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25 Women Over 22 Years: Inside The Stranglings, Shootings, And Slayings Of The Grim Sleeper

25 Women Over 22 Years: Inside The Stranglings, Shootings, And Slayings Of The Grim Sleeper

Neighbors described the Grim Sleeper as “friendly and quiet,” but inside Lonnie Franklin’s home were hundreds of photos of the women he had brutalized and murdered.

Lonnie Franklin Jr., known as the Grim Sleeper, terrorized Los Angeles in the 1980s with his brutal murders. He repeatedly evaded capture, striking fear into the city’s most vulnerable. When one of his victims survived, authorities thought his reign of terror had ended.

In 2010, detectives apprehended Franklin and searched his home, uncovering nearly 1,000 photos of unidentified women, some bound and unconscious. This raised the question: had the Grim Sleeper really been inactive all those years?

With Franklin’s death in March 2020 under mysterious circumstances in his jail cell, the true number of his victims may never be known. He took his secrets to the grave.

Lonnie Franklin’s First Foray Into Violence

Born on August 30, 1952, in South Central Los Angeles, California, Lonnie Franklin Jr. committed a horrific crime in April 1974 while serving in the U.S. Army in Stuttgart, Germany. Along with two Army companions, he kidnapped, raped, and photographed a 17-year-old girl. She managed to escape, and Franklin was apprehended.

Despite his heinous actions, Franklin served a short prison sentence and was discharged from the Army. LAPD Homicide Detective Daryn Dupree later speculated that this crime influenced Franklin’s subsequent attacks and his habit of photographing his victims.

The Grim Sleeper’s Original Slayings

Franklin, a sanitation worker in Los Angeles, knew the city’s desolate areas well, using them as dumping grounds for his victims. He targeted poor, black women, many of whom were addicted to crack-cocaine or involved in prostitution.

Debra Jackson was Franklin’s first known victim in 1985. She was shot three times in the chest and discarded in an alleyway. Franklin led a double life, marrying and having children while hiding his monstrous actions from his neighbors.

As more victims emerged, all shot with a .25-caliber handgun, police began to doubt drug-related motives for the murders. Discovery of DNA linking all the victims confirmed their suspicions. To catch the killer without causing panic, the LAPD kept this information classified.

The One That Got Away From Lonnie Franklin

In late November 1988, Enietra Washington narrowly escaped death. Franklin, driving an orange Ford Pinto, coerced her into the car and shot her in the chest. Miraculously, Washington survived and provided a description to the police, leading to a composite sketch of the attacker. The bullet extracted from Washington matched those found in the previous victims.

The Grim Sleeper Returns After a “Hiatus”

After a 14-year break, the Grim Sleeper struck again, misleading authorities into thinking he had stopped killing. In March 2002, Princess Berthomieux’s body was found, followed by Valerie McCorvey in July 2003. Both victims were strangled and beaten, differing from the Grim Sleeper’s usual method. In January 2007, Janecia Peters’ body was discovered, shot with a .25-caliber handgun, similar to the earlier murders.

In 2007, a task force was created to solve these crimes. Journalist Christine Pelisek’s pivotal article brought public attention to the case and hope to the victims’ families.

Capture After 25 Years

The determined quest for justice and advances in DNA technology led to Lonnie Franklin Jr.’s arrest. In 2010, DNA from Franklin’s son, Christopher, provided a partial match to the crime scene DNA. The LAPD then discreetly collected Franklin’s DNA from a birthday party, confirming his involvement in the murders.

Along with identifying ten known victims, a search of Franklin’s home revealed numerous unidentified women in troubling photographs. The LAPD released some of these images, asking the public for help in identifying potential victims.

With substantial evidence against him, Franklin went to trial in 2016. He was found guilty of 10 murders and one attempted murder, and sentenced to death. This verdict gave the victims’ families some closure.

The Death of the Grim Sleeper

Lonnie Franklin Jr. died in his prison cell in March 2020 at 67, leaving the true number of his victims unknown. His death brought mixed emotions to the victims’ families: relief that justice was served but sorrow for the lives lost.

Although California stopped executions in 2019, Franklin’s death offered a sense of closure to those affected. However, the full extent of the Grim Sleeper’s crimes may remain a haunting mystery.

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