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LAPD makes arrest in Grim Sleeper serial killings [Updated]

July 7, 2010 | 12:29 pm

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 


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