The ‘Grim Sleeper’ is sentenced to death for string of murders – Los Angeles Times
A man approached Laura Moore at a bus stop in the spring of 1984 and offered a warning: You shouldn’t be out here alone.
“Bad guys will pick you up,” he told her. “Let me take you where you have to go.”
Moore, then 21, agreed, reluctantly. As the man drove off, he told her to put on her seat belt. When she refused, she said, he reached under his seat, grabbed a gun and shot her six times. Wounded, she managed to escape, but turned back to study his face. That man, Moore said, was Lonnie David Franklin Jr., now better-known as the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer.
She recounted the story in court Wednesday at a hearing where Franklin was sentenced to death, capping a lengthy legal saga that centered on the gruesome killings of more than a dozen women in South L.A.
“This is not a sentence of vengeance,” Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Franklin as relatives of his victims looked on, some of them in tears. “It’s justice.”
Franklin, 63, was convicted earlier this year of killing nine women and a teenage girl from 1985 to 2007. During the penalty phase of his trial, prosecutors connected him to several additional slayings. Detectives believe he may have killed at least 25 women.
The judge read the names of the 10 victims Franklin was found guilty of killing. In each case, Kennedy told him, “You shall suffer the death penalty.”
As she spoke, some of the victims’ relatives cried, others sighed. One man repeated: “Amen, amen, amen.”
The sentence came toward the end of an emotional hearing where more than a dozen family members and friends of victims read statements, many of them repeatedly asking why Franklin chose to attack members of his own community.
“The defendant took my daughter, murdered her, put her in a plastic bag — a trash bag — like she was trash,” Laverne Peters, whose 25-year-old daughter was found in a garbage bin in 2007, told the court before Franklin was sentenced. “My hope is that he spends the rest of his glory days in his jail cell, which will become his trash bag.”
“Amen,” other family members in the audience said.
Five of the jurors who convicted Franklin attended, occasionally nodding. Before the hearing, one of the victim’s sisters thanked a juror and said, “God bless you.” The juror winked at her.
During the hearing, a woman spoke of losing her best friend, but said she still hears her voice in dreams. A victim’s uncle said he remembered how loudly she used to cry when he babysat her as a child — a reminder, he said, of how she did everything in her life passionately. At one point, the nephew of Henrietta Wright, whose body was found under a mattress in an alleyway in 1986, addressed Franklin directly, saying, “You’re a cold-hearted dude.” Franklin nodded slightly.
When Moore, the surviving victim, addressed Franklin, her body began to shake.
“Why, why, why?” she asked. “Really, why?”
Moore wasn’t listed in the criminal complaint against Franklin, but Los Angeles police Det. Daryn Dupree — the last remaining detective who worked on the task force that investigated the Grim Sleeper killings — said he is “very confident” that she is one of his victims.
Franklin sat stoically as Kennedy sentenced him — just as he had throughout the trial. But earlier in the morning, he did react to statements delivered by some of the victims’ relatives.
Mary Alexander, whose 18-year-old daughter was murdered, spoke directly to Franklin.
“I’d like for Mr. Franklin to turn around and face me,” she said.
Franklin turned his head slowly, locking eyes with Alexander.
“I’d like to know, why?” Alexander asked, gripping the lectern.
Franklin whispered something in response.
She repeated her question, louder: “Why?”
Again, he whispered. (Dupree told reporters after the hearing that he saw Franklin mutter, “I didn’t do it.”)
“I know she didn’t do anything to hurt you,” Alexander told Franklin, “I know that.”
Franklin’s face softened and he nodded.
Alexander told Franklin that she had thought a lot about forgiveness but said she was finding the concept extremely difficult.
“I’m still battling that,” Alexander said.
Franklin nodded once more and turned back toward the judge.
When another victim’s sister told Franklin that she recognized him, he got angry, shouting, “That’s a bald-faced lie.”
In imposing the sentence, Kennedy said she had struggled throughout the case to understand what motivated Franklin.
“It doesn’t matter why,” she said. “There could never be a justification for what you have done.”
The killer, one of California’s most prolific, targeted victims who were generally young, vulnerable and, at times, ignored. The attacks failed to raise alarms the way other famous serial slayings by killers such as the “Hillside Strangler” or the “Night Stalker” did.
The deaths in the mid- to late ’80s coincided with a surge in slayings linked to the crack cocaine epidemic. In addition, several other serial killers were operating in the same area in those years. Michael Hughes was convicted of killing seven women; Chester Turner of 14 women and a fetus. Both are on California’s death row.
But the Grim Sleeper proved to be the most persistent. He targeted women who were drug addicts or prostitutes and often dumped their naked bodies alongside roads or in the trash. Many of the women were initially listed as Jane Does. The deaths drew little, if any, media attention.
Police kept the slayings quiet despite suspicions that a serial killer was stalking black women — a decision that led to outrage and condemnation from many who attribute Franklin’s longevity as a killer to police indifference.
Authorities were able to link the slayings through ballistic and genetic evidence at the crime scenes that pointed to a single killer. But identifying the DNA proved difficult.
A break finally came in the case in 2010, when a search of state offender records turned up a partial match. The person wasn’t the suspected serial killer, but a close relative was.