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LAPD makes arrest in Grim Sleeper serial killings [Updated]

Mary Taylor of Los Angeles gazes at a "wanted" poster and a billboard at Western and 91st for the serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper." Her niece was one of the victims between 1985 and 2007 featured on the signs.Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
An arrest has been made in the Grim Sleeper serial killer case. The killer is believed responsible for 11 deaths over the last three decades. During a telephone interview with The Times, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley identified the suspect as 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr.

LAPD sketch of suspect. Credit: LAPD [For the record: 1:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect age for Franklin. He is 57.]

The series of killings included victims, mostly female, in the city of Los Angeles, in unincorporated areas of L.A. County and in Inglewood since the 1980s. A survivor in 1988 described her attacker as black, in his 20s, 5 feet, 8 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall, about 160 pounds, soft-spoken and articulate, with neatly trimmed hair and a pockmarked face.

DNA and ballistics evidence have connected the killings of 10 women and one man from 1985 to 2007, police said. After 1988, the killer did not commit any known homicides until 2002. He last struck on Jan. 1, 2007.

The victims the killer targeted were all black and most were apparent prostitutes or drug addicts who were sexually assaulted. A 12th victim escaped after being shot and raped.

In February, the LAPD released a 911 tape of a call made more than 20 years ago by a witness who reported having seen the killer dispose of a woman's body in South Los Angeles. The witness called police from a pay phone shortly after midnight Jan. 10, 1987, and described a man removing a woman's body from a blue-and-white 1976 Dodge van.

The caller told the dispatcher the van's license plate was 1PZP746, and police found it later at the now-defunct Cosmopolitan Church at 6075 S. Normandie Ave. The suspect has also been seen driving a 1970s two-door orange, white-striped Pinto hatchback with tinted windows, a green interior and tan seat covers, police said.

[Updated at 12:38 p.m.: Cooley said Franklin's arrest was the first successful use of a DNA investigative tool known as "familiar" searching in California.

Familial searching, approved by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown at the urging of Cooley and other prosecutors, allows investigators to pursue partial genetic matches to crime scene evidence when the suspect's DNA profile is not in the state database.

Cooley said the arrest "shows the legitimacy of this technique." He said state officials followed "strict guidelines" in pursing the partial match.

Cooley said he would reveal more about the genetic sleuthing at a news conference Thursday, but he said the case was "fast-moving" once the partial match was found.]

[Updated at 1:08 p.m.: A source told The Times that Franklin worked as a trash collector but retired at some point. The long gaps between the two distinct sets of killings correspond to a time when Franklin was on disability, the source said.]

[Updated at 1:27 p.m.: Neighbors expressed shock at Franklin's arrest. They said he volunteered at the local park and that his daughter had just graduated from college.

“He’s the neighborhood mechanic“ said Eric Robinson, 47. “He volunteers at the park. A very good man. His daughter just graduated from college, I believe. He’s a good mechanic, worked out of his garage. I’ve been here since 1976; that’s how long I’ve known him. I’m not pretty shocked, I’m all the way shocked.]

-- Maura Dolan, Joel Rubin, Hector Becerra, Andrew Blankstein, Richard Winton and Robert Faturechi

Upper photo: Mary Taylor of Los Angeles gazes at a "wanted" poster and a billboard at Western Avenue and 91st Street for the serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper. Her niece was one of the killer's victims featured on the signs. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Lower photo: A sketch of the Grim Sleeper suspect. Credit: LAPD 

RELATED:

Grim Sleeper serial killer suspect worked as L.A. trash collector

Click to learn more about the Grim Sleeper's victims
Learn more about the Grim Sleeper's victims on The Times interactive Homicide Report map
 
Comments () | Archives (21)

wonderful. another menance off the streetts

Good job finally getting this guy, if it's the right match.

It has been a long wait, while this man was able to move freely around the community and the local PD station. Thank the heavens someone finally took the steps to pull him off the streets. My prayers are with the community members that live in that neighborhood. It IS an extremely disadvantaged neighborhood, but having met some of its residents, I couldn't know nicer well-meaning people.


I heard on the scanner 1728 w 81st los angeles ca so i loooked it up on google maps street level and you can see him standing out front of his house creepy

I responded to this article when they put out his picture about a month ago. I had been robbed while working for a bank in Louisiana and the discription was almost exactly the same as what Lonnie David Franklin looks like. According to the police department here, the man that robbed me had commited several robberies from California down to Florida, so I really thought this could have been him. Well thank goodness he was caught and I commend the department for working so dillagently and swiftly to catch this person. Now we can all sleep good at night.

Ha ha ha, good job guys!! I'm going to stop by and drop of some donuts and beer for you guys. This is what the police should be doing, not petty stuff like harassing people for weed or loud music.

Good news

Once again a person described as an upstanding citizen & ( good neighbor ) is guilty of being a serial killer.....described just like the Manson follower that just lost out on her parole board hearing....upstanding prisoner with no violations during her entire jail term......they are so good at hiding their true self....this guy seemed to be calming down only during the time period his daughter was growing up.....but then again , these are only the murders they have been able to link to him .....how many more did he commit that are unsolved simply because he used a condom.....

Guilty until proven innocent? The Police have all but told how long in prison this guy will get. I hope the case is air tight, or else its just more injustice for the residents of "South" Los Angeles.

"Familiar searching ... allows investigators to pursue partial genetic matches to crime scene evidence when the suspect's DNA profile is not in the state database."

I have no idea what this means, if they did not have (prior to his arrest) Mr. Franklin's DNA. Can anyone explain how this kind of a 'partial genetic match' works?

This is a happy day. They finally got him! Bravo LAPD!

It's always the ones you least suspect.


Why is he called the Grim Sleeper?

Rich, just search for the term familial DNA searches on Google and you will get many references to look at. One is found at
http://www.denverda.org/dna/Familial_DNA_Database_Searches.htm

The idea is simple. Familial DNA searches are useful when the offender's DNA is not in any available database because the offender has never had his DNA recorded by law enforcement. You take the DNA sample you found at the scene of the crime and look through law enforcement's entire DNA database for partial matches. Relatives of the offender who left DNA at the crime scene will have DNA that is a partial match to the offender's DNA. Once you find a partial match in the database, you have found a relative of the offender. You then look into who are the relatives of the person whose DNA was a partial match and will eventually find one of those relatives to be the offender.

Great job by all involved! And great reporting!

I should have used "near" or "close" matches instead of "partial" matches in my explanation of familial DNA searches.

Peter Young, thank you. It was explained in a later story, but your description is even better.

MY SISTER LUCRETIA JEFFERSON IS ONE OF THE VICTIMS AND I AM PLEASED TO KNOW THAT THE HER MURDERER IS CAUGHT. NOW OUR FAMILY CAN HAVE SOME CLOSURE

Can you tell me why? They haven't released his photo.

I've seen four mugshots of Lonnie Franklin from previous arrests -- so if they arrested him before this, his DNA must be on file somewhere. If his DNA was on file, how come nobody matched the Grim Sleeper's DNA with Franklin's DNA already on file?

This person arrested looks nothing like the police sketch.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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