Lonnie Franklin aka The Grim Sleeper murdered 10 women before DNA evidence put him away: ID investigates

Mugshot of Lonnie Franklin
Lonnie Franklin was sentenced to death for the murders of nine women and one teenage girl. Pic credit: LAPD

On ID this week, People Magazine investigates the case of Lonnie David Franklin Jr, otherwise known as The Grim Sleeper, who murdered at least ten young women over the course of nearly a quarter of a century.

During the 1980s, there were many murders involving sex workers and drug abusers in the city of Los Angeles. It is thought that numerous serial killers were preying on the destitute in LA at the time. Tragically, many of these deaths were classified as accidents and weren’t adequately investigated.

By 1989 there had been so many of these killings that residents of South Central LA formed the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Killers movement to protest against the LAPD’s inaction in protecting young Black women.

It would seem that Lonnie Franklin was part of the problem. He targeted eight young black women, who were all working as prostitutes and suffering from drug abuse.

His first victim was in August 1985 when Debra Ronette Jackson, who he shot three times in the chest. His last victim was Janecia Lavette Peters in January 2007. He shot his victims with a .25 caliber gun; he also assaulted and strangled some women. He took photos of the dead women, which he then kept as trophies.

Enietra Washington was the only known victim that managed to survive an attack. He offered her a lift in his car after she reluctantly agreed, she was shot and raped. He dumped her out onto the street, but thankfully, she survived. The evidence she provided police would later become instrumental in putting him away.

The Grim Sleeper took a break from murdering

Franklin suddenly stopped killing young women in 1998, but then recommenced again in 2002 and 2003. The LAPD instantly noticed a pattern that linked them to the killings from the 1980s. It was this long break in murders that led to the nickname, The Grim Sleeper.

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The cops had collected plenty of DNA from the various crime scenes; however, they could never find a match. After another murder, they once again entered the DNA into a database of convicted felons; this time, they found a sample that was similar.

The similar DNA belonged to Franklin’s son, which led to an undercover officer taking Franklin’s DNA from a pizza crust. After over 20 years, the LAPD was able to finally arrest The Grim Sleeper.

Franklin was arrested in July 2010 and was sentenced to death in 2016. In March 2020, he was found unresponsive in his jail cell at San Quentin State Prison. He died shortly after.

More from Investigation Discovery

Serial killer Itzcoatl Ocampo was a former marine and veteran of Iraq, who preyed on the homeless community in Orange County. He savagely stabbed four men to death in late 2011, early 2012. His last victim was targeted after he appeared in a news report about the killings.

Robert Spangler murdered five members of his own family over three decades. His victims included two of his wives and his two teenage children. Prosecutors later argued he would regularly grow bored with family life.

The Grim Sleeper: People Magazine Investigates airs at 11/10c on Investigation Discovery.

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