Lead Story West Edition

Closing arguments begin in ‘Grim Sleeper’ trial

LOS ANGELES — Closing arguments began Monday in the trial of the man accused in the “Grim Sleeper” killings of nine women and a teenage girl.

Jurors in the trial of Lonnie David Franklin Jr. were told April 29, after the prosecution’s sole rebuttal witness finished his testimony, that closing arguments would likely continue into Tuesday.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Franklin, who is charged with murdering nine women, mostly in their 20s, and a 15-year-old girl and dumping their bodies in alleys and trash bins in and around South Los Angeles, Inglewood and unincorporated Los Angeles County.

The 63-year-old former city garage attendant and sanitation worker is also charged with the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who survived being shot in the chest and pushed out of a moving vehicle in November 1988.

In testimony Feb. 25, she identified Franklin in court as her assailant and said he took a Polaroid-type photo of her after shooting her.

In her opening statement Feb. 16, Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman told jurors that DNA and firearms evidence linked Franklin to the attacks.

The killings occurred between 1985 and 1988, and 2002 and 2007, with the assailant dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of the apparent 13-year break in the killings.

Most of the victims were shot in the chest or strangled, and all of the victims were “connected to the same serial killer” either through DNA evidence or firearms evidence, the prosecutor said.

“And that serial killer, ladies and gentlemen, is the defendant Lonnie Franklin,” Silverman told the jury.

She said eight of the victims were linked through firearms evidence, and DNA collected from seven of the victims was linked to the same male profile, which was matched to “the defendant’s unique DNA profile” during an LAPD task force investigation into the killings.

During the prosecution’s case-in-chief, jurors watched a videotape of Franklin being interrogated by LAPD detectives. He denied killing anyone.

When the defense started its portion of the case last month, one of Franklin’s attorneys, Seymour Amster, cited more than 20 DNA tests of victims’ clothing and sexual assault kits that excluded his client as a contributor.

“Lonnie Franklin was excluded as the source of the major DNA profile. The minor portion was inconclusive,” Amster told the jury over and over again in his opening statement, referencing samples taken from victims’ bodies or clothing.

In each instance, Amster detailed the number of other sources of DNA found in semen and other swabs and samples.

Amster also questioned Washington’s testimony, saying she told a friend that more than one person assaulted her. He told jurors that Washington “repeatedly used the word ‘they’ and not a single person.”

Franklin is charged with murdering:

• Debra Jackson, 29, who was found dead from three gunshot wounds to the chest in an alley on Aug. 10, 1985.

• Henrietta Wright, 34, who was shot twice in the chest and found dead in an alley on Aug. 12, 1986.

• Barbara Ware, 23, who was shot once in the chest and found dead in an alley on Jan. 10, 1987.

• Bernita Sparks, 26, who was shot once in the chest and found dead in a trash bin on April 15, 1987.

• Mary Lowe, 26, who was shot in the chest and found dead in an alley on Nov. 1, 1987.

• Lachrica Jefferson, 22, who was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the chest in an alley on Jan. 30, 1988.

• Alicia Alexander, 18, who was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and found in an alley on Sept. 11, 1988.

• Princess Berthomieux, 15, who was strangled and discovered in an alley in Inglewood on March 19, 2002.

• Valerie McCorvey, 35, who was strangled with a ligature and found dead at the entrance to an alley on July 11, 2003.

• And Janecia Peters, 25, who was shot in the back and found dead inside a sealed plastic trash bag in a trash bin in an alley on Jan. 1, 2007.

Authorities said after Franklin’s arrest that he was identified as a suspect using familial DNA — investigators determined that his son had DNA similar to the killer, and when they subsequently got Franklin’s DNA, his genetic material allegedly matched forensic evidence from the eight killings.

Detectives have said that since Franklin was taken into custody in July 2010, they have also been investigating whether he might be connected to the disappearances or deaths of eight other women whose photos were found in his home near 81st Street and Harvard Boulevard.