By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
When Detective Shepard began to go back over the unsolved 1980s killings in recent years, he discovered a trove of carefully preserved saliva and semen containing the Grim Sleeper's DNA. Police have never explained why they often found saliva at the crime scenes, but did not find sperm on many of the bodies.
What went wrong in 1988? How could Detective Haro, who staked out White's home for a month and set up a surveillance team in a closed storefront, perhaps miss out on questioning the actual Grim Sleeper?
How could the LAPD, as Kilcoyne describes it, fail to make it over "the edge" when it came within a few doors of surveilling the alleged killer himself?
Before everything went wrong, a lot went right. Haro, now 64, was doggedly directing extensive "street sweeps" of South Los Angeles during the monthlong investigation of the area around 1742 81st Street — where the orange Pinto stopped the night survivor Washington was raped and shot in the chest.
Cops were peering down alleys, and scouring three boxes that contained DMV records for every Ford Pinto in Los Angeles County. They were conducting a major investigation.
But it suddenly took a very different direction a few months later, in February of 1989, after Los Angeles County Sheriff's narcotics investigator Rickey Ross, a black man, was arrested on suspicion of having killed three prostitutes in the fall of 1988.
Chief Gates announced that Ross had been spotted with a prostitute in an unmarked county-government car, that a loaded 9 mm gun found in the car matched the gun used in "three murders of prostitutes," and that Ross was "unable to explain what he was doing" with a prostitute he got caught with in 1989.
Police promptly suspected him of also being the South L.A. serial killer — and of raping and shooting Washington.
Ross's colleagues were blindsided by the arrest of Ross, a born-again Christian. DEA agent Warren Rivera, who worked with Ross for two years, recalls to the Weekly, "He had a great reputation till he got arrested."
Then, in a development that riveted Los Angeles, Ross was released from jail after independent experts determined that the LAPD had wrongly claimed Ross's gun matched the one that fired the bullets that killed the three prostitutes.
In fact, no evidence linked him to any of the previous eight slayings with the .25 caliber gun, either. Even so, Ross was fired from his job by then-sheriff Sherman Block for allegedly abusing alcohol and drugs, and consorting with prostitutes.
Timing is everything. The timing of Ross's arrest just three months after Washington ended up in the hospital clicked with Detective Haro. He believed Ross was the killer even after his release from jail. It is not an exaggeration today to say the LAPD became so certain of Ross's guilt that the investigation moved in that direction for a number of years.
Ross died in 2003. But serial killings continued. L.A. Weekly contacted Haro in 2008 to tell him that someone with the same DNA and saliva as the killer in the 1980s had struck again, after a 13-year lull. Of Ross, Haro said, "I guess it wasn't him, then."
But such are the pitfalls of police work, becausee they have to follow every potential lead.
In Inglewood, where 14-year-old Princess Berthomieux was killed in 2002, police decided they should leave no stone unturned, despite knowing that the living eyewitness was sure the attacker was a black man. They spent time investigating a white man, Roger Hausmann, who talked openly of whacking prostitutes in South Los Angeles. That turned out to be a red herring.
When Franklin's neighbor White was questioned by police in 1988, he told them he did not know anyone with a Pinto, nor anyone strange who stood out in the neighborhood who might have hurt a woman.
In recent days, police have disclosed that Franklin stole cars, fixed them up and resold them. If Franklin had stolen the orange Pinto, it may have moved through his hands too quickly for police to check it out and track it to him. A stolen car may be out there somewhere, perhaps in a wrecking yard, still containing the blood stains of Enietra Washington.
And when police did get razor-close, surveilling the very block on which the Grim Sleeper allegedly lived, the residents of South Los Angeles did not see the monster before their own eyes. Apparently, nobody told the cops that the inexpensive neighborhood auto mechanic down the street gave some of the women the creeps and muttered ugly things about prostitutes.
Now, the victims' families are assessing just how close they and their loved ones were to a hidden danger that persisted from the first known killing in August of 1985 until the suspect's arrest on July 7, 2010.
Mary Lowe was last seen at the Love Trap bar on 91st and Western, a short walk from Franklin's home.
Victim Jefferson lived just down the street from Franklin, as did her sister Romy Lampkins.
And Lampkins' friend Dee Harrison dated Franklin in the early 1970s, apparently before he began his killing spree, when he was a young Army soldier.