Regina A. Laughney, said in court that she had not had time to review the evidence in the case. She could not be reached for comment.
Franklin allegedly killed seven women between 1985 and 1988, when his crimes seemed to abruptly stop, authorities say. The slayings resumed in 2002, with a killing that year, another in 2003 and a third in 2007, police said.
The L.A. Weekly dubbed the killer the Grim Sleeper because of the lengthy, unaccounted gap in the slayings. But officials said Thursday that they suspect Franklin may be responsible for more homicides, possibly during the apparent lull.
“I believe we will find additional victims,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, calling the gap “one of the troubling aspects of the case.”
Detectives have spent the last two days scouring Franklin’s home, collecting photo albums, documents, business cards and other records that they hope can provide a better picture of the suspect and perhaps provide links to other victims. A law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said police recovered multiple firearms from Franklin’s home and will be testing the weapons to see if there is a match to the ballistics evidence from the crime scenes.
Officials acknowledge that linking more cases to Franklin could be challenging.
There is no DNA evidence in any of the 30 cases, which is significant because authorities said they tied Franklin to some of the 10 killings based on information from DNA databases. Many of the cases are three decades old and occurred during a period when several serial killers were allegedly operating in South L.A.
A task force had been investigating the unsolved cases before Franklin’s arrest in an effort to uncover any links. But now, with the suspect’s identity known, investigators are reexamining the deaths for specific ties to Franklin.
Because Franklin once was a sanitation worker, one source said police would be examining any unsolved homicides where bodies were dumped in landfills.
In addition to focusing on the apparent hiatus in the Grim Sleeper homicides, detectives are trying to determine whether the suspect might have begun committing his crimes earlier than police previously believed.
“Now that we know who he is, we can get out and show his picture, and talk to neighbors, co-workers, friends,” said Det. Dennis Kilcoyne, who is heading the task force investigating the killings.
At a news conference outside police headquarters downtown, Beck said the case was the largest and most important currently being handled by the department.
Since 2007, a group of detectives has worked exclusively on identifying the killer, chasing lead after lead down dead ends. But last week, LAPD officials learned that a “familial search” of the DNA database by the California Department of Justice had come up with a convicted felon whose genetic blueprint indicated he was a close relative of the suspect.
A suspect soon became clear: the felon’s father, Franklin, a 57-year-old mechanic.
He fit the serial killer’s description. And his address in South Los Angeles “was right in the heart of it all,” one law enforcement official said.
As LAPD officials realized the gravity of the news, Beck kept the circle tight. No one was to know about the DNA hit until police had a game plan for how to proceed. No information would leak out; and not even deputy chiefs were in the loop.
With the help of federal drug agents, police watched Franklin around the clock, monitoring his every move.
The suspect spent most of his daylight hours indoors, sources said. He left his house on 81st Street only to run a few mundane errands — to an auto parts store, nothing that would allow detectives to retrieve any DNA samples.
At night, Franklin became more active. But even those evenings proved fruitless. He would take long, seemingly pointless drives through the city. On some occasions, he would slow down at street corners as he drove along Western Avenue, an area known for prostitution.
The big break, police say, came Monday.
Franklin traveled to northern Orange County, near Buena Park, where he stopped for pizza. At the end of his meal, he discarded a pizza crust, a fork, napkins and a drinking glass. Detectives moved in.
DNA tests on the leftovers from the meal came back early Tuesday. Franklin’s genetic profile matched that of the Grim Sleeper. Roughly two hours later, Franklin was arrested at his South L.A. home.
Several of the victims’ relatives, some of whom have been critical of the police response to the crimes, attended Thursday’s news conference and praised the work of detectives.
“I had a doubt in my mind after all the years that passed that I would not live to see this day,” said Porter Alexander, whose daughter’s body was found dumped in an alley in 1988. “But … the long arm of the law still prevails.”
Enietra Washington, the only known survivor of an attack by the suspected serial killer, recounted Thursday how she accepted a ride from a man after admiring his orange Pinto in 1988. She described the driver as well-dressed and said she felt safe.
As they rode together, her attention wandered. Suddenly, he shot her in the chest. “I was thinking how can I get out of this car without this man doing more to me than just riddling me up,” Washington said.
When asked whether Franklin was the same man who shot her, Washington replied: “Looking at the pictures, yeah, it was kind of almost right on target. When I saw him he was younger, skinnier…. He was a neat person, that’s why I wasn’t feeling threatened when I finally accepted the ride. He wasn’t dressed crazy. He didn’t look crazy.”
Times staff writers Jack Leonard, Victoria Kim, Corina Knoll and Hector Becerra contributed to this report.
Here is a very informative site on this case: The Grim Sleeper