The Grim Sleeper, The South Central Serial Killer, Is Convicted

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Lonnie Franklin, Jr., The Grim Sleeper Serial Killer, was convicted of ten counts of murder and one count of attempted murder after three decades since his killing spree began, and may face the death penalty when the sentencing phase concludes.

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., was a good neighbor, a handy mechanic, he kept his small house in South Central Los Angeles, neat. His neighbors would tell the story of how they would swap stories, shake hands, say hello.

Los Angeles, in 1985 was a strung out facing a PCP and Crack epidemic with the effects hitting the impoverished and minority communities like a Mack Truck. The cheap cousin of pure grade cocaine filtered down from the Hills to the inner city leaving a trail of the addicted, desperate and poor. With limited dollars available, only one currency remained available to secure the next fix.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation states that at any time at minimum 15 serial killers are on the loose in the United States. In the summer of 1987, a single, African American female, crack addicted prostitute, would be the first in what became the story of The Grim Sleeper.

Granted on the priority level, African American female crack addicted prostitute doesn’t necessitate the same level of concern that a Ted Bundy or the Zodiac or Hillside Strangler generated.

So on August 10, 1985 when Debra Jackson, 29, was found. The cocktail waitress was shot three times in the chest. A robbery gone bad would have been the easy and presumed motive. She was found in an alley.

A year later August 12, 1986 Henrietta Wright, 35 was found dead in an Alley. A Saturday night in South Central, she was shot twice in the chest. The thrill of the kill finally enticed Lonnie Franklin and breaking from pattern, two days later, on August 14, 1986, a man Thomas Steele, 36, was found dead in the middle of the street with a single shotgun wound to the head. Mr. Steele’s death is the only male known to have been killed by The Grim Sleeper, the only deviation in weapon, the only time the body as left in the open.

Silence, the cover up may have worked and then in January 10, 1987 Barbara Ware decomposing body was found in a trash bin. Tipsters called police as they witnessed a man dumping what looked like a body. No description except for the van was available. Police found the van. Cold, cleaned and empty.

April 15, 1987 Bernita Sparks shot in the head, strangled beaten found in a trash bin. Mary Lowe, 26, was found October 31, 1987. She is believed to be the sixth victim of The Grim Sleeper. Franklin’s pattern was emerging: small caliber pistol, shot in the chest, dumped in bushes. Well known enough in the neighborhood, a neighbor saw her get into a Ford Pinto with a young black man. Mary was the last victim in 1987.

By now the pieces of an odd puzzle, yes high murder rates plagued South Central, gangs, warfare, and strays could be the cause and in the majority of the others were the cause. In this case however, LAPD finally realized they had a serial killer targeting African America, female, prostitute crack addicts.

The New Year, 1988, as investigators waited, with limited clues for a break. Suggesting a pattern, Police expected The Grimm Sleeper would strike sometime in January.

Delaying himself gratification for whatever reason, Lonnie Franklin didn’t kill until January 30, 1988. Lachrica Jefferson, 22, was found in an alley, with two gunshots wounds. He also broke pattern and left behind a note, covering her face, with AIDS scribbled on it.

Lonnie Franklin attempted to kill two more times in 1988. In September 1988 Alicia Alexander, 18, was found in an alley, shot dead and raped. November 20, 1988, Enietra Washington survived an attack by the Grim Sleeper whom she identified as a young black man who picked her up, pulled a gun, shot her in the chest, raped her, took a polaroid of her then pushed her out of his moving car.

Like fellow serial killer BTK Denis Rader, Lonnie Franklin took a hiatus from killing. Los Angeles was spared for thirteen years until March 19, 2001.

The Grim Sleeper awoke from his hiatus and on March 19, 2002 the nude body of Princess Berthomieux, 14, last seen by family on December 21, 2001, was found in Inglewood. Fitting pattern, radius and MO of the long silent Sleeper.

Silence again. July 11, 2003. Valeria McCorvey, 35, was found, dead and assaulted. Four years pass. The Sleeper is silent. January 1, 2007, a homeless man searching for cans finds Janecia Peter dead in a garbage bag. This is the last known killing listed for The Grim Sleeper.

July 7, 2010, LAPD arrested Lonnie Franklin on ten Counts of murder and one attempted murder. The break in the decades old case came as the science of DNA found Lonnie Franklin’s on a used gun recovered from the arrest of his son. The gun matched the DNA group found on the bodies.

Image courtesy of LA Times and used with permission.


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