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LA serial killer 'Grim Sleeper' sentenced to death

Published 10/08/2016

Lonnie Franklin Jr, the so-called Grim Sleeper, has been sentenced to death (AP)
Lonnie Franklin Jr, the so-called Grim Sleeper, has been sentenced to death (AP)

A serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper" has been sentenced to death for the murders of nine women and a teenage girl which went unsolved for years as the body count grew in a poor area of Los Angeles.

Lonnie Franklin Jnr was sentenced in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday after emotional family members of his victims spoke about the pain they had endured for decades.

"I can't think of anyone I've encountered in all my years in the criminal justice system that has committed the monstrous crimes that you have," Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Franklin.

The killings occurred over more than two decades during a crack cocaine epidemic, and community members complained that police did not seriously investigate because the victims were black and poor and many were drug users and prostitutes.

Franklin, 63, a former bin man and one-time garage attendant for Los Angeles police, denied any role in the killings to investigators but did not utter a word in his defence during his lengthy trial.

Prosecutors connected him to the crimes through DNA, ballistics, photos and the words of the sole known survivor, who managed to get away after being shot. A Polaroid photo of her partly nude and bleeding from her wound was found in Franklin's garage after his arrest.

Nearly three decades after the attack, the survivor, Enietra Washington, pointed out her assailant in court, saying: "That's the person who shot me."

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said Franklin's motive was "doing evil", and his "degrading, calculated and brutal" crimes had destroyed many lives.

"This defendant is completely irredeemable," Ms Silverman wrote in her sentencing brief. "He is a psychopathic, sadistic serial killer who takes joy in inflicting pain on women and killing them."

Franklin's lawyers had suggested a mystery man was the real killer and asked jurors to spare the defendant's life.

Defence lawyer Seymour Amster said in court filings that the death verdict should be set aside because prosecutors introduced evidence that Franklin killed four other women, though he was never charged with those crimes.

Mr Amster also asked for a new trial because he said Ms Silverman engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by rolling her eyes in a way that mocked the defence in front of the jury and elicited snickers from family members of the victims.

Ms Silverman said they were unsubstantiated allegations and accused Mr Amster of bullying tactics, name-calling and dishonesty.

Franklin sat upright and attentive throughout the trial, rarely speaking with his lawyers and showing no emotion as the verdicts were read. None of his family were in court.

He was convicted of killing seven women between 1985 and 1988 and the 15-year-old girl and two women between 2002 and 2007. Most of the women were fatally shot at close range, though two were strangled and two were shot and choked.

The killer earned his moniker because of the apparent hiatus, which police once theorised was due to being imprisoned or laying low.

Now, though, authorities say they do not think he ever rested and may have committed far more than the 14 killings they outlined in court, which included the four deaths he was not charged with committing.

When a taskforce re-examined the old cases following the 2007 killing, DNA from Franklin's son showed similarities to genetic evidence found on some of the victims.

A detective posing as a waiter at a pizza restaurant collected utensils and crusts while Franklin was attending a birthday party. Lab results connected him to some of the bodies and led to his arrest.

AP

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