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Alleged serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr, dubbed the "grim sleeper," went on trial in Los Angeles on 16 February. Franklin is accused of murdering nine women and a 15-year-old girl as far back as the 1980s, charges the 63-year-old denies. The former mechanic, who was arrested in 2010, faces the death penalty if convicted.
The trial in downtown Los Angeles began with an opening statement from Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman, who accused Franklin of luring vulnerable women to his vehicle with promises of crack cocaine. "All of them, every single one of them, was connected to the same serial killer," Silverman said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Throughout her statement, brutal photos of the victims were shown to the court, including Valerie McCorvey, Janecia Peters and Alicia Alexander. According to the LA Times, the photos resulted in gasps and cries from courtroom spectators, including relatives of the victims. Franklin's defence team declined to give an opening statement.
The first witness called was former LAPD detective Dennis Kilcoyne, who described how the police department formed the task force which would eventually arrest Franklin. "We started connecting the dots," he told the court. The task force's controversial DNA evidence will likely be discussed prominently, the LA Times noted.
Authorities collected DNA from state prisoners in 2008 as they attempted to find the Grim Sleeper but found nothing. A year later, a new technique allowing officials to check if a suspect's DNA partially matched anyone in the state's offender DNA database was approved by then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown. Officials found a partial match with Christopher Franklin, who had been arrested in 2008 and charged with firearm and drug offences.
To determine whether Christopher Franklin's father Lonnie Franklin was their suspect, police collected a discarded pizza crust, a fork, a napkin, a drinking glass and the door handle of his car to make sure his DNA was a match.
In 2015, Franklin's defence team argued that an expert they had hired determined DNA collected from two crime scenes matched convicted serial killer Chester Turner. However, the judge ruled the defence's expert witness was not qualified to testify. The team also listed over a dozen other men as potential sources of DNA found at crime scenes linked to Franklin.
Although Franklin is charged with 10 counts of murder and one of attempted murder, detectives believe he is connected to other deaths. During their investigation, LAPD released photos of unidentified women found in his home to the public. In 2011, police announced that they had traced another six other murders to Franklin.
However, police decided against seeking additional charges against him because they feared it would lead to more delays in the already sluggish trial. His trial is expected to last at least three months, The Telegraph noted. Franklin appeared in court during the first day of jury selection in December and was ordered by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to face the jurors who entered the court.