Judge sentences 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer to death

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Lonnie Franklin Jr.
Lonnie Franklin Jr.

A judge has sentenced the 'Grim Sleeper' serial killer to death for Los Angeles murders.

The bodies of more than a dozen young women had been found in a rough section of Los Angeles for more than two decades before police acknowledged the killings were the work of one man.

It would be another two years before the killer dubbed "The Grim Sleeper" was arrested and six more before he was convicted in May of murdering nine women and a teenage girl and attempting to kill another woman.

Franklin, 63, a former trash collector and onetime garage attendant for the Los Angeles police, denied any role in the killings to police, but didn't utter a word in his defense during the lengthy trial.

Prosecutors connected him to the crimes through a web of evidence that included DNA, ballistics, photos and the words of the sole known survivor, who managed to get away after being shot. A Polaroid photo of partly nude and bleeding from her wound was found in his garage after his arrest.

Nearly three decades after the attack, the survivor, Enietra Washington, pointed out her assailant in court, saying "That's the person who shot me."

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said Franklin's motive was "doing evil," his crimes were "degrading, calculated and brutal," and they had irreversibly destroyed many lives.

"This defendant is completely irredeemable," Silverman wrote in her sentencing brief. "He is a psychopathic, sadistic serial killer who takes joy in inflicting pain on women and killing them."

Franklin's attorneys had suggested a "mystery man" was the real killer and asked jurors to spare his life.

Defense lawyer Seymour Amster said in court filings that the death verdict should be set aside because prosecutors introduced evidence that Franklin killed four other women, though he was never charged with those crimes.

Amster also asked for a new trial because he said Silverman engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by rolling her eyes in a way that mocked the defense in front of the jury and elicited snickers from family members of the victims.

Petty sniping and name calling between Amster and Silverman were on display long before the jury was seated and continued throughout the long-running case. An exasperated Judge Kathleen Kennedy said the two seemed to have a vendetta against each other and she feared World War III would break out in her courtroom.

"I want you to stop it," she blurted at one point. "I'm sick and tired of it."

Franklin sat upright and attentive throughout the trial, rarely speaking with his lawyers and showing no emotion as the verdicts were read. None of his family showed up in court.

He was convicted of killing seven women between 1985 and 1988 and the 15-year-old girl and two women between 2002 and 2007. Most of the women were fatally shot at close range, though two were strangled and two were both shot and choked.

The killer earned his moniker because of the apparent hiatus, which police once theorized was due to being imprisoned or laying low.

Now, though, authorities say they don't think he ever rested and may have committed far more than the 14 killings they outlined in court, which included the four deaths he wasn't charged with committing.

Community members criticized police for not investigating the slayings because the victims were poor, black and some were prostitutes and drug users.

When a task force re-examined the old cases following the 2007 killing, DNA from Franklin's son showed similarities to genetic evidence found on some of the victims.

A detective posing as a busboy at a pizza parlor collected utensils and crusts while Franklin was attending a birthday party. Lab results connected him to some of the bodies and led to his arrest.

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