UPDATE: Lifetime channel airs The Grim Sleeper movie March 15 at 8 p.m. followed at 10 p.m. by a documentary, Behind the Headlines: The Grim Sleeper, featuring his sole survivor, L.A. Weekly reporter Christine Pelisek who exposed his killings to the public, and the LAPD detectives who hunted him.
The last time Donnell Alexander saw his sister Monique was a couple of days before his 25th birthday, on Aug. 27, 1988. The lovable, sometimes rebellious 18-year-old stopped by to see Alexander at their cousins' house in South Los Angeles. This time, she was there to bury the hatchet.
The siblings had fought the previous week after "I woke up one morning and she had taken off with my rental car," Alexander recalls. "I didn't even know she drove! She brought it back, though, in good condition."
That final day, "We were happy to see each other," he says. "I asked her if she needed any money and she said no, but I gave her money anyway. I gave her $100 and a kiss.
"It was the last time I saw my sister."
Monique Alexander, 18, was found dead on Sept. 11, 1988, in an alley near 43rd Place and Western Avenue. She had been dead several days after someone sexually assaulted her, strangled her and shot her once in the chest.
"I knew that whoever did this, they must have known her," Alexander says. "Obviously she knew him, because she never would have gotten in the car with a stranger."
Alexander's murder remained a mystery for more than two decades, delaying justice for her mom, dad and three brothers who comprised her close-knit family. They were kept in the dark by Los Angeles Police Department detectives as to the true nature of her slaying — by a serial killer L.A. Weekly dubbed the Grim Sleeper because he killed over a period of 23 years but appeared to stop during a mysterious 13-year gap before resuming the murders.
Alleged killer Lonnie Franklin Jr., 61, a married father of two and former LAPD mechanic and sanitation worker for the city of Los Angeles, was finally caught in July 2010 — tripped up by his decision to grab a pizza in Buena Park, where an undercover officer, masquerading as a busboy, waited for LAPD's No. 1 suspect to leave behind food particles or a used glass for DNA testing. The officer came away with a slice of pizza Franklin had chewed on and utensils he'd used. After years of dead-end failures, investigators matched the saliva to the semen and saliva found on 10 murder victims.
Police snared Franklin three days later, in an arrest that involved dozens of cops and drew global media coverage. The case will be dramatized by Lifetime in its original film "The Grim Sleeper," running on March 15 at 8 p.m., followed at 10 p.m. by the one-hour documentary, "Beyond the Headlines: The Grim Sleeper."
In March 2011, a grand jury indicted Franklin, who initially was charged with the murder of Monique Alexander and nine more women found in dumpsters, parks and alleyways along and around a sleazy stretch of Western Avenue. A map of the crime scenes later showed that Franklin's home, where he and his wife raised their son and daughter, was nearly dead-center in the middle of the killing field.
The grand jury indictment was supposed to speed the time to trial. It hasn't.
Instead, from his solitary cell at Men's Central Jail, Franklin has mounted an aggressive defense heavy on delaying tactics. He has managed to draw his loyal wife, Sylvia Franklin — a school employee in Inglewood — into his life behind bars and has attracted visits from a blonde bombshell actress/author who befriends serial killers. He has continued to draw his lifelong L.A. city medical pension of about $1,700 a month, and pushed the buttons of the dead women's appalled families.
Critics say the Lonnie Franklin murder trial is fast becoming L.A.'s serial-killer circus.
After a recent hearing, Donnell Alexander and his two brothers and his parents, Porter and Mary, along with Diana Ware — whose stepdaughter Barbara was shot in the chest and found in a pile of trash with a plastic bag draped over her — gather in the hall outside the courtroom to ask the Los Angeles County prosecutors, Beth Silverman and Marguerite Rizzo, about the continual case delays.
Once Franklin was taken into custody, the victim's families thought the worst was over. They somewhat optimistically believed Franklin's trial would be finished by now, and that he would be sitting on death row.
Instead, Franklin's defense team, led by Seymour Amster, has thrown up a series of procedural hurdles and stall tactics: It is still unclear whether the defense team has finished its testing on the DNA evidence found on the victims, despite having the evidence for months. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy has been unable to speed things along.
"It is really unfair on the families" of the victims, says Alexander, who attends every court hearing at the criminal courts building with his family. "We are fighting for justice. It is crazy. We don't even have a voice. We manage to get it together and get to court. If we didn't do this, we wouldn't know what is going on, and he would be dragging his feet even more.