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Jury Gives 'Grim Sleeper' Serial Killer A Death Sentence

Lonnie Franklin Jr. listens to one of his attorneys during a pretrial hearing last year.
Al Seib
LA Times via Getty Images
Lonnie Franklin Jr. listens to one of his attorneys during a pretrial hearing last year.

Lonnie David Franklin Jr. preyed upon prostitutes and drug addicts in Los Angeles in a string of murders going back to the 1980s. Prosecutors said he dumped the bodies in trash bins and alleyways. He came to be called the Grim Sleeper.

But one woman he had shot in the chest, raped, pushed out of his car and left for dead didn't die. Enierta Washington survived. And she testified against Franklin at his trial. Photographs of some of Franklin's victims — hundreds of photographs — were found in Franklin's home, police said.

The evidence was enough to persuade the jury to convict Franklin, a former sanitation worker, for 10 murders. Prosecutors said they believed he was responsible for even more deaths, as many as 25.

On Monday, the jury decided that Franklin should receive the death penalty.

As far as the reaction in the courtroom, the Los Angeles Times reported:

The verdict ... drew muted sighs of relief in the downtown courtroom from victims' relatives, who were passing tissues back and forth, letting slight sobs go as each victim's name was read aloud. Franklin, wearing a yellow dress shirt and neck tie that he put on as he entered the courtroom, appeared to remain stoic as he has the entire trial.

For the death penalty to be imposed, the jury's recommendation must be upheld by a judge at a sentencing hearing in August.

The Grim Sleeper moniker stemmed from the initial belief by investigators that the killer had gone dormant and stopped killing after the 1980s murders, only to begin killing again in 2002. Prosecutors now believe Franklin didn't stop after all. He just wasn't suspected in the additional cases until more recently.

Diana Ware's daughter Barbara was among the victims. "I'm just glad it's over and that he'll never get out to hurt anyone else," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Justice was served."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996 and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.
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