Death Penalty for ‘Grim Sleeper’ Serial Killer

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — A state court judge on Wednesday sentenced to death Lonnie Franklin Jr. who terrorized black women in South LA for two decades as the so-called Grim Sleeper serial killer.
     Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Franklin she had thought long and hard as she tried to make sense of why he had killed so many defenseless women before concluding that his motives were unimportant.
     “It doesn’t matter. There could never be a justification for what you’ve done because what you’ve done is not justifiable under the laws of God or the laws of man,” Kennedy said.
     She pointed to the horrendous nature of Franklin’s crimes but said that her sentence was not about vengeance, but justice.
     “It’s obvious you have a deep-seated hatred for women that started long ago,” Kennedy said to Franklin, who sat before her wearing orange jail garb.
     Kennedy sentenced him to death for the first-degree murders of 10 women and life imprisonment for the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, now Enietra Margette. The sentence follows a death penalty recommendation from jurors who convicted the 63-year-old former trash collector and LAPD garage attendant in May.
     As sheriff’s deputies led Franklin out of the courtroom in shackles, family members in the gallery broke into applause.
     Franklin targeted sex workers during the crack epidemic of the 1980s, luring defenseless women into his car with promises of alcohol and drugs. His modus operandi was to shoot his victims at close range in the chest or strangle them, or both, and then dump their bodies in filthy alleyways. His victims were found naked or in various states of undress.
     Franklin’s youngest known victim, 15-year-old Princess Berthomieux, was found strangled and beaten on March 19, 2002, her body dumped in an alleyway.
     The killer earned the nickname “Grim Sleeper” because of a 13-year fallow period between the late 1980s and early 2000s. But prosecutors believe that Franklin killed as many as 25 women over a period that began on Aug. 10, 1985, with the death of 29-year-old Debra Jackson.
     The route to Franklin’s capture came in the unlikely form of a slice of pizza.
     Detectives had searched for familial DNA profiles on a state database and unearthed Franklin’s son Christopher, who had been convicted on a weapons charge. A detective disguised as a busboy collected a half-eaten pizza from Franklin during a party at a John’s Incredible Pizza restaurant on July 5, 2010. The evidence found on the food allowed detectives to charge Franklin in the brutal murders.
     A search of Franklin’s mint-green residence and garage in 2010 uncovered hundreds of items of evidence, including Polaroid images of some of his victims and a Titan pistol that Franklin used to kill Janecia Peters. Peters was found covered with a garbage bag in an alley on Jan. 1, 2007.
     The 10 murder victims were Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, Mary Lowe, Lachrica Jefferson, Alicia Alexander, Berthomieux, Valerie McCorvey and Peters.
     Franklin did not testify during the guilt or penalty phases of the trial and remained largely stoic and silent during the proceedings. He declined to make a statement in court on Wednesday morning, but broke his silence after several witnesses addressed him to describe how his crimes had broken their families and left behind grieving children, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.
     Alicia Alexander’s mother Mary Alexander asked Franklin why he had killed her daughter and asked him to face her. He turned to her and spoke quietly. Some observers said that Franklin had said “I didn’t do it,” while others thought he might have said “She didn’t do anything.”
     When Vivian Williams spoke, she asked Franklin to look at her and told him that she remembered waving at him around the neighborhood.
     Franklin turned to face her.
     “You never waved at me,” he said. “That’s a bald-faced lie.”
     As Franklin’s only known survivor, Washington spoke directly to Franklin and called herself one of his “living victims.” She described how she had been praying all morning before she came to court, and called Franklin evil.
     “You are right up there with Manson,” she said.
     Outside the courtroom, Washington told reporters that though she was at first hesitant to testify for the prosecution she was glad she took the stand during the trial. She had told jurors how Franklin had picked her up in Ford Pinto in 1988, shot and sexually assaulted her, and pushed out of the car.
     “I told him that if I died I’d come back to haunt him. I didn’t feel no pain,” Washington said. “He was shooting women. It had nothing to do with us being addicted or not addicted. He just didn’t like black women.”
     Another woman, Laura Moore said to gasps from the gallery that she had survived an attack after Franklin picked her up from a bus stop, taken her to alley and shot her six times. After the hearing, county prosecutor Beth Silverman said that Moore had come to her office six years ago. The prosecutor said that it was the first time that she had seen Moore since their meeting all those years before.
     During the penalty phase, the jury heard testimony from Franklin’s first known victim, Ingrid W., a woman who testified that in 1974 Franklin and two other men raped her in Stuttgart, Germany, where he was serving in the U.S. Army.
     Kennedy remanded Franklin into the care of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. He will be incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.

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