A former sanitation worker was sentenced to death on Wednesday for murdering nine women and a teenage girl as the “Grim Sleeper,” a serial killer who preyed on prostitutes and drug addicts in a Los Angeles crime spree dating back three decades.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy condemned Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, to execution by lethal injection, as recommended in June by jurors who chose capital punishment over life in prison without parole.
The same jury convicted Franklin on May 5 on 10 counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
“I can’t think of anyone in all my years that has committed the kind of monstrous and the number of monstrous crimes that you have,” Kennedy told Franklin, who sat stone-faced before her at the defendant’s table.
Franklin, who is suspected in several other unsolved slayings, showed no discernible emotion as the sentence was pronounced, and did not formally address the court.
But in an outburst earlier during the 3-and-half-hour proceeding, Franklin said the sister of one of the dead was “lying” as she recounted in a victim-impact statement that she and her slain sibling had both once known the killer.
Franklin’s sentencing caps a lengthy investigation and prosecution of one of the most prolific and notorious serial murderer cases in California history, along with “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez and “Freeway Killer” William Bonin.
Franklin is unlikely to face execution in the very near future. The last person put to death in California was in 2006, and the state’s system of administering capital punishment ground to a halt soon after when a court ruling outlawed its lethal injection protocols.
Franklin was found guilty of shooting seven women to death from August 1985 to September 1988, then strangling a 15-year-old girl, and strangling or shooting two other women in a second round of killings between March 2002 and January 2007.
The killer was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because he seemed to have taken a 13-year break, from 1988 to 2002, between the two spates of murders.
Police once thought the killer may have been in prison during that period and later surmised he may have laid low after one victim barely survived a November 1988 assault.
Authorities, however, now say they don’t think he ever rested.
Franklin was also convicted of attacking an 11th victim, who survived being shot, raped, pushed out of a car and left for dead in 1988. She testified against him at trial.
The survivor, Enietra Washington, helped prosecutors establish the killer’s modus operandi.
She described getting a lift from Franklin in his orange Ford Pinto and then having him shoot her in the chest while she sat in the passenger seat.
As she was losing consciousness, he sexually assaulted her and she remembered seeing the flash from a Polaroid camera.
A photo of a bleeding and partly nude Washington was later found hidden behind a wall in Franklin’s garage. Police found photos of other victims in the home.
Nearly 30 years after Washington was left for dead on the side of a road, she pointed at Franklin in court and said: ‘That’s the person who shot me.’
Prosecutors say Franklin stalked the streets of South Los Angeles, singling out prostitutes and drug addicts in a crime spree beginning at the height of a crack cocaine epidemic in the area. His victims’ nude or partially clothed bodies were found dumped in alleys and trash bins.
Franklin did not testify at his trial. His attorneys had sought to raise doubts about DNA evidence and suggested another “mystery man” was behind the killings.
Authorities said after Franklin’s 2011 indictment that they had evidence tying him to several more unsolved slayings, some of which occurred during the presumed lapse in killings. Prosecutors in the penalty phase of the trial were permitted to present testimony about four such cases.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman was able to introduce evidence of four additional slayings during the penalty phase, including one that linked Franklin to a killing in 2000 during the apparent ‘sleep.’
She also presented evidence of a 1984 slaying — a year before the first murder he was convicted of.
Prosecutors said they didn’t charge Franklin with the additional killings because it would have delayed the case that took nearly six years to bring to trial.
During Wednesday’s sentencing hearing Franklin grew agitated when Vivian Williams, a sister of one of the people identified as a victim, Georgia Mae Thomas, faced him in court and recalled that both had known him and that she waved at him “all the time.”
“I’ve never seen you. I’ve never seen your face. That’s a bold-face lie,” he blurted, before being told to calm down by a sheriff’s deputy.
Family members of the victims cried on Monday as the verdicts on punishment were read. Some rocked back and forth. One said, ‘Thank you.’
As Franklin walked into court, family members of the victims whispered, ‘Dead man walking.’
A prosecutor had asked jurors to show Franklin the same compassion he showed his victims and give him the ‘ultimate penalty.’
An emotional defense lawyer asked jurors to sentence him to life without parole to hasten the healing process for the victims’ family members.
Most of the slayings fit a similar pattern. Women were either fatally shot, choked — or both — and their partly clad or naked bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins in the impoverished area where Franklin lived.
Police didn’t connect the crimes to a serial killer for years and victims’ family members and community residents complained the killings weren’t thoroughly investigated because the victims were poor and black, and some were prostitutes who had been using cocaine.
Franklin came under suspicion after a task force began re-examining the cold cases following the final killing in 2007 and DNA from his son showed similarities to genetic evidence found on some of the victims.
A detective posing as a busboy at a pizza parlor later collected utensils and crusts from Franklin while he was attending a birthday party.
Lab results connected him to evidence found on several discarded bodies.
The 1984 killing of Sharon Dismuke, whose body was found naked in an abandoned gas station restroom, was like a bookend with the final slaying of Janecia Peters, who was found curled-up naked in a garbage bag in a dumpster in 2007, Silverman said.
Ballistics evidence showed the same gun was used to shoot both women and the weapon was found in Franklin’s garage after his arrest in 2010.
A profile of the Grim Sleeper’s killings:
• August 10, 1985: Debra Jackson – A 29-year-old cocktail waitress who went to take a bus home after visiting her friend.
Her body was found three days later with three gunshot wounds to the chest.
• August 12, 1986: Henrietta Wright – The 35-year-old was found dead in an alley near West Vernon Avenue.
She was shot twice and wrapped in a blanket and covered in a mattress.
• January 10, 1987: Barbara Ware – The 23-year-old had been shot once in the chest and her body had been dumped under a pile of rubbish.
• April 15, 1987: Bernita Sparks – 26-year-old went out to the shops but never returned. Her body was found in a bin, covered in rubbish. She had been shot, strangled and beaten.
• October 31, 1987: Mary Lowe – 26-year-old left home to go to a party, but never returned. Her body was found in an alley of Western Avenue.
• January 30, 1988: Lachrica Jefferson – Officers found the 22-year-old’s body with a napkin over the face with the word ‘AIDS’ written on it.
• September 11, 1988: Alicia Alexander – Another victim killed while going to the shops. The 18-year-old’s body was also found in an alley near Western Avenue.
• December 21, 2001: Princess Berthomieux – The end of the 14-year hiatus. DNA on the 14-year-old’s body matched those of previous killings.
• July 11, 2003: Valerie McCorvey – The 35-year-old had been strangled and sexually assaulted.
• January 1, 2007: Janecia Peters – 25-year-old was shot in the back and her body was dumped in a rubbish bag.