Grim Sleeper photos: 20 women tentatively identified by LAPD [Updated]
Los Angeles police detectives said Monday they have tentatively identified at least 20 of the roughly 160 women whose images were seized last summer from the South Los Angeles property of alleged Grim Sleeper serial slaying suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr.
[Updated 3 p.m. : LAPD Robbery-Homicide detectives said Monday afternoon that the total number of women identified rose from 15 to 20. There were roughly 160 women in the images released last week by the LAPD. Police said that number included eight duplicates, and one known victim whose family was unable to meet with investigators before their press conference.]
The Los Angeles Police Department was inundated with hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and other tips after detectives on Thursday released photographs of the unidentified women that were found in a trailer and garage belonging to Franklin, who has pleaded not guilty to 10 killings in South L.A. over three decades.
From that information, relatives and friends of 15 women have contacted LAPD robbery-homicide detectives to let them know they are alive and well, which investigators said was their primary goal in releasing the images in the first place.
In addition, detectives say they have received 75 tips that could prove important to the Franklin case.
Franklin is accused of sexually assaulting and killing 10 African American women in South L.A. During his arrest in July, authorities found a disturbing trove of about 1,000 photographs and hundreds of hours of video of women. Some of the images appeared to be innocent snapshots, but most showed the women in various states of undress and striking sexual poses.
Fearing that some of the women could be additional victims, detectives set out to identify them. Some of the material dated back to the 1980s and included video and digital camera images, Polaroids, conventional prints and even undeveloped film.
Last week, Louisa Pensanti, Franklin's attorney, criticized Los Angeles police for releasing the photos and said more than a dozen were relatives or friends.
LAPD officials said the decision to release the photos was not made lightly. Detectives said they were concerned about how the images should be presented to the public given the explicit nature of the material, and understood that their release could force the women to revisit encounters with Franklin from periods in their lives they would rather forget.
In the end, the LAPD opted to release closely cropped versions of the images that show the women's faces. Detectives also wanted to be sensitive to the families of the 10 women Franklin is alleged to have killed. Before the announcement, they invited members of the victims' families to LAPD headquarters to view the images that would be released.
-- Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Lonnie David Franklin Jr. appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times