Serial killer, the “Grim Sleeper” has been sentenced to death for each of his ten confirmed victims.

Lonnie Franklin Jr., aged 63, and a former garage attendant for Los Angeles police and city trash collector was a prolific serial killer, with a span of killings covering more than three decades. The murders began in 1985 in South Los Angeles, with the recovered body of Debra Jackson, aged 29, who was found death with three bullet wounds in an alley. This started a series of slayings that perplexed the police. All the victims were black women, who were strangled or shot – sometimes both –  and appeared in trash bins and alleys, seldom clothed.

Jury recommends death sentence for ‘Grim Sleeper’ serial killer. Image Credit: Scoop Nest

However, the fact that almost all of the victims were drug addicts and prostitutes from impoverished areas might have something to do with the Los Angeles police not investigating the crimes profoundly. As a consequence of this lack of serious investigations, they were only believed to be random murders instead of a serial killer’s job.

The crimes went on, with Henrietta Wright, 34, being found in 1986. Then Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, and Mary Lowe’s bodies were all recovered in 1987. Lachrica Jefferson was found in 1988, with a napkin with the word ‘AIDS’ handwritten and covering her face. Alicia Alexander’s body was also recovered in 1988. By 1989 the police though the killer was either dead or in prison since it was believed the killings had stopped.

It was not until 2002 that a new victim, Princess Berthomieux was found, giving Franklin the nickname of the “Grim Sleeper.” The two last known murders were Valerie McCorvey in 2003 and Janecia Peters in 2007. However, investigators now think that Franklin never stopped and that there are many other unidentified victims.

There is also the murder of Thomas Steele in 1986, which is believed to be the Grim Sleeper only male victim, but the fact that there is not DNA evidence to link it to Franklin left the case out of the trial.

The Modus Operandi

The Grim Sleeper also has a known victim, Enietra “Margette” Washington, who was 30 at the time of the attack. On November 20, 1988, Washington got a lift from Franklin, while sitting in the passenger seat, the Grim Sleeper shot her in the chest and raped her. Moments before she lost consciousness, Washington saw the flash from a camera. When he finished, Franklin left her to die on the street. But Washington did not die that night. She got up and walked to a friend’s house, and when nobody answered, she sat down on the front porch and waited until her friend came back, around 1:00 AM.

Almost three decades after the attack, Washington told prosecutors Franklin’s modus operandi and declared on the trial. The bullet that was extracted from her helped to tie up the ballistic evidence.

Photographs found in the possession of serial murder suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr., dubbed the “Grim Sleeper”, recovered by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Image Credit: International Business Times/Reuters

The Capture

Finally, after so many years, the police department began to re-examine the cold cases, and, a sample of DNA from Franklin’s son showed genetic similarities to other DNAs samples from the victims’ bodies.

To trap the Grim Sleeper, a detective went undercover as a busboy at a pizza parlor and collected utensils used by Franklin while he was a party. The lab results gave an exact match.

On 2010, Franklin was arrested, and his house searched. In his home, police officers found several hundred hours of video and thousands of photographs depicting black women, often nude.

A picture of Washington, shot and bloodied was also found, as was the weapon that killed Janecia Peters, and also, Sharon Dismuke found in 1984 at a gas station, which confirms that there may be way more unidentified victims than previously thought.

The Judgment

In her sentence brief, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman wrote that Franklin was “completely irredeemable” and a “psychopathic, sadistic serial killer who takes joy in inflicting pain on women and killing them.”

On August 10, Judge Kathleen Kennedy formally sentenced Franklin to death, saying “I can’t think of anyone I’ve encountered in all my years in the criminal justice system that has committed the monstrous crimes that you have.”

Sources: The Daily News