The long-awaited trial of a serial killer dubbed the Grim Sleeper, who stalked the streets of South Los Angeles and killed at least 10 women, has finally begun.
The alleged Grim Sleeper, Lonnie Franklin Jr., 63, began the killing spree in 1985, the Associated Press reported; he stopped in 2007. DNA connected him to the murders in 2010, and he’s been awaiting justice for six years. The trial is expected to take four months.
For the victims’ families, the commencement of opening statements in an LA courtroom, which began Tuesday, couldn’t come soon enough. Porter Alexander’s 18-year-old daughter was killed by the Grim Sleeper. He was 48 at the time; now he’s 75.
“The day of reckoning is here. You can’t help but be excited that you lived to see an end to this madness. It’s been a long road and I’m glad I’ll physically be able to be there.”
Lonnie Franklin Jr. has pleaded not guilty to the deaths of 10 people and the attempted murder of one, including a 15-year-old girl, between 1985 and 2007. All of the victims, except the teenager, were between 18 and 35, and were strangled or shot. Their bodies were dumped in alleys near his home after some kind of sexual contact.
Detectives believe he killed many more women. After he was arrested, the LAPD kept looking for victims and released photos of unidentified women found inside his home. By 2011, they’d linked six more deaths to Lonnie, but decided not to pursue charges for fear they would delay an already sluggish trial.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Grim Sleeper’s victims were black, troubled, and some were prostitutes. Others were addicted to drugs.
Lonnie Franklin Jr.’s defense attorney, Seymour Amster, hasn’t said much leading up to the trial but hinted to the Times that “there’s more to it than people want to believe. It’s up to the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt … It’s not over until it’s over.”
The Grim Sleeper earned his nickname due to the long gap between murder sprees. The first stretched from 1985 to 1988, the second from 2002 to 2007 — a break of 14 years. The first stretch of murders occurred during a tumultuous time in LA, and many of the victims were addicted to crack cocaine and other drugs.
In the 1980s, 30 detectives probed the murders, but within a few years, their leads dried up. In 2007, the body of Janecia Peters, 25, was found in a trash bin and the investigation began again with a special squad.
Law enforcement scoured the prison system for a familial DNA match to their suspect and found one in Christopher Franklin — Lonnie Jr.’s son. He was in prison for firearm and drug offenses. Police started looking at the elder man and tested DNA he left behind on a pizza crust, napkin, glass, and the door handle of his car.
Everyone was surprised when Lonnie Franklin Jr., a mechanic described as affable, was arrested in 2010 after police linked his DNA to a dozen crime scenes.
Since then, the alleged Grim Sleeper has been sitting in jail awaiting a trial that has been delayed over and over again during the past five years. His defense attorney and the district attorney are expected to tussle over the DNA evidence that put Franklin behind bars.
Three serial killers stalked the streets of LA during a crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. When the bodies first turned up, police assumed one person — called the “Southside Slayer” — was responsible. Soon they figured out more than one killer was involved.
The other killers have since been identified as Chester Turner, who killed 14 women, and was sentenced to death in 2007; and Michael Hughes, who strangled three women and sentenced to death in 2012.
[Photo By Nick Ut/AP]