Lonnie David Franklin, Jr., a.k.a. "The Grim Sleeper", was a (possibly prolific) serial killer and serial rapist responsible for at least ten murders in Los Angeles, California.
Little is known about Franklin's early years, but he is known to have been born in Los Angeles on August 30, 1952 and to have been raised in South Central L.A. He was married to a Belizean woman, Sylvia, with whom he had two children, and has served in the U.S. Army, receiving a general discharge in 1975. During his murder trial, he was accused of taking part in the gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl in Stuttgart while he was stationed there in 1974. He worked as a garbage collector for the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation during the time of his killings. He lived in Los Angeles and was retired at the time of his arrest. He had a criminal record dating back to 1989, consisting of two charges of possession of stolen property in 1993 and 2003, one charge of misdemeanor assault in 1999, and one of misdemeanor battery in 1997. Franklin served time in prison for one of the stolen property charges, but was arrested on other charges several times in his life; his first arrest was for auto theft in 1969 when he was 16, but he was also arrested for burglary and firearm offenses. Franklin was a very able mechanic and even worked as one at the 77th Street police station for some time. He often helped neighbors and friends as a local handyman, especially with car repairs.
Murders, Arrest, Conviction, and Death
The first of ten murder victims attributed to Franklin was found on August 15, 1985 in South Los Angeles, California. Her name was Deborah Jackson and she was employed as a cocktail waitress. Over the following three years, Franklin (by then dubbed the Grim Sleeper) attacked eight more women. They coincided with the serial killings of several other prostitutes in the area, which were believed to have been committed by a single man nicknamed "The Southside Slayer". When the last Sleeper victim of that time, Enietra Margette Washington, was attacked but survived on November 20, 1988, and was able to give an accurate description of the killer and his car, Franklin is believed to have stopped killing. After remaining inactive for 13-14 years, Franklin struck again, killing Princess Berthomieux, a 15-year old runaway who had resorted to prostitution. She was found dead in March 2002, three months after her disappearance on December 21, 2001. Unlike the prior victims, she was strangled instead of being shot. Back on the hunt, Franklin killed again in 2003 and in 2006 or 2007. In 2007, investigators linked DNA from her body to the prior Sleeper murders.
In 2009, they matched it partially to the DNA of Christopher Franklin, who had a criminal record in the form of a weapons charge. Further analysis showed that it belonged to his father, who was Franklin. After trailing Franklin, the LAPD extracted a DNA sample from a slice of pizza left behind by him at a restaurant. Franklin was arrested on July 7, 2010, after his sample was linked to the DNA on the Sleeper victims. He has been formally charged with the ten confirmed Sleeper murders and the attempted murder. On December 16, 2010, the LAPD released a large collection of photos of women found in Franklin's home, hoping to be able to identify them. They found a total of over 1,000 photos and several hundred hours of video recordings. One photo was of Janecia Peters, Franklin's last known victim. Franklin also became a viable suspect in the disappearances of three other women in the Los Angeles area over the years. Photos of two of the aforementioned missing women were found in his home, as well as one of the victims' Nevada driver's license and the high school ID of another missing victim. On February 16, 2016, after several delays, the trial against Franklin began. On May 5, 2016, he was convicted of all counts and sentenced to death. On March 28th, 2020, Franklin was found in his cell at the San Quentin State Prison in an unresponsive state and pronounced dead.
Franklin targeted African-American women aged in their teens to mid-thirties. Some of them were prostitutes. He would usually pick them up, either by force or, if they were prostitutes, by soliciting them, rape them, taking photos of them with a Polaroid camera while he did so, and kill them by shooting them in the chest with a Titan FIE .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol. When Franklin started killing again in the 2000s, he would kill them by strangling them to death after raping them, only using a gun for his final known murder. The victims' bodies would be dumped in trash dumpsters or dumped in alleys in the south side of Los Angeles and then covered with trash.
Franklin was profiled as a male based on witness accounts, the sexual element of the crimes, and the DNA found at the crime scenes. He is African-American since serial killers tend to kill within the same ethnic group. His age range in 2008 is believed to have been between 45 and 55. He frequents areas with prostitutes and has a history of violence against women. He is likely a local resident, specifically living within ten miles of the killings, and/or a worker in the southern Los Angeles area. He likely has a criminal record for assault and a history of having sexually transmitted diseases. He may have low self-esteem or lacks confidence, and the act of shooting his victims in the chest provides him with the power he craves.
On Criminal Minds
- Season Two
- "The Last Word" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, the fact that he was active at the same time as another independent serial killer, may have been an inspiration for the episode's unsubs, The Mill Creek Killer and The Hollow Man (all of whom were also given nicknames by the media).
- Season Six
- Season Eight
- "The Apprenticeship" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Franklin may have been an inspiration for one of the two unsubs of the episode, David Roy Turner - Both were serial killers and rapists who targeted prostitutes (though Franklin also targeted others), took them with force (though Franklin also solicited), strangled at least one victim, and covered them in trash and dumped them in dumpsters.
- Season Twelve
- "In the Dark" - Franklin was possibly referenced by Walker along with Louis Craine, Michael Hughes, Daniel Lee Siebert, Chester Turner, Ivan Hill, and the Southside Slayer, all as examples of independent serial killers active at the same time in large cities (in their case, Los Angeles, California).
- Wikipedia's article about Franklin
- TruTV Crime Library articles about Franklin
- Huffington Post online article about Franklin
- L.A. Times:
- Time Magazine article about the Grim Sleeper case
- FOX News article about Franklin's arrest
- Grim Sleeper blog articles: