Ex-sanitation worker guilty of ‘Grim Sleeper’ Los Angeles murders
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A former sanitation worker was convicted on Thursday of murdering nine women and a teenage girl as the “Grim Sleeper,” a Los Angeles serial killer who preyed on prostitutes and drugs addicts in a crime spree dating back 30 years.
The Superior Court jury reached its verdict on all 10 counts of first-degree murder against Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, after deliberating a day and a half, capping a trial that ran more than 11 weeks.
Franklin, who could face the death penalty, was also convicted of attempted murder for an attack on an 11th victim, Enierta Washington, who survived being shot in the chest, raped, pushed out of a car and left for dead in 1988.
Washington took the witness stand during the trial to identify Franklin as the man who attacked her.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy instructed jurors to return to the courtroom on May 12 for the start of the trial’s penalty phase.
Franklin was convicted of shooting seven women to death between August 1985 and September 1988, then strangling a 15-year-old girl and strangling or shooting two other women in a second round of killings between March 2002 and January 2007.
The 13-year interval between the two spates of murders earned the killer the “Grim Sleeper” moniker. Since his 2011 indictment, police said they had gathered evidence tying Franklin to at least six more unsolved slayings, some of which occurred during the previously presumed lapse in killings.
Detectives said those came to light from reviewing old case files and seeking the public’s help in identifying women and girls pictured among 180 photos found in Franklin’s possession.
Franklin, who did not testify in his own defense and sat impassively in court as the verdicts were read, has been in custody since his arrest in July 2010.
During the trial, his attorney sought to raise questions about DNA evidence presented by prosecutors and suggested a “mystery man” was behind the killings.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors that DNA collected from victims’ bodies showed all 10 had sexual contact with Franklin just before they died. Prosecutors said they had been sexually assaulted.
Their nude or partially clothed bodies were found dumped in alleys and trash bins in South Los Angeles, an area gripped by rampant drug abuse, prostitution and other crime at the height of a crack cocaine epidemic there during the 1980s.
In closing arguments, Silverman described Franklin, a former mechanic and trash collector, as “a serial killer who was basically hiding in plain sight.”
In court on Wednesday after deliberations began, Silverman disclosed Franklin also was convicted in Germany for his role in a gang rape while he was in the Army in the 1970s.
Victims’ relatives said Thursday’s verdict gave them a sense of closure.
“It’s been 30 years, and we need this,” said Irene Ephriam, whose niece, Henrietta Wright, 34, a mother of five, was found slain in 1986.
Wright said she would pray for Franklin, adding, “but he didn’t give them [his victims] the chance to do that.”
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by David Gregorio and Andrew Hay)