The man dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer was sentenced to death Wednesday for the killings of nine women and a teenage girl, primarily in the South Los Angeles area.
Former Los Angeles city garage attendant and sanitation worker Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, was convicted May 5 of 10 counts of first-degree murder for the killings, which occurred between 1985 and 2007. In June, jurors recommended that Franklin receive the death penalty.
Before handing down the sentence, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy rejected a motion for a new trial for Franklin, along with an automatic motion to reduce the jury’s recommendation of death to life in prison without parole.
“It’s not vengeance, it’s justice, Mr. Franklin,” she said before sentencing him to death for each of the 10 killings.
The judge told Franklin she spent a lot of time thinking about him and his case, asking herself, “Why did this happen?” and came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter why.
“There could never be a justification for what you’ve done,” she told Franklin. “It’s obvious that you have a deep-seeded hatred for women that started long ago.”
She called the crimes “monstrous.”
The victims’ relatives — who packed the courtroom — clapped after the judge announced the sentence.
Franklin stared straight ahead as most of the victims’ family members spoke, turning only twice toward them when two asked him to face them.
“I’d like to know why, what did Alicia Monique do to you?” Alicia Alexander’s mother, Mary, asked the defendant.
He mouthed something inaudible in response, then turned back to stare straight ahead as she said she was thankful she had “lived to see this day,” because some victims’ parents had already died by the time Franklin was arrested in July 2010.
When a relative of a woman he is suspected of killing — but was not charged with — said she knew Franklin remembered her, Franklin piped up, “I’ve never seen you before … You never waved at me.”
Relatives of most of the victims spoke during the lengthy hearing, with some calling him “evil.”
“We will never know what made you the evil person you are …,” Barbara Ware’s sister, Treva Anderson, told Franklin. “I don’t know why you killed them.”
Henrietta Wright’s daughter, Rochelle Johnson, said, “What he did to this community, that’s what you call butt ugly,” in an apparent reference to a police interview in which Franklin called her mother “butt ugly” after being shown her photo and denied knowing the woman. “He has made the rest of his life butt ugly.”
“You’re a cold-hearted dude,” Mary Lowe’s nephew told Franklin. “Justice has been served.”
Alicia Alexander’s father, Porter Alexander Jr., said of Franklin, “The day of reckoning is here … He thought he was above the law, that he was not going to be caught.”
Also in court were two women who said they survived being shot by Franklin.
“I’m one of your living victims,” Enietra Washington Margette told the defendant. “I really think you are truly a piece of evil. You’re right up there with (Charles) Manson.”
Franklin was convicted of trying to kill her in November 1988. She identified Franklin as the man who shot her in the chest and pushed her out of a moving vehicle.
Laura Moore — who was not called as a witness during trial — told the judge she was at a bus stop in 1984 when Franklin convinced her to accept a ride from him.
“He shot me six times and started laughing at me,” she said. “I just want to ask him why, why? I didn’t do anything to him.”
Five jurors who heard the case against Franklin returned to the jury box a final time to hear the sentence being handed down.
Outside court, juror Freddy Magallanes said the group wanted to return to court to “show support” for the victims’ families.
“This is the family’s pain,” he said. “We still feel like we’re outsiders to that pain.”
Another juror, Michelle Mayne-Graves, said, “For us, it gave us closure and we wanted to see that the judge agreed with the verdict that we determined.”
She said the evidence presented during the trial “is what made him guilty” and that he had “determined his sentence” because of the crimes he committed.
“He did a huge, horrible thing to a lot of people,” she said.
Franklin was convicted of killing:
— 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; and
— 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.
Their killer was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of what was at the time believed to be a 13-year break in the killings, but police detectives have subsequently said they don’t believe there was actually a break.
Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial’s penalty phase that they said linked Franklin to the January 1984 killing of Sharon Dismuke, the August 1988 slaying of Inez Warren, the December 2000 killing of Georgia Thomas and the presumed killing of Rolenia Morris, a mother of two who disappeared in September 2005. Jurors also heard from a woman who testified that she was gang- raped in 1974 in Germany in an attack that the prosecution has said was linked to the defendant and two other men while he was serving in the U.S. Army.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman has said that Franklin is “certainly” one of Los Angeles’ most prolific killers.
In a statement released after the sentencing, Franklin’s lead attorney, Seymour Amster, said, “With this death verdict and sentence, millions of dollars will now go towards several rounds of appeals, a necessary process to ensure no errors occurred in these proceedings. … The jury had another option — life without the possibility of parole. I hold it to be the better option. That verdict would have saved millions of dollars from being spent in the often- futile pursuit of eradicating a life from this earth, a life that was already determined to never again see the light of day outside prison.”
Franklin’s attorney contended during the trial that an unknown assailant may have been responsible for the 10 killings for which Franklin was prosecuted.
Silverman — who repeatedly tangled with Amster during the trial — countered there was no evidence to support the defense’s theory and told jurors “the only DNA profile that repeats itself again and again is the defendant’s.”
An undercover LAPD detective posing as a bus boy at a Buena Park pizza parlor collected an unfinished slice of pizza Franklin had been eating, along with a napkin and two cups, for DNA testing without Franklin’s knowledge in July 2010. At a pretrial hearing in 2014, Franklin testified that he had not consented to having his bodily fluids being tested and believed the items were going to be disposed of and destroyed, but the judge ruled that he had no standing to challenge what happened to the items once he discarded them.
Authorities said soon after Franklin’s arrest that he had been identified as a suspect using familial DNA — investigators determined that his son had DNA similar to the killer — and when they subsequently obtained Franklin’s DNA, his genetic material matched forensic evidence from eight killings between 1985 and 1988 and three killings between 2001 and 2007.
—City News Service
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: