'Grim Sleeper' serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr who killed 10 women over 3 decades dies in prison on death row
In 1988, Enietra Washington was approached by a black man in an orange Ford Pinto, offering a ride as she was stood by the curb, in a Los Angeles neighborhood that had been wrecked by a crack-cocaine epidemic.
She initially declined the offer and the man yelled back at her saying, "That's what's wrong with you black women. People can't be nice to you." She ended up taking him up on his offer and climbed into his car, having pitied him.
A couple of minutes later, she felt blood oozing out of her chest and realized that man had shot her. When she managed to ask him why he shot her, he responded saying she had disrespected him and proceeded to shoot her another five times.
He pushed her out of the vehicle, leaving her to bleed profusely, but not before raping her and taking a photograph. She looked him straight in the eye, promising to haunt him for years to come for what he had done to her.
Years later, in 2016, she recounted the incident while testifying against the man in court as one of the rare surviving victims of the notorious "Grim Sleeper".
On March 28, Lonnie Franklin Jr, who had been incarcerated in California's San Quentin Prison, was found unresponsive in his cell. When medical assistance failed to revive him, he was pronounced dead, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation confirmed.
The 67-year-old Franklin was sentenced to death in 2016, following his arrest in connection with 10 murders that happened between 1985 and 2007. Washington's account from the 1988 incident contributed to the capture of Franklin.
Franklin operated under the alias "Grim Sleeper" to carry out a slew of murders of black women in a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles. The murders did not attract much attention simply because his victims were drug addicts, prostitutes and other vulnerable women.
Unimaginable as a murderer
Franklin's neighbors were flabbergasted at his arrest in 2009 because they'd seen him as a "friendly and quiet" person who would often be found chatting leisurely with people as he worked on cars in his front yard.
He never fit the stereotypical "white male aged between 20 and 30" profile of a serial killer because he was black and committed his first confirmed murder at the age of 32.
Chose victims no one would care about
Most serial killers usually went for white female victims, but the Grim Sleeper only targeted black women, although the one thing most killers have in common is that the victims often comprise prostitutes.
At the time that Franklin operated as a killer, murders in the select neighborhood were so rampant that it led to the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders being formed in 1989.
The Coalition protested against the LAPD's lack of policing in the murder-ridden area and blamed them for their carelessness, being racially-biased and for failing to release information that could better protect the black women in that part of the city.
Between 1985 and 2007, Franklin killed nine women and a teenage girl, but the police believe that he is linked to at least 25 murders. He was known to sexually assault his victims, shoot or strangle the life out of them and then dump their bodies in decrepit alleyways, wrapped in carpets or under discarded mattresses.
His last victim, Janecia Peters, was found by someone who was foraging through a dumpster and discovered her red fingernail.
The murders continued well into the 2000s and police managed to gauge a pattern in the killings. However, over 20 years of investigation hadn't tipped the police of who the killer was or his whereabouts.
The case was never publicized by authorities, even when two bodies were discovered between 2002 and 2003, and neither did it receive media attention because of the victims' profile.
It also took them years to confirm that all the murders linked to a single killer. Franklin was able to stay under the radar and avoid authorities for decades while carrying out the murders, working as a city trash collector or pumping gas for Los Angeles police.
New DNA sample and an undercover operation
In 2007, ballistic and genetic evidence retrieved earlier managed to link some of the killings, but the DNA failed to identify a culprit. The police offered a $500,000 reward to anyone that supplied any information that could help capture the killer in 2008.
In 2010, a member of the task force assembled to re-examine these murders discovered that the genetic evidence retrieved from one of the victims partially matched his son's DNA to some extent.
The DNA had been entered into the database because of an arrest for an unrelated crime. Franklin and his relatives then became subjects of close observation by authorities
A detective from the police force went undercover as a busboy to a birthday party and collected pizza crusts and utensils that Franklin had used. The DNA recovered was a direct match with the genetic evidence from the crime scene and Franklin was immediately arrested.
The police found the gun and gathered some polaroids, including one of Washington in which she was topless, bloody and bore fresh gunshot wounds from Franklin's residence. Washington's statement to the police including her recollecting a flash going off when she was at the brink of unconsciousness.
In August 2016, Franklin was sentenced to death, in spite of denying any role in the murders of the 10 women. He didn't say a word in his defense and sat straight-faced as his one surviving victim, as well as the kin of the ones that he had slain, took to the podium to testify against his wrong-doings.
His attorneys too did a poor job of defending him. They suggested that ballistics and DNA evidence was faulty and that another mystery man was a culprit. They didn't even try to object to the death penalty by presenting any evidence, such as a testimony of his good deed or information on a troubled life, to try and spare his life.