Lead Story West Edition

Family members of Grim Sleeper victims react to verdict

LOS ANGELES — Irene Ephriam waited nearly three decades for her aunt’s killer to be brought to justice, but she said May 5 that she never gave up hope that it would happen.

Speaking to reporters minutes after Lonnie David Franklin Jr. was convicted of killing her aunt and nine other people, Ephriam said she believed that with the scientific advances made since the slayings, the assailant would eventually be apprehended.

“I’m just glad they could connect all the dots,” said Ephriam, whose aunt, Henrietta Wright, was shot to death in August 1986.

The 34-year-old woman’s five children had to be split up between family members after their mother was killed, Ephriam said.

She called the guilty verdicts “closure.”

“It’s been 30 years. We needed this,” Ephriam said.

Alicia Alexander’s father called the verdict a “great relief.”

“He took my daughter’s life, along with the other lives that [were] taken,” Porter Alexander Jr. said, adding he couldn’t understand how a man could be so “cold-blooded.”

“He took my baby,” Alexander said, struggling to hold back tears as he talked with reporters about his 18-year-old daughter’s September 1988 shooting death.

Alexander said he has been a fixture in court proceedings throughout the years since Franklin’s July 2010 arrest because he didn’t want the defendant to turn around and not see him in court representing his daughter.

During the penalty phase of the trial, which is set to begin May 12, jurors will hear from the victims’ relatives. They will testify about how they have been affected by the killings, which dated back to the mid-1980s.

It will be up to jurors to recommend whether the 63-year-old former city garage attendant and sanitation worker should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But Alexander already has an opinion on what sentence Franklin deserves.

What comes around goes around and now it’s his [Franklin’s] turn,” he said.

“He was the judge and executioner. He judged my daughter. … He took a life — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” Alexander said, telling reporters that he believes Franklin’s punishment should be “no less than what he gave my daughter and the other ladies, he deserves no less.”

Samara Herard — whose 15-year-old sister, Princess Berthomieux, was strangled in March 2002 — said she literally ran out of work after hearing a verdict would be read and rushed to the courthouse.

She said it was difficult to put into words how she felt when the court clerk read one guilty verdict after another.

“It’s almost like giving birth, like you wait so long you don’t think it’s going to come. … You knew in your heart it was going to be this way,” Herard said, calling it a “surreal” experience.

She said it was difficult to sit and hear graphic testimony during the trial, noting that she held her head down and preferred to remember her sister as a “sweet little girl who had her whole life in front of her.”

Retired Los Angeles police Detective Dennis Kilcoyne, who headed a task force that investigated the killings, “I’ll tell you what, these families, it’s not a club you want to belong to. Let me tell you it’s not a pretty thing and I think the world of these people, these families.”

He said he had a “long night” May 4 after jurors wrapped up their first day of deliberations, and was “happy” to be back in court with the victims’ families as the verdicts were read.

“It’s a big day. It’s [been] a long, long journey for me,” he said of the task force investigation that was launched after the January 2007 shooting death of the last victim, Janecia Peters.

“Some of these families have waited over 30 years,” Kilcoyne said.