A Los Angeles garbage truck driver nicknamed the Grim Sleeper has been convicted of killing nine women and a 15-year-old girl in Los Angeles area over a period of 30 years. It took the jury less than two days to convict Lonnie David Franklin Jr. of all the murders and an attempted murder of a woman who survived a vicious attack. Franklin, the most prolific killer in California history, targeted mostly poor young black women, some of them prostitutes.
He was called the Grim Sleeper because of the 14-year stretch between two groups of killings attributed to him that began in 1985 and ended in 2007.
Franklin, 63, stood still and straight and showed no emotion as each of the verdicts was read in the Los Angeles Superior courtroom by the jury foreman, according to the Los Angeles Times. The trial next moves into the penalty phase when the jury will decide whether Franklin will face death or life in prison.
Two women — one he was convicted of raping and another he attempted to kidnap and rape in Germany where he was serving in the US Army in the 1970s — may testify during the penalty phase.
Prosecutors are also expected then to present evidence that Franklin killed at least another five women, according to the Times. The jury heard 61 people in the witness box in the three-month trial against Franklin. Prosecutors said the Grim Sleeper dumped his victims like trash.
Surviving victim Enietra Washington testified that Franklin coaxed her into his orange Pinto in 1988 and without warning pulled out a handgun and shot her in the chest. She remembered Franklin climbing on top of her as she lost consciousness. He pushed her out of the moving car, assuming she was dead.
Victims were found in alleys and dumpsters in South Los Angeles, all of them within a few miles of Franklin's home. Most wore disheveled clothing or were only partially clothed, suggesting they had been re-dressed and moved. Any identification had been removed.
"He did it over and over and over and over and over," Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman said during closing arguments. "They are all willful. They are all deliberate. They are all premeditated."
Police linked Franklin to the murders in 2010 using DNA technology that did not exist when the first killing spree occurred in the 1980s. Bizarrely, Franklin worked for a time in the Los Angele Police Department garage during his sprees.
He was finally arrested after the DNA tests in 2010. Police discovered photos and videos of dozens of unidentified women in his home.
Silverman called Franklin a "serial killer who was hiding in plain sight." The convictions brought some small satisfaction to those left behind.
"You wait so long and you don't think it will come. You knew in your heart it would be this, but it's surreal," said Samara Herard, sister of Princess Berthomieux, who at age 15 was found strangled and beaten in 2002 in an Inglewood alley. "She deserved to live a full life."