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New Attorney takes over Grim Sleeper Defense

A new defense attorney is representing the so-called Grim Sleeper serial killer who is accused of a series of killings that spanned two decades. Today, Lonnie Franklin Jr., a car mechanic with a long history of car theft, dismissed two alternate public defenders who were representing him. Franklin's new defense attorney Louisa Pensanti said she was taking the case "pro bono," meaning that she won't be paid for her services.

The move is a definite head scratcher. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt seemed baffled by the attorney swap in the potential death penalty case. ``This case could go on at least conceivably for the next two to three years,'' she said. ``If you want to take the case on those terms, those terms will remain.''

Outside the fifth floor court room, Pensanti, who apparently has never litigated a death penalty case, asked reporters to respect "all of the families involved in this matter," the legal process and from making judgments.

Franklin is currently in jail without bail while he waits for his August 23 arraignment on 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

Franklin was arrested July 7 as he walked out of his mint green home on West 81st Street near Western Avenue after DNA evidence linked him to the crimes. Franklin, 57, was caught through familial DNA testing after his son was arrested for a weapons charge in 2009 and had to give up a DNA swab.

Franklin's home is almost at the epicenter of the troubled sector of Los Angeles where the brutal murders took place.

Franklin is believed to have killed 11 people, mostly women, since 1985. Their bodies found in alleyways and dumpsters along Western Avenue. The killer, thought to have operated only in the 1980s, struck again in 2002, 2003 and 2007. He is considered to be the longest-operating serial killer west of the Mississippi. LA Weekly documented his return in a 2008 story titled "Grim Sleeper Returns: He's Murdering Angelenos, as Cops Hunt his DNA."