The suspected Grim Sleeper serial killer pleaded not guilty this morning to the murders of 10 women and the attempted murder of another. Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a car mechanic with a long history of car theft, is charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Last week, Franklin Jr., 57, dismissed two alternate public defender's who were representing him. Franklin's new defense attorney Louisa Pensanti told the judge she was taking the case “pro bono,” meaning that she won't be paid for her services.
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 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.”
Franklin's next court appearance is scheduled for September 14.