Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles Serial Killer Who Evaded Capture For 22 Years

Matt Lillywhite

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In the early hours of August 10, 1985, a woman named Debra Jackson was found dead on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. She had been shot three times with a .25 caliber handgun and dumped out of a car. Even the police were mortified. 

Over the next 22 years, (at least) nine more women would meet the same fate. They died at the hands of an infamous criminal with a chilling nickname — the Grim Sleeper

Many people called him that nickname due to the lengthy gap in his murders. After all, the Grim Sleeper took a 14-year break from killing people between 1988 and 2002.

Despite an intense investigation by Los Angeles Police Department, the Grim Sleeper evaded capture for over two decades. It wasn’t until 2010, when advances in DNA technology allowed investigators to link the murders to a single suspect, that they made an arrest.

Let me explain what happened…

The state of California collected DNA from state prisoners and filed them in a massive database. But when the Grim Sleeper’s DNA didn’t match existing samples, authorities needed to think outside the box.

The police suggested searching for DNA matches that could potentially be connected to the Grim Sleeper. And after the idea was approved by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, authorities began using familial searches to track down the infamous murderer.

According to the LA Times, computers produced a comprehensive list of people who might be related to the Grim Sleeper. But one of them stood out from the rest. It shared a genetic marker with the DNA found at each of the 15 crime scenes. And, after conducting a thorough investigation, authorities determined that Christopher Franklin was probably the Grim Sleeper’s son, based on the genetic connection.

It didn’t take long for undercover police to make progress. An officer tracked down Lonnie Franklin Jr, the alleged Grim Sleeper, by following him to a local pizza parlor. 

The officer wore a disguise, posed as a busboy, and collected dishes that Franklin had used. Thankfully, sufficient DNAevidence needed to link Franklin to the crimes was found in an untouched pizza crust, a napkin, and a drinking glass. 

Many residents of Los Angeles were perplexed at how the Grim Sleeper evaded capture for 22 years. But some believe he had inside knowledge of the police investigation or was being protected by someone in law enforcement. Quoting an article published by Vanity Fair:

“Christopher (the Grim Sleeper’s son) told me his father had a lot of fans in law enforcement. Some police officers actually admired Lonnie for ‘cleaning up the streets.’ That seemed, to me, too incredible — that a serial killer could be a person who was respected within certain sections of law enforcement.”

Franklin was eventually arrested and charged with 10 counts of murder, as well as the attempted murder of a woman, Enietra Washington, who narrowly survived being shot. “You’re truly a piece of evil,” she told Franklin during his sentencing. “You’re a Satan representative… You’re right up there with (Charles) Manson.”

After a lengthy trial, Franklin was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death in 2016. “This is not a sentence of vengeance,” said Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy. “It’s justice.”

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Matt Lillywhite publishes national news and local stories. He can be reached via email at Mattlillywhitenewsbreak@gmail.com


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