LOS ANGELES — One of the most savage serial killers in American history was convicted Thursday of multiple murders spanning 30 years.
Lonnie Franklin, a 63-year-old former sanitation worker and mechanic, was convicted on 10 counts of murder by a Los Angeles County jury. Franklin’s first official murder happened in 1985 before he was said to have stopped in 1988. Franklin apparently began killing again in 2002 and the halt earned him the “Grim Sleeper” moniker.
Franklin preyed exclusively on young, struggling black women—raping them before strangling, shooting, and disposing of their bodies in dumpsters or shrubs along Western Avenue, almost always within walking distance of his home.
The father of one of Franklin’s apparent victims told The Daily Beast he wants to see him suffer.
“Bottom line is Lonnie Franklin is a monster... And if there is going to be an execution I would like to be one of the ones to view it,” 76-year-old Arthur Warren told The Daily Beast. “But I don’t know if I will live long enough.”
Inez Warren was 28 years old when she was discovered on Aug. 15, 1988, by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies. While Warren’s daughter wasn’t included in the 10 fatal victims felled by Franklin in this case, he still wanted to be present.
Warren, a retired city project manager, isn’t the only one who thinks Franklin deserves to reap what he sowed.
“I hope he gets everything he’s got coming to him, I want to live and see it,” Porter Alexander, 75, told The Daily Beast.
Alicia “Monique” Alexander was 18 when she was taken from her family on Sept. 5, 2005. The youngest of five children, she was Porter’s baby. His wife of 52 years, Mary Alexander, nicknamed her “Moo” for short.
Together, along with her surviving siblings, the Alexanders have been a constant in court, filling in the second-row pews of the fortified 9th floor (where high profile criminal cases are heard) hoping each day gets them closer to justice.
They’ve waited for Franklin’s day of reckoning.
When the trial began back in February and photos of his daughter appeared on the elevated screen on the courtroom wall, Porter Alexander had to walk out.
“Just looking at some of the photos I couldn’t stomach all of them; I couldn’t sit there for all of them—I had to leave out.”
When the prosecutors refreshed the jurors of Franklin’s devastation by putting up crime scene photos of Monique and other victims there were plenty of grimaces and gasps, but this time Alexander stayed put.
And outside as he took in the sunlight during a lunch recess, relief started setting in.
“It’s taken a toll on all of us. I’ve been waiting all these years and I am blessed to live to see a lot and through what I went through with my daughter,” he said humbly.
He remained grateful and unwavering in his belief in God. “These are things we hoped the Good Lord would see us through,” he said. “He works in mysterious ways and you never can count him out.
“As slick as [Franklin] was in avoiding things that would entrap him he couldn’t avoid what was coming.”
And when it comes to the future, the guilty Franklin deserves a punishment fit for a fiend. “He should get nothing less than what has been done to the young girls, including my daughter. Nothing less,” Alexander said.
Even with the fiend finally being found guilty, the war isn’t over for many like Margaret Prescod, founder of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Killers.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” said the community activist, who has fought since the mid-1980s to bring attention to the victims—many of them harshly cast as prostitutes and crack addicts. “This has been a long time coming to give some reprieve and closure and will please some of the family members that have been through these horrors for so many years.”
Prescod cautioned that the case isn’t closed and the LAPD should emancipate the Grim Sleeper file from its Cold Case Homicide squad and called on brass to dedicate a task force to ensure every potential murder committed by Franklin is thoroughly investigated.
“There are the 200 women that are still missing,” she said. “Believe me it is far, far from over.”
Franklin’s trial was a long time coming, and while the end arrived with a guilty verdict some still feel crossed about how the death toll was capped at 10.
“I think it’s a travesty that this thing has gone on and on without any action being taken,” he said. “They said, ‘We want to make sure everybody’s counted,’ but at the end of the day they decided to make a certain number.”
Regina Morris, whose missing sister Rolenia Morris’s photo was found in Franklin’s home, is dismayed her sister wasn’t included in the killer’s final count.
“Without her remains they can’t give him counts for that,” Morris told The Daily Beast when the trial began in February. “And I feel like that’s wrong. She should be counted for.”
While Franklin was charged with 10 murders, the bloodshed is believed to be vastly greater.
“I think he’s good for probably 30 murders,” retired Det. Dennis Kilcoyne told us.
Kilcoyne was the lead detective of the secret 800 Task Force formed in 2007 to collar the killer.
To seal Franklin’s fate, the prosecution presented DNA and ballistic evidence as well as key testimony by not only expert witnesses but one of Franklin’s survivors and a close friend of his.
Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, who has taken heat in the past for dehumanizing Franklin's victims, was honoring them by closing arguments.
“These victims were all human beings,” she said. “They suffered from some of the same imperfections that we all do.
“Each of them, each of them deserves to be treated like human beings but were brutally murdered and dumped like trash as if their lives had no meaning.”
All the handiwork, Silverman said, committed by Franklin who sat legs crossed (his left heel compulsively tapping the floor) as he maintained a 12 o’clock stare through the entire duration of his final days of trial; even while the bereaved quietly wept as the verdict was read.
She left little room for doubt with the mountain of forensic and visual crime scene photos as well as hundreds of Polaroids that cops found in Franklin’s possession after a three-day search—many of which the LAPD unprecedentedly posted online to the public hoping to get leds on the identities of the pictured women (PDF).
Franklin’s defense attorney, Seymour Amster, tried debunking the case with parables and folksy vignettes like one about a rancher who tricked his neighbors into making him believe he was a marksman. The evidence against Franklin was all circumstantial, Amster said, and he was a sex addict but not a serial killer.
“He’s obsessed with sex,” Amster said. “His DNA are probably on more women out there than we’ll ever know.”
The jury didn’t buy it, not the least of which was because a photo of Enietra Washington was found in Franklin’s stash.
Washington, who was 30 years old at the time, remembered how on Nov. 20, 1988, she was attacked by Franklin after accepting a ride in his customized orange Pinto.
Franklin referred to her as “Brenda” and before he shot and sexually assaulted her he kept probing her with the same question: “You know me, don’t you? You know me.”
When Washington begged for the abductor to take her to a hospital he allegedly sneered, “Why you dogging me?”
Amster tried to convince jurors that the man in that car may have been someone else, like a relative of Franklin’s who was jealous of the amount of sex he scored with women.
Amster argued this is a “mystery man, mystery gun, and mystery DNA,” and that while the DA and Washington say the man who tried to kill her was Lonnie Franklin—he hoped jurors remained skeptical.
“They say it’s definitely him and we say it’s not.”
Yet when cops searched Franklin’s home they found a photo of Washington hidden behind a wall. She appears like many others, partially naked and borderline comatose on a car seat.
Silverman announced “that picture speaks a thousand words.”
Kilcoyne had told us finding that photo meant there were no doubts they had their man. “I’ll tell you what, when we found that Polaroid [of Washington] 25 years later that was gold, man.”
Franklin now will be trying to avoid the death penalty once sentencing gets underway. During that time he will likely be confronted by bereaved families of his victims who are ready to unload verbal bullets of their own.
If the curtain comes down on Franklin and he gets a chance to look evil in the eye Arthur Warren knows he won’t blink.
“I’m not afraid to talk to him but he might not like what I have to say.”