A former Los Angeles city garage attendant and sanitation worker was sentenced to death Wednesday for the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings of nine women and a teenage girl in South Los Angeles.
More than 15 family members of victims spoke during sentencing to the court and 63-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr., who was seated at a table in an orange jumpsuit and glasses, about their loved ones and the pain they’ve endured for decades. In her remarks at Wednesday’s sentencing, Judge Kathleen Kennedy talked about what family members should expect.
“Closure is not what this trial is about,” said Judge Kennedy. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, I don’t think you are. At the end of the day… your loved one is still gone.”
Kennedy earlier rejected a defense motion to set aside the death penalty verdict.
Franklin was convicted May 5 of 10 counts of first-degree murder for the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007. Jurors also found him guilty of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who survived being shot in the chest and pushed out of a moving vehicle in November 1988.
During the penalty phase of the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that it contends links Franklin to four other killings for which he was not charged.
In a court filing this week, Franklin’s attorneys contend that two sets of victims’ families were created by presenting evidence about the charged killings during the trial’s guilt phase, and then waiting to present evidence about the uncharged killings until the trial’s penalty phase. The defense lawyers contend that jurors heard about the uncharged killings for the first time during the penalty phase, saying that any “reasonable juror would feel sympathy” for the victims’ family members “with only one course of action available to the jury to acknowledge their pain.”
“That was a finding that the death penalty was the proper sentence,” the attorneys said in their filing.
In their court filing, Deputy District Attorneys Beth Silverman and Marguerite Rizzo countered that “a death sentence is clearly warranted based on the evidence and the law.”
“The defendant is a serial killer who intentionally targeted victims who were easy to exploit,” the prosecutors wrote. “The staggering number of murders in this case and the pattern displayed across these violent crimes highlight the defendant’s goal-directed behavior. He routinely manipulated others to achieve his goal: doing evil.”
The killings for which Franklin was convicted occurred between 1985 and 1988 and 2002 and 2007. The assailant, who was arrested in July 2010, was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of what was believed to be a 13-year break in the murders. The uncharged killings occurred in 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2005.
He was not charged in the other killings because proceedings would have been delayed a case that took nearly six years to bring to trial.
The killings terrorized communities in South Los Angeles and took police years to solve. Residents complained detectives didn’t give the slayings enough attention because the victims were black and many were prostitutes who used crack cocaine.
Franklin was arrested on July 7, 2010 after a task force took over the investigation after the most recent killing. Franklin came under suspicion in the final slaying in 2007, and DNA from his 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.
He denied any role in the killings to investigators, but did not utter a word during the trial.
Franklin was convicted in the following killings:
- Debra Jackson, a 29-year-old mother of two who was found dead from three gunshot wounds to the chest in an alley in South Los Angeles on Aug. 10, 1985
- Henrietta Wright, a 34-year-old mother of five who was shot twice in the chest and found in an alley with a cloth gag stuffed in her mouth in South Los Angeles on Aug. 12, 1986
- Barbara Ware, 23, shot once in the chest and found under a pile of debris and garbage in an alley in South Los Angeles on Jan. 10, 1987
- Bernita Sparks, 26, shot once in the chest and found in a trash bin with her shirt and pants unbuttoned in Los Angeles on April 16, 1987
- Mary Lowe, 26, shot once in the chest and found in an alley with her pants unzipped behind a large shrub in South Los Angeles on Nov. 1, 1987
- Lachrica Jefferson, 22, found dead from two gunshot wounds to the chest — with a napkin over her face with the handwritten word “AIDS” on it —
- in an alley in South Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 1988
- Alicia Alexander, 18, killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and found naked under a blue foam mattress in an alley in South Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 1988
- Princess Berthomieux, 15, strangled and discovered naked and hidden in shrubbery in an alley in Inglewood on March 9, 2002
- Valerie McCorvey, the 35-year-old mother of one, strangled and found dead with her clothes pulled down at the entrance to a locked alley in South Los Angeles on July 11, 2003
- Janecia Peters, 25, shot in the back and found naked inside a sealed plastic trash bag in a trash bin in an alley in South Los Angeles on Jan. 1, 2007
Some of the most emotional testimony during the trial came from a victim who Franklin left for dead on the side of a road nearly 30 years ago.
Washington described getting a lift from Franklin in his orange Ford Pinto. He then shot her in the chest while she sat in the passenger seat. As she was losing consciousness, he sexually assaulted her and she remembered seeing the flash from a Polaroid camera.
“That’s the person who shot me,” Enietra Washington said as she pointed at Franklin in the courtroom.
A photo of a bleeding and partly nude Washington was later found hidden behind a wall in Franklin’s garage. Police found photos of other victims in the home, providing key evidence leading to the arrest and conviction.