Grim Sleeper: Jury Recommends Death for Serial Killer Lonnie Franklin Jr.

Photographs taken by Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
Photographs taken by Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
Ted Soqui/L.A. Weekly

A jury that started deliberations Friday in the sentencing of "Grim Sleeper" serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. returned this afternoon with a recommendation that he be put to death.

The 63-year-old's defense attorney had argued that a death sentence would only send Franklin's case into a bureaucratic holding pattern and that life behind bars would offer the victims' families quicker closure.

On May 5, the seven-woman, five-man jury found Franklin guilty of killing 10 women and attempting to murder one more in a spree that lasted from 1985 to 2007.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for the crimes. Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said Thursday that Franklin "deserves to pay the ultimate penalty'' for his crimes.

During the sentencing phase of the case, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office prosecutors noted Franklin's involvement in a 1974 kidnapping and gang rape of a 17-year-old while he was serving in the U.S. military in Germany.

They also alleged he was behind four additional murder cases, those of Sharon Dismuke (whose body was found in 1984), Inez Warren (1988), Georgia Thomas (2000) and Rolenia Morris (who vanished in 2005).

Ex–L.A. Weekly journalists Jill Stewart and Christine Pelisek came up with the Grim Sleeper nickname following Pelisek's groundbreaking reporting on the case in the late 2000s. The name reflects an apparent 13-year hiatus in the killings, although some believe Franklin allegedly kept murdering women during that time and there might still be undiscovered cases out there.

In fact, after Franklin's arrest on July 7, 2010, cops searched his home and found 1,000 eerie photographs of women, more than 30 of whom authorities have yet to locate.

When the Grim Sleeper case gained exposure in 2008, some South Los Angeles residents were angry that the killing had gone on so long without much notice.

His victims ranged in age from a 15-year-old to women in their 30s. Seven of them were shot with the same handgun. They were "dumped like trash," often in alleys, in South L.A., Silverman said.

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"Addiction caused these women to be extremely vulnerable,” Silverman told jurors. "This was a perfect opportunity for someone who knew the streets and alleyways by heart. Someone who knew where the drug-addicted women and prostitutes would congregate. … It was the perfect time for a serial killer to roam the streets of Los Angeles."

Women who exchange sex for money are "good meat to work with and they never ask questions," an 81st Street neighbor of Franklin's quoted him as saying.

Nonetheless, some depended on the former city garage and sanitation worker for rides and help with broken-down cars.

One woman who accepted a ride from the killer in 1998 survived two shots to the chest and a sexual assault. Enietra Washington testified against him.

An LAPD task force set up to find the Grim Sleeper in 2007 ultimately got its man.

Suspecting Franklin was the killer, investigators shadowed him. An undercover detective working as a busboy at a 2010 pizza party the killer attended nabbed his DNA from a plate he had used. It was matched to Franklin's son, who had DNA in the criminal justice system as a result of 2009 arrest on a felony gun allegaton. The "familial DNA" led to the Grim Sleeper, cops said.

-With reporting from City News Service


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