Stepmother of 'Grim Sleeper' murder victim says investigation has come a long way

This week's arrest of a suspect in the Grim Sleeper serial murders in South Los Angeles offered some relief for relatives of the victims.

For decades, many agonized over the unsolved killings. Diana Ware was one of them. She lost her stepdaughter to the Grim Sleeper 23 years ago.

A May news conference with LA city councilman Bernard Parks and LAPD officials may have renewed hope for Ware. Someone shot her stepdaughter Barbara to death in 1987.

On a warm spring morning about two months ago, Ware stood at the intersection of South Western Avenue and West 91st Street, not far from the crime scene. She watched Los Angeles Police Detective Dennis Kilcoyne, the lead investigator, give an update.

"Over the last three years, we've personally investigated in the neighborhood of 250 potential candidates to be our suspect," said Kilcoyne. "They have systematically been eliminated by forensic science."

Most of the murder victims between 1985 and 2007 were African-American women. Several of them - including Barbara Ware - worked as prostitutes. Her stepmother remembered the horror when an anonymous caller told police where to locate her.

"She had just turned 23 when they found her body in the alley on 56th off of Main Street," Ware recalled. A 9-1-1 caller reported to police that someone had tossed Ware's body from a blue-and-white van. Police used the license plates to locate the vehicle at a church in the area, its registered address.

Since then, advances in forensic science whittled down the list of Grim Sleeper suspects to one. On Wednesday, authorities charged 57 year-old Lonnie Franklin Jr. with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. Diana Ware said technology and policing have come a long way since the death of her stepdaughter Barbara.

"At that time they didn't have DNA," Ware said. "They figured she was just another murder victim at that time. There were so many murders happening in this area."

Ware said she's overjoyed police have arrested a suspect in the case. A technique known as familial DNA searching allowed investigators to make a partial match of crime scene genetic material with that of suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr's son.

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