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Grim Sleeper nabbed through family DNA…a positive or negative advance in law enforcement?

DNA evidence led to the arrest of the Grim Sleeper suspect
DNA evidence led to the arrest of the Grim Sleeper suspect
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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The apprehension of Lonnie David Franklin, the suspected “Grim Sleeper” killer who is suspected of murdering at least 10 people, was 25 years in the making, but in the end detectives have the mistakes of Mr. Franklin’s son to thank for solving their case. It was Mr. Franklin’s son, who was convicted of gun charges, whose DNA ultimately did in his father through a controversial and, until now, seldom used investigation technique called “familial DNA.” LAPD detectives had an old DNA sample from the Grim Sleeper that had not been matched up with any suspects; when Franklin’s son was arrested and his DNA was tested, it eventually matched as a relative to the Grim Sleeper sample, through California’s new familial DNA search program. Connecting the dots detectives eventually closed in on the elder Lonnie Franklin. The familial DNA search had been criticized as an invasion of privacy but now that it’s yielded amazing results, should it used without hesitation?


Attorney General Jerry Brown

Hank Greely, professor of law and Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University