Seymour Amster, the attorney for “Grim Sleeper” suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. 63, who is accused of killing nine women and a 15-year-old girl, has cast doubts in the mind of jurors on Monday as the trial shifts to the DNA evidence found on the murder victims.
Lonnie Franklin Jr. has pleaded not guilty in one of Los Angeles’ most notorious serial killer cases, also known as the Grim Sleeper killings, because of the apparent 14-year gap in the murders between 1988 and 2002, according to ABC News.
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Police believe the killings stopped in 1988 because one of his victims, Enietra Washington, 57, survived after being shot and left for dead. Washington, testifying in court, recounted the harrowing story of how she accepted a ride from a neatly dressed man she accused of being the Grim Sleeper, according to the Daily Mail.
Washington said she was shot and, before she slipped into unconsciousness, remembered her assailant performing oral sex on her and taking pictures with a Polaroid camera. She was left for dead before being miraculously found and rushed to the hospital where she survived.
Amster has said that the defense for Franklin will revolve around the DNA evidence found on the victims. His argument centered on the fact that it was obtained under questionable circumstances and that not all the murder victims carried traces of his client’s DNA.
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Most of the victims had been killed and dumped in alleys and stuffed in garbage bins in south Los Angeles. They had been shot in the chest and sexually molested, and autopsy reports showed that all the women except one had cocaine in their systems.
Silverman, the prosecuting attorney, said the crack cocaine epidemic in south Los Angeles allowed Franklin to take advantage of women who were “willing to sell their bodies and souls in order to gratify their dependence on the powerful drug.”
She added, “[T]his was the perfect opportunity for someone who preyed on women. Someone who knew the streets and dark alleys by heart, someone who lived there and was able to blend in, someone who knew where the drug-addicted women and perhaps prostitutes would congregate and who knew how to lure potential victims into the darkness and the isolation of a vehicle with the promise of crack.”
The Grim Sleeper was only one of three major serial killer cases that targeted women during the cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Over 30 detectives investigated the Grim Sleeper killings but all failed to make an arrest.
However, in 2007, when Janecia Peters was found stuffed in a trash bag, investigations were reopened. Police decided to match the DNA found at the crime scene to a family member to help their search. Franklin’s son Christopher, whose DNA was found in the database because of a prior weapons charge, was discovered to have a partial match.
A sting operation where an undercover officer, posing as a waiter in a pizza restaurant, managed to secure the pizza crusts, dishes, and utensils eaten and used by Franklin. It is this unconventional approach that Franklin’s legal team hopes to challenge on the grounds of legality.
During a raid at Franklin’s residence on 81st Street in South Los Angeles, police uncovered 1,000 photographs of women and two still images of two murdered women, including one who had just been shot in the chest when her picture was taken. A semi-automatic handgun was also found, and prosecutors said it was the murder weapon used in the killing of Janecia Peter– the Grim Sleeper’s last victim.
The Grim Sleeper grisly murders were thought to have stopped because of the botched killing of 1988. But the massive collection of images found at Franklin’s residence suggests that the alleged killer might have been active during those dormant years and murdered an additional 170 women.
[Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via AP/Pool/File]