Grim Sleeper: LAPD expands serial killer probe to 230 cases
Los Angeles police detectives have significantly widened the number of cases they are reviewing as they search for more victims of the Grim Sleeper serial killer.
LAPD detectives are now looking at 230 missing persons cases and unsolved killings going back to the mid-1970s, seeing whether there are any links to Grim Sleeper suspect Lonnie David Franklin Jr., who has been charged in 10 killings.
Officials said they are not sure how many cases might ultimately be linked but that they considered it important to cast the largest net possible.
The bid to expand reviewable cases, whose number recently stood at 60, began three months ago as LAPD robbery-homicide detectives sought to include cases in South Los Angeles dating to May 1976, when Franklin got out of the Army. The previous effort was concentrated from the early 1980s until Franklin's arrest in July 2010.
During that time Franklin worked in the LAPD's motor pool and with the Los Angeles City Department of Sanitation.
The sources stressed it would be a slow process to pull the records and remaining evidence from archives and that it was likely that many cases might never be linked. Nonetheless, they said it could provide some answers to families about the fate of their loved ones.
"There's no telling what we will find," said one source, who asked not to be named citing the ongoing criminal case.
The development comes as the LAPD is planning to re-release images of 51 women found in July 2010 among a cache of about 1,000 photographs and hundreds of hours of home video during a search of Franklin's South Los Angeles home.
The LAPD originally released images of 180 unidentified women last December in hopes that those in the pictures, or their families, would contact police. Most let investigators know they were OK.
Franklin, 57, has been charged with murder in the slayings of Debra Jackson, 29; Henrietta Wright, 35; Bernita Sparks, age unknown; Mary Lowe, 26; Lachrica Jefferson, 22; Barbara Ware, 23; Alicia Alexander, 18; Princess Berthomieux, 15; Valerie McCorvey, 35; and Janecia Peters, 25.
Franklin, who has pleaded not guilty, is also charged with one count of attempted murder, apparently stemming from the 1988 shooting of a woman who police have said is the only Grim Sleeper victim known to have survived. On Monday, prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty against Franklin.
Franklin's attorney, Louisa Pensanti, has asked Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg to approve appointment of a second defense attorney because of the possibility of the death penalty in the case.
-- Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Lonnie David Franklin Jr. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times