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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Same Gun Linked to 7|’Grim Sleeper’ Victims

LOS ANGELES (CN) - An LAPD criminalist and firearms expert testified Thursday that he had matched bullets in seven victims of accused Grim Sleeper serial killer Lonnie Franklin to the same .25-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

The people's witness Daniel Rubin continued his testimony in Franklin's death penalty case, which began last month in Judge Kathleen Kennedy's downtown courtroom.

Franklin, 63, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he murdered nine women and a 15-year-old girl. He faces an additional charge of attempted murder.

Prosecutors say the African-American defendant killed vulnerable young black women over a period that began in the mid-1980s. The victims were sometimes sex workers, and prosecutors say Franklin prowled the streets during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, killing seven women during a period that ended in 1988.

Another four murders between 2002 until 2007 have been linked to the Grim Sleeper, who earned the name because of the fallow period during the late 1980s and 1990s.

During morning testimony, Rubin told Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman that firearm experts are able to match bullets to a gun by analyzing tool marks on a bullet after a round is fired. Because machine tools used to manufacture firearms leave unique marks on the barrel, experts can determine if bullets were fired from the same gun, Rubin said.

Rubin said that by comparing bullets found in victims Debra Jackson, Henrietta Wright, Barbara Ware, Bernita Sparks, Mary Lowe and Alice Alexander, he concluded that the bullets were "positive to each other."

Silverman asked Rubin to clarify what a positive match is.

"When I say positive, that means it was a positive identification that they were fired from the same firearm," Rubin told jurors.

Prosecutors say Franklin killed seven women between 1985 to 1988. With the exception of Wright, 34, and Alexander, 18, the victims were all their twenties.

Enietra Washington survived an attack and sexual assault after Franklin allegedly picked her up in an orange Pinto in 1988, sexually assaulted her, shot her in the chest and pushed her out of the moving car.

Rubin said that his analysis confirmed that Washington had been shot with the same .25 caliber handgun as Wright.

During his cross-examination, Seymour Amster picked holes in Rubin's background and methodology, citing a report from the National Research Council that was critical of the reliability of firearm tool-mark analysis.

Amster said that the council, an arm of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, had Nobel Prize winners and doctorates among its ranks. Amster asked Rubin if he was a member.

The witness told the criminal defense lawyer that he had read the report but was not part of the council.

Authorities arrested and charged Franklin six years ago after confirming that his DNA profile matched DNA found on the victims. A detective disguised as a busboy collected a half-eaten pizza from Franklin as DNA evidence during a party at a John's Incredible Pizza restaurant on July 5, 2010.

The search warrant for Franklin's South Central home uncovered 800 items of evidence, including $17,000 in cash, 10 firearms and 180 pictures of women and girls.

According to prosecutors, a .25-caliber Titan pistol recovered from the house matched the bullet found in the last known victim, Janecia Peters, who was murdered on New Year's Day 2007.

Prosecutors believe that the Titan is not the same handgun used to kill the other victims.

Testimony was scheduled to resume in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on Thursday afternoon.

Family members of victim Alice Alexander were present in the courtroom. They said they would wait until the end of the trial to comment.

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