Jurors in the trial of the man convicted of the “Grim Sleeper” killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl heard testimony Thursday from a German woman who was gang-raped in 1974 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.
The woman — who was not asked if she could identify Lonnie David Franklin Jr. in court — told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury that she was 17 years old when a car containing three men approached her as she waited at a train station in Germany in April 1974, someone inside the vehicle grabbed her and pulled her inside the vehicle.
Speaking through a German interpreter, she said she was in fear for her life as one of the men “held a knife to my throat.” She said it took about 30 minutes for the vehicle to arrive at a field, where each of the men raped her in an ordeal that she said took “the rest of the night,” prompting at least one person in the courtroom audience to gasp, “Oh, my God.”
The woman was called during the penalty phase in Franklin’s trial, in which jurors are being asked to recommend whether the 63-year-old former city garage attendant and sanitation worker should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole for a series of killings between 1985 and 2007.
In her opening statement in the latest phase of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told the seven-woman, five-man jury that Franklin was serving with the U.S. Army in Germany when he joined with two other men to grab the 17-year-old German girl off the street and gang-rape her. Franklin is also suspected in a series of other killings that jurors did not hear about during the first phase of Franklin’s trial.
When asked if she believed that she would survive the ordeal, she responded that she did not. She said she went home after the attack, took a bath because she “felt dirty” and then notified police. With her husband standing beside her as a “support person,” she said that she was in a German courtroom in late 1974 for the trial of her three assailants and that she identified each of them in court.
The woman testified that she has a Newfoundland dog because she does “not feel secure without a dog when I’m home alone.”
“I’m still afraid to this day when it gets dark,” she said. Another prosecution witness, Frank J. Pyle Jr., testified that he attended the trial of Franklin and two other men in Germany.
“I was there each of those eight days along with my interpreter,” Pyle said of his work with the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps branch.
The witness noted that he had watched the woman’s testimony and that he had seen Franklin testify in his own defense.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman’s questioning of the JAG witness was peppered by objections from defense attorney Seymour Amster, who repeatedly asked to speak with the judge away from the jury.
Frustrated by the lawyers’ frequent bickering, Judge Kathleen Kennedy told the attorneys after the jury left for a lunch break, “I just want both of you to stop it. I am sick and tired of it.”
A military records supervisor, Lamar D. Whatley, later testified that a document showed that an individual named Lonnie David Franklin Jr. had enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1971 and that another document involving his discharge from the Army had the same date of birth and indicated he had last served in Germany. Documents in Franklin’s personnel file included a trial observer’s report from the German trial, he testified.
Prosecutors wrapped up their portion of the penalty phase the same way they opened their case — with the murder victims’ relatives offering emotional testimony about the impact the killings have had on them and their families.
Barbara Ware’s older brother, Billy, told jurors that he was shocked when he heard the news that his “baby sister” had died nearly 20 years ago and that he finally felt he might get some closure after he heard about Franklin’s arrest.
“The pain is still there … the pain always will be there,” he said of his sister’s killing.
Like some of the other victims’ relatives, he said he believed his sister “trusted people a little more than she should have.”
The defense is expected to begin presenting its portion of the case Tuesday, with jurors expected to have the day off Wednesday. The judge told jurors that they may hear closing arguments Thursday.
Franklin was convicted May 5 of 10 counts of first-degree murder. Jurors also found Franklin 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. In testimony Feb. 25, she identified Franklin as her assailant.
In closing arguments in the trial’s guilt phase, Amster contended that an unknown assailant may have been responsible for the 10 killings for which Franklin was prosecuted.
The prosecutor countered that there was no evidence to support the defendant’s theory and told jurors that “the only DNA profile that repeats itself again and again is the defendant’s.”
Jurors deliberated about 1 1/2 days before finding Franklin guilty of the killings, which occurred between 1985 and 1988 and 2002 and 2007, with the assailant dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of what was believed to be a 13- year break in the killings.
Franklin was convicted of killing:
— Debra Jackson, 29, found dead from three gunshot wounds to the chest in an alley 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 on Aug. 12, 1986;
— Barbara Ware, 23, shot once in the chest and found under a pile of debris and garbage in an alley on Jan. 10, 1987;
— Bernita Sparks, 26, shot once in the chest and found in a trash bin with her shirt and pants unbuttoned on April 16, 1987;
— Mary Lowe, 26, shot in the chest and found in an alley with her pants unzipped behind a large shrub 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 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 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, 35, strangled and found dead with her clothes pulled down at the entrance to a locked alley 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 on Jan. 1, 2007.
Franklin has remained jailed without bail since his arrest in July 2010 by LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division detectives.
— Wire reports