Reaction to Grim Sleeper photo release in suspect’s South LA neighborhood

Suspected killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' for a 13-year break between his strings of 11 murders, is pictured during his arraignment in Los Angeles Criminal Courts on July 8, 2010.
Suspected killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., dubbed the 'Grim Sleeper' for a 13-year break between his strings of 11 murders, is pictured during his arraignment in Los Angeles Criminal Courts on July 8, 2010. AL SEIB/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles police have identified about 20 people from nearly 180 photos of women they fear may have been victims of a suspected serial killer known as the "Grim Sleeper.” Officers arrested a suspect - Lonnie David Franklin, Junior - in July. With so many photos still unidentified, some of the suspect’s neighbors along 81st Street in South L.A. remain nervous.

A larger-than-life-size manger scene decorates the front yard outside one house. Happy Santas and candy canes adorn others. Most houses also have pointed, steel spike fences, window bars or warning signs. One of those signs says the owner will call 911 immediately if someone comes on the property.

Most people – particularly women - don’t want to talk about the arrest that shook the neighborhood. It took some persuasion to get Melva Tivas to open the steel door to her beauty parlor. Months after the LAPD picked up Franklin, she’s still edgy.

"I had some friends that I hadn’t seen for a while," Tivas says. "So looked to see of any of their picture were there, but none of them were there, so that’s a good thing."

Tivas says she’d been cautious before, but now she’s hyper aware of her surroundings.

"When somebody new moves into the neighborhood and if I see a lot of traffic, I’m thinking OK what are they doing, especially if they are out at night. Or they keep their house closed up during the day, I’m thinking, OK, what’s going on?"

Ann Bowles is getting her hair done at Tivas’ beauty parlor.

"You're definitely looking over your shoulder all the time because that could happen again," she says about the alleged serial killer."

She tenses up at the mention of the Grim Sleeper suspect’s name. She says she instantly thought he was back on the streets. Fear of someone like him has heightened her sense of insecurity.

"I have a daughter. All of us have alarms."

She and the women she knows are serious about taking precautions. Tivas says that when it starts to get dark outside, she makes sure each of her customers makes it safely to her car and locks the door.

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