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Grim Sleeper suspect linked to killings of 6 more women

 

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Los Angeles police detectives have linked six more slayings to the alleged Grim Sleeper serial killer after reviewing hundreds of unsolved homicide cases, missing persons reports, as well as a cache of photos of unidentified women found at the suspect’s home.

Law enforcement sources told The Times that with the new cases, 16 killings have been linked to Lonnie Franklin Jr., 59, who is already accused of killing 10 women whose bodies were found on the streets of South Los Angeles over two decades. Police have also identified a second woman who they say survived an attack by Franklin.

Even before Franklin’s July 2010 arrest, investigators suspected that they would eventually find that the man had killed more than the 10 women whose cases were linked to Franklin by ballistic and DNA evidence.

 INTERACTIVE MAP: Grim Sleeper killings, 1985-2007

Detectives continued look for additional victims, taking the unusual step of releasing photographs of dozens of women found at Franklin’s home, hoping the public could help determine if they were victims.

Three of the newly identified victims were allegedly tied to Franklin through physical evidence, said a police source with knowledge of the investigation, who requested anonymity because the additional cases have not been made public. In two of those cases, ballistic evidence showed that the bullets used to kill the women were fired from a gun Franklin is accused of using in other killings, while DNA and ballistic tests connected him to a third women, the source said.

Franklin’s link to the other three cases is more circumstantial. Police concluded that Franklin killed a woman based on a 911 call made at the time of the murder to report the location of the body. According to the source, police have matched the caller’s voice to Franklin. He allegedly made a similar call to police dispatchers in one of the cases for which he has been charged. The remaining two victims recently linked to Franklin were reported missing years ago and have never been found.

However, possessions of theirs were discovered at Franklin’s house, leading police to the conclusion that he killed them.

Police have made the strategic decision not to seek additional criminal charges from prosecutors in the new cases, the source said. With the case against Franklin moving slowly toward trial as prosecutors and Franklin’s attorney wade through massive amounts of complex evidence, adding more charges, police feared, could lead to long delays and unnecessarily complicate matters, the source said.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Serial Killers in South L.A.

“There is some wisdom to that,” said Laurie Levenson, a criminal law professor at Loyola Law School and former federal prosecutor. “Every life counts, but they have to balance the work it would take to thoroughly prepare these new cases against the benefit that would bring.” Levenson added that the district attorney’s office could decide to file additional charges and that the new cases could serve as a “safety net” for prosecutors in the event that Franklin prevails against the current charges.

Prosecutors have alleged that Franklin, a former LAPD garage attendant and city garbage collector, sexually assaulted and killed women on the margins of society -- including some prostitutes and drug addicts -- over nearly a quarter-century.

Seven of the women he is accused of killing died between 1985 and 1988 and the others between 2002 and 2007. That apparent dormant period led the L.A. Weekly to dub him the Grim Sleeper, although the detectives investigating the case have long been skeptical of the idea that Franklin stopped killing.

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--Joel Rubin

Photo: Lonnie David Franklin Jr. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

 
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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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