UPDATE: A Lifetime movie featuring LA Weekly reporter Christine Pelisek explores the DNA-based manhunt for the alleged Grim Sleeper. Suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. is now in jail in L.A., where he is mounting an aggressive defense against charges that he murdered 10 women — and where he enjoys regular visits from his wife and, until recently, an actress/author who befriends serial killers. Before his capture, the sole survivor to be attacked and escape with her life courageously told her story to LA Weekly. After his dramatic arrest, the Weekly learned Franklin will collect a city disability pension of about $1,700 monthly for life, even if he goes to Death Row. The serial killer's existence and string of murders were first unveiled by LA Weekly, which dubbed him the Grim Sleeper because he killed many women in the 1980s, then stopped for 13 years before resuming.
• On August 10, 1985, Debra Jackson, 29, a cocktail waitress, left a friend’s home in Lynwood to take a bus back to her apartment in South-Central. Days later, her decomposing body was found in an alley near West Gage Avenue. She had been shot in the chest three times with a small caliber pistol.
• On August 12, 1986, Henrietta Wright, 35, was found dead in an alley south of 2514 West Vernon Avenue. Her mouth had been gagged with a cloth. She had been shot twice in the chest.
• Two days later, Thomas Steele, 36, was discovered dead in the middle of the intersection of 71st Street and Halldale Avenue, with a single gunshot wound in his head. The San Diego native had come up for the day to visit his sister.
• On January 10, 1987, Barbara Ware, 23, was found dead in an alley at 1356 East 56th Street, shot once in the chest. According to the autopsy report, neighbors saw a man remove Ware’s body from a vehicle and hide it in a heap of trash.
• On April 15, 1987, Bernita Sparks was shot in the chest, strangled and beaten. Originally listed as Jane Doe No. 25, she had told her mother that she was going to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes. She was found in a trash bin the next morning, covered with garbage, on the 9400 block of South Western Avenue.
• On October 31, 1987, Mary Lowe, 26, told her mother, Betty, she was going to a Halloween party. “I said she was crazy to go out in the rain like that,” recalls Betty. “She kept on walking.” Lowe was found the next morning, in an alley near bushes behind the 8900 block of Western Avenue. According to Betty Lowe, a neighbor saw Mary Lowe get in a car with a young black man driving a rust or orange Ford Pinto.
• On January 30, 1988, Lachrica Jefferson, 22, died from two gunshot wounds to the chest. She was found in an alley north of 2049 West 102nd Place in Lennox by L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies. A napkin placed over her face had the word “AIDS” written on it.
• On September 11, 1988, Alicia “Monique” Alexander, 18, asked her father if he wanted anything from a liquor store on 68th Street and Normandie Avenue, then she vanished. Her father, Porter Alexander, remembers, “I woke up and asked my wife where she was. She said she hadn’t come back. … I never saw her again.” Alexander was found dead a few days later, in an alley around 43rd Place and Western Avenue. She had been shot once in the chest and sexually assaulted.
• Just before a 13-year gap in these related cases, in November of 1988, a young black man driving an orange Ford Pinto picked up a young black woman in South Los Angeles, shot her in the chest and raped her. She persuaded her attacker to allow her to escape, and she is the only known eyewitness survivor of the Grim Sleeper. She is not being named by L.A. Weekly.
• On December 21, 2001, Princess Berthomieux, 14, vanished, and was found March 19, 2002, strangled and beaten in an alley behind 8121 South Van Ness Boulevard in Inglewood.
• On July 11, 2003, Valerie McCorvey, 35, was found dead by a crossing guard in an alley west of Denker Avenue between 108th and 109th streets. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted. Police initially suspected her boyfriend, but he was ruled out when DNA found on her body matched DNA found on Berthomieux, killed in 2002, and Mary Lowe, killed in 1987.
• On January 1, 2007, Janecia Peters, 25, was found dead by a homeless man near 9500 Western Avenue. She’d been shot in the back and placed in a garbage bag. Her death barely registered with the local press, which even misreported it, calling it a stabbing.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.