Jury Recommends Death for ‘Grim Sleeper’

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A state court jury decided Monday that “Grim Sleeper” serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. should be put to death for murdering nine women and a 15-year-old girl.
     The death penalty recommendation comes a month after jurors found the 63-year-old former trash collector and LAPD garage attendant guilty of the first-degree murders of nine women and 15-year-old Princess Berthomieux.
     He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who he shot, sexually assaulted and pushed out of a Ford Pinto in 1988.
     Franklin, who was wearing a thick yellow shirt and black tie, stared ahead, unflinching, as the court clerk confirmed that the jury had returned a penalty of death on each count.
     He will appear in court for sentencing on Aug. 10. At the conclusion of the hearing, he sat stiffly as a deputy placed his arms behind his back and placed him in handcuffs. Deputies then marched him out of a side door in the courtroom.
     As the court clerk read out the jury’s verdict on each count of first-degree murder, Darin Alexander, 51, the brother of Franklin’s 18-year-old victim Alicia Alexander leaned over to his crying mother Mary and embraced her.
     “We finally got it. We finally got it, “Alexander said.
     Prosecutor Beth Silverman told reporters outside at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center that reaching this point in the case was emotional and there is a “sense of relief” for the families.
     “We’ve been telling them this for years, that no matter what the end result is of this case, we can never give them back what they lost. And this is sort of a poor substitute for that,” Silverman said with prosecutor Marguerite Rizzo and family members standing next to her.
     During the trial, Silverman played the dual role of coach and prosecutor to a tee, huddling among the families and preparing them for grueling testimony and arguments that often played out with gruesome autopsy and crime scene images of the victims projected on a side wall.
     After the verdict on Monday, she went around to each family member one by one, sharing hugs, tears, and words of comfort.
     “We’ve been in their lives in a very intimate way over the course of the last six years and that’s not something for us that ends,” Silverman said. “Our connection with them goes on but their need for us maybe starts to wane and they start getting back to their lives. It’s a difficult time.”
     During the penalty phase of the case in Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s courtroom, prosecutors have presented evidence of the murders of 43-year-old Georgia Mae Thomas, 21-year-old Sharon Dismuke and Inez Warren, 28.
     Franklin, however, was not charged in the cases presented during the penalty phase.
     The jury deliberated for eight hours over one and a half days before delivering the verdict. Kennedy will now decide whether or not to adopt the jury’s recommendation.
     Kennedy asked him if he wanted to waive his right to be sentenced within 20 days of the verdict.
     “Yes, your honor,” Franklin replied.
     A search of Franklin’s South L.A. residence 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, who was found covered with a garbage bag in an alley on Jan. 1, 2007.
     During the penalty phase, prosecutors have introduced evidence of a second Titan pistol that they say was used to kill Thomas.
     Identification cards for 18-year-old Ayellah Marshall and Rolenia Morris, 29, were found after a search of Franklin’s garage, jurors heard. Prosecutors say they were not able to locate the two women’s whereabouts.
     Last week, the court heard the testimony of Franklin’s first known victim, a woman who testified that Franklin and two other men raped her in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1974, where Franklin was serving in the U.S. Army.
     Franklin did not testify during the guilt or penalty phases of the trial.
     The African-American defendant stalked vulnerable young black women in south L.A., targeting sex workers and luring 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, and sometimes both. He then dumped their bodies in filthy alleyways, sometimes without bothering to conceal them. His victims were found naked or in various states of undress.
     Franklin’s youngest known victim, Berthomieux, 15, was found strangled and beaten, her body dumped in an alley.
     Her foster sister Samara Herard spoke after the verdict of her relief and said that “justice is served.”
     “It’s bittersweet. It closes out a chapter,” Herard said. “But I’ll never get my sister back. She’ll never get a chance to grow up. She’ll never go to college. She’ll never be married. She’ll never have the choice to make better choices.”
     Franklin earned the nickname the Grim Sleeper because of a supposed 13-year fallow period between the late 1980s and early 2000s. But authorities believe he may never have taken a break from killing at all.
     Los Angeles Police Department Detective Daryn Dupree told reporters that law enforcement had found hundreds of photos during the search of Lonnie Franklin’s home. Of 180 photos of women publicly released, 34 had not been identified, he said.
     “We don’t know if they’re dead or alive,” Dupree said.
     Authorities have confirmed five of the women are deceased. Those deaths are not attributable to Franklin, Dupree said.
     Dupree told Courthouse News that he believes Franklin is responsible for the murders of between 20 and 25 women.
     Franklin spent much of the trial staring straight ahead without emotion. Silverman said that she was not surprised by his demeanor.
     “He showed absolutely no emotion. He has no empathy for others and I think that that was communicated very clearly throughout the entire course of the trial,” Silverman said.
     Franklin’s attorney, Seymour Amster, focused his comments afterward on the cost of pursuing death penalty cases and said that the district attorney’s office should be required to set aside some of its budget for South Los Angeles schools.
     “Where was our government 20 or 30 years ago when these women were on these streets. Where were they?” Amster asked.
     Silverman, who frequently engaged in heated arguments with Amster during the trial, couldn’t resist a broadside as she was getting into an elevator.
     “As usual, let’s blame someone else other than the defendant,” Silverman said.
     “This show’s the rudeness of the prosecutor talking in the back, and never allowing me to speak when I give her the courtesy. So, I’m going to stop until she leaves,” Amster said.
     “You don’t have to scream that loudly by the way,” Silverman shot back from inside the elevator.
     Amster refocused his attention on the death penalty, growing more irate and animated as reporters frequently turned back to Franklin.
     “Who cares about Lonnie Franklin. He’s a footnote,” Amster said. “You want me to concentrate on Lonnie Franklin. I’m not going to concentrate on him. I did my job and will continue to do my job because I believe that the death penalty wastes our resources and doesn’t allow us to concentrate on where we should be.”
     Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, Mary Lowe, Lachrica Jefferson and Alexander were killed in a period that began in 1985 and ended in 1988.
     Berthomieux, Valerie McCorvey and Peters were killed in a period that began in 2002 and ended 2007.
     Franklin was arrested on July 7, 2010, after the LAPD created a task force to investigate the serial murders.

%d bloggers like this: