|Lonnie Franklin's appearance at his arraignment|
Statistics shows that Lonnie Frankin is listed with some of LA's most notorious African American serial killers, supposedly a new phenomenon among Black males. Serial killers have always been identified as White males in their early 30s 0r older. Black serial killers nation wide, none of whom were identified by a particular modus oprandi were simply branded spree killers. Spree killers are tantamount to drive by shooters.
Serial murders and rapes committed by African American men were initially viewed as individual acts committed by more than one killer. With the discovery and sophistication of DNA technology, many of the cold cases have been reopened, investigated and resolved.
According to background information Franklin had a criminal record dating back to 1989. Like a number of African American serial killers nationwide, Franklin went undetected for more than a decade. He was 33 years old when he commenced his travel to the dark side. Police suspect, but have no proof, that Franklin also killed one man.
“Aside from the 10 murder charges, police suspect Franklin killed a man who may have discovered he was a killer. They are also reviewing whether Franklin was involved in about 30 other homicide cases. He has not been charged in those cases.
“Franklin was arrested at least 15 times for investigation of burglary, assaults and other crimes but avoided state prison. He is alleged to have killed one of his victims in July 2003, a time when he should have been in county jail but was released early because of overcrowding.” (Huffington Post, July 2009)
All of Franklin’s victims lived in South Central L.A. When the community learned that a serial killer was their neighbor, living freely in their midst, they were shocked, surprised visibly shaken and angry. Then Chief of Police William Bratten intentionally withheld information regarding the suspected serial killer. One irate woman said had their community been White they would have been notified.
“The mayor and chief never issued a press release, nor warned the South Los Angeles community of the killer’s continuing activities. In some cases, the alternative newspaper was the first to inform the families that their daughters had been confirmed as victims of a serial killer.” (Wikipedia.org) The alternative newspaper was the Los Angeles Weekly.
“Prosecutors have alleged that Franklin, a former LAPD garage attendant and city garbage collector, sexually assaulted and then killed women on the margins of society — including some prostitutes and drug addicts — over nearly a quarter century. Seven of the women he is accused of killing died between 1985 and 1988 and the others between 2002 and 2007. That apparent dormant period led the L.A. Weekly to dub the killer the 'Grim Sleeper', although the detectives investigating the case have long been skeptical of the idea that the killer had taken a break.
“Police at first speculated the killer may have been in prison during the gap in the known killings, but that theory was tossed out when Franklin was arrested and investigators realized he had not been behind bars. That spurred them to launch the review of unsolved cases and missing person reports in search of victims that had gone unconnected to Franklin.” (LA Times, 2011)
Franklin was born in Los Angeles on August 30, 1952. Contrary to many news reports not all of his victims were drug addicts and prostitutes.
“Many of the victims had been just going out to run an errand, or had been on their way to a party or a quick stop somewhere. Bernita Sparks, 23, had run out to grab some cigarettes on April 15, 1987, and never came home. She was found in the dumpster on Western Avenue the next day. Sparks' cigarette run turned into a beating, strangulation and death by shooting.” (crimelibrary.com)
|Franklin pleads not guilty|
“Take Mary Lowe, a 26-year-old receptionist, last seen on Oct. 31, 1987, at a Halloween party at the Love Trap Bar 10 blocks from Franklin's home. She was discovered dead in a nearby alleyway, shot in the chest, the following day.
Franklin, living on disability, was arrested after his DNA connected him to multiple unsolved rapes and murders. Similar to a scene straight out of a TV crime show, namely CSI, detectives used a tactic termed familial DNA to nail the suspect. According to a number of news reports, Franklin’s son was arrested for an unrelated incident and questioned. The Los Angeles Times reported that Franklin’s son “fingered his dad.”
Crimelibrary writes that detectives trailed Lonnie Franklin, hoping to obtain his DNA by hook or crook. They finally struck pay dirt. “Police got a sample of his DNA off a slice of pizza he left at a restaurant, allowing them to link him physically to the evidence left on the victims.” Franklin later said he thought the restaurant would throw out the uneaten pizza with the other trash.
Franklin youngest victim was a 15-year-old runaway named Princess Berthomieux. For some reason he stopped his murderous rampage in 1988, but resumed the killings 14 years later. His last victim was Janecia Peters, 25, murdered January 1, 2007. America's Most Wanted reported that a prior victim, Alicia "Monique" Alexander, 18, was on her way to a store for her dad when she hasd the misfortune of a chance meeting with Franklin. Her body was found a few days later. She had been sexually assaulted and shot.
Donna Harris, one of Franklin’s neighbors, was surprised to learn that the longtime resident was serial killer. “Everybody on the block, we all knew if anything was happening with anybody’s cars, he was always there for us. Especially the ladies,” Harris said. “Even if we weren’t at home, instead of calling Triple AAA, he would help.” (ABC News)
After killing his victims Franklin disposed of them in alleyways under mattresses, discarded carpets and in dumpsters. Janecia Peters was found wrapped in a garbage bag. Unlike the other women who were either strangled or shot at close range, Peters was shot and strangled.
Detectives thought they were getting a tip on the killer when an unidentified man called 911 to report two deaths. The caller would not state his name when the operator asked who he was. The mysterious caller laughed and quickly hung up. Upon arresting Franklin prosecutors sought permission to perform an analysis of the caller and Franklin’s voices.
In 1985 there were over 800 killings/murders in South Central L. A. When they searched Franklin’s home they reportedly found 1,000 photos women (some media reported 800), some of whom appeared to be in a semi-conscious, some appeared to be unconscious. The photos dated back 30 years, all were taken by Lonnie Franklin. Photos and videos of women, and other evidence was taken from his home during a three-day search. He had shared the modest home with his wife for 32 years.
The Los Angeles Police Department posted photos of the 10 of Franklin's victims on a billboard, hoping relatives or acquaintances would come forth and identify the women. A $500,000 reward was offered for information leading to the killer’s arrest.
Prosecutors are expected to ask for the death penalty. At his arraignment July 8, 2014 Franklin pleaded not guilty to murders and rapes he was accused of committing. He is now waiting to go to trial. No date has been set.