Crime & Justice

Prosecutors say Grim Sleeper killed more women

Los Angeles Police found hundreds of photos of women in Lonnie Franklin Jr.'s home. They, and prosecutors, believe he committed more than the ten murders an L.A. jury found him guilty of last week.
Los Angeles Police found hundreds of photos of women in Lonnie Franklin Jr.'s home. They, and prosecutors, believe he committed more than the ten murders an L.A. jury found him guilty of last week.
Jae C. Hong/AP

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When the penalty phase of the trial of Lonnie Franklin Jr. begins later this week, prosecutors will argue for the death penalty by laying out a chilling litany of other murders allegedly committed by the man known as the Grim Sleeper.

Franklin has already become known as one of the most prolific serial murderers in Los Angeles history after being convicted last week of murdering 10 women and attempting to murder another.

Now, the the L.A. District Attorney's Office plans to introduce evidence that Franklin murdered at least five other women. 

The alleged crimes are detailed in a 2012 motion filed with the court by prosecutors. 

According to the motion, Franklin, 63, actually began terrorizing women as a U.S. Army serviceman stationed in Germany in 1974, when he and two other men were convicted of raping and kidnapping a 17-year-old girl.

“They drove her to a vacant field where they stopped the car, threatened her with a knife, and gang raped her,” the motion states.

Franklin was also convicted of the attempted kidnapping of another woman the day before. He was sentenced to three years and four months in a German prison.

Last week, a Los Angeles jury convicted Franklin of a series of murders that started in 1985. But prosecutors will say he started killing the year before, when he murdered Sharon Dismuke. Her body was found with a rag stuffed in her mouth in the men’s room of an abandoned gas station in South L.A., according to the motion.

Dismuke died as a result of two gunshot wounds to her left chest – the same wounds found on eight of Franklin’s murder victims.

Prosecutors will also posit Franklin killed four others:

Franklin always has maintained his innocence. He did not testify at his trial.

His legal team will have the opportunity to argue for life in prison instead of the death penalty and introduce any evidence to mitigate his crimes. 

The hearing on Franklin's fate is scheduled for Thursday. 

LAPD spokesman Captain Andy Neiman said detectives believe Franklin "may be responsible for as many as 25 homicides."

“You saw what he was capable of,” said retired LAPD Detective Paul Colter, who worked on the department’s Grim Sleeper task force.

After they searched his home, detectives displayed more than 100 photographs of women found in Franklin’s garage. Nobody ever accounted for 35 of the women, according to community activist Margaret Prescod, who has closely followed the case.

Franklin was dubbed the Grim Sleeper because of an apparent 14-year gap in murders – from 1988 until 2002. The 2000 murder of Thomas allegedly by Franklin raises questions about whether there was a gap.

“There was no gap,” said Colter. “As a police department, we would be foolish to think we caught all of the murders.”

The penalty phase of the trial, which is scheduled to start Thursday, will include testimony from victims’ family members.

“I feel he deserves the death penalty,” said Kenneitha Lowe, whose sister Mary was found shot in the chest in a South L.A. alley in 1987.

“If he had us suffering all these years, which we are still going to suffer, he needs to suffer also.”