Over 100 people, including family members and Los Angeles Police Department detectives, attended a memorial service last night for the 10 victims of the Grim Sleeper serial killer. The two-hour service also marked the 25th anniversary of the death of cocktail waitress Debra Jackson who was last seen leaving a friend's house in Lynwood to take a bus back to her apartment in South Los Angeles. Days later, Jackson was found covered with a carpet in an alley west of Vermont Avenue on August 10, 1985. She had been shot in the chest. Jackson was the first known victim of alleged killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr. whose murderous romp through South Los Angeles ended with his arrest on July 7.
Franklin Jr., a mechanic with a long history of car theft, was charged with the murders of 10 women and attempted murder of another after DNA from Franklin's incarcerated son showed a linkage to DNA found at the crime scenes. An undercover team followed the elder Franklin to a pizza place where they retrieved a discarded slice of pizza to analyze his DNA. Three days later, they confirmed that it matched the DNA of the Grim Sleeper suspect.
The memorial service was held at the Bethel AME Church, which is located on Western Avenue just two blocks from where Franklin lived with his wife. 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 10 people 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.
Many of the victim's family members took turns at the podium at the front of the giant church to speak about their lost loved ones. Laverne Peters, the mother of 25-year-old victim Janecia Peters, told the crowd that her daughter would be proud of her eight-year-old son. “He is going to be a doctor or a preacher,” said Laverne about her grandson, who she is raising. “He has a really good heart. Her son will always live on in her memory.”
Peters' body was found by a homeless man collecting recyclables on January 1, 2007. Her body was found stuffed in a garbage bag in a Dumpster near 94th Street and Western Avenue. She had been shot.
Diana Ware said her stepdaughter Barbara, who was shot once in the chest, dumped in an alley and covered with trash, left a daughter behind who is now 31-years-old. “She will always be in our hearts.”
Samara Herard described her 14-year-old foster sister Princess Berthomieux, who was found strangled to death in an alley in Inglewood in 2002, as a real life princess. “She was a sweet little girl. My parents loved her. We were a family. To my son she was auntie Princess.”
At the end of the evening memorial service, a member of each family lit a candle in honor of their loved ones who died at the hands of the Grim Sleeper serial killer.
LA Weekly documented his return in a 2008 story titled “Grim Sleeper Returns: He's Murdering Angelenos, as Cops Hunt his DNA.”