Lead Story West Edition

Jury recommends death penalty in ‘Grim Sleeper’ case

LOS ANGELES — Jurors recommended Monday that a former Los Angeles city garage attendant and sanitation worker be sentenced to death for the “Grim Sleeper” serial killings of nine women and a teenage girl.

Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 63, was convicted May 5 of 10 counts of first-degree murder for the killings of nine women and a 15-year-old girl between 1985 and 2007.

Jurors also found him guilty of the attempted murder of Enietra Washington, who survived being shot in the chest and pushed out of a moving vehicle in November 1988.

The same jury deliberated for just over five hours over the course of two days before recommending that Franklin get the death penalty.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy ordered Franklin to return to court Aug. 10 for sentencing.

Outside court, some of the victims’ family members said they were relieved by the outcome.

Alicia Alexander’s father, Porter Alexander Jr., told reporters, “We got what we came to get. We got a just verdict. … It was a long time coming, but all I asked for was the good lord to give me strength enough to make it every day.”

The 18-year-old woman’s mother, Mary, told reporters that she’d like to ask Franklin why he committed the crimes.

“Is it something with his childhood or what? What did they do to him to cause him to do this?” she asked.

The young woman’s older brother, Donnell Parker, said the death penalty was warranted because of the “brutality” Franklin inflicted on his victims.

I think today has set a precedent that we cannot allow people to have a license to go around killing,” Parker said, telling City News Service that he wanted to be present if Franklin is ever executed.

Kenneitha Lowe said she felt that the verdict would make her sister, Mary, “able to fly her wings.

“The way she was killed, her life didn’t have to be ending like that,” Lowe said. “She didn’t ever get a chance to fly her wings because he took it away from her.”

Samara Herard — whose foster sister, Princess Berthomieux, was the youngest of the victims — called the verdict “bittersweet” because it closes a chapter, but she’ll never see the girl she considered a sister again.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman hugged the victims’ relatives both before and after the verdict was read and said, “We can never give them back what they lost. This is part of a poor substitute for that.”

When asked if Franklin was Los Angeles’ most prolific killer, the prosecutor responded, “I don’t know. He’s certainly one of them.”

Los Angeles police Detective Daryn Dupree told reporters that investigators seized 180 photos during a search warrant served in 2010 at Franklin’s home, and that 34 women depicted in the photos still have not been identified.

“We don’t know if they’re dead or alive,” he said. “We just want to have them identified.”

Franklin’s lead defense attorney, Seymour Amster, told reporters, “It’s unfortunate that the jury did not listen to Mr. [Dale] Atherton [one of Franklin’s other attorneys] and see that there was a better way.”

He said “millions of dollars will be spent on appeals because we have no choice but to do that,” telling reporters that the money could have gone to South Los Angeles schools.

“As usual, let’s blame someone else other than the defendant,” Silverman piped up while standing nearby.

Amster — who has repeatedly tangled with Silverman during the court proceedings — told reporters that he wasn’t going to say anything else until she left the floor, which she did while telling him that he didn’t need to speak so loudly.

“As far as the verdict, the jury has spoken. It doesn’t make a difference if we had a different opinion or not. We respect the system. We respect the jury’s verdict, both the guilty phase and the penalty phase. That is their right,” Amster said.

When asked about Franklin, the defense attorney asked, “Why are you concentrating on Lonnie Franklin? Who cares about Lonnie Franklin? That’s the problem with this whole process.

“Everybody’s talking about Lonnie Franklin. Let’s talk about Alicia Alexander … We must concentrate on never letting this happen again. The more you concentrate on the death penalty, the more you concentrate on Lonnie Franklin, the more you forget about what is most important and that is why it is not important who Lonnie Franklin is.”

He said the defense did not call any of Franklin’s family members during the trial’s penalty phase in an effort to try to focus on the issue of whether jurors had any lingering doubt about Franklin’s culpability for the crimes.

After the seven-woman, five-man jury’s recommendation that Franklin be sentenced to death rather than life in prison without the possibility of parole, the judge thanked the panelists for their lengthy service which began with the jury selection process last December.

“I know that this was not an easy case to listen to,” Kennedy said, noting that the jurors had maintained their composure and dignity while having to listen to “a lot of very gruesome details.”

During the penalty phase of the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that it contends links Franklin to four other killings: the January 1984 slaying of Sharon Dismuke, the August 1988 killing of Inez Warren, the December 2000 slaying of Georgia Thomas and the presumed killing of Rolenia Morris, a 31-year-old mother of two who “vanished under very mysterious circumstances” in September 2005, Silverman said.

In her closing argument, Silverman told jurors that Franklin “deserves to pay the ultimate penalty,” calling him a “sexual predator” and “career criminal” who committed crimes dating back to the 1974 kidnapping and gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in Germany while he was “in the military representing us.”

“He’s a prolific serial killer and he’s evil,” she said, telling jurors that there was “a long line of victims behind him.”

“You can either give mercy to him — the serial killer — or you can impose justice,” Silverman said. “Death is the only just punishment for this defendant … the 14 lives he stole.”

The killings occurred between 1985 and 1988 and 2002 and 2007. The assailant, who was arrested in July 2010, was dubbed the “Grim Sleeper” because of what was believed to be a 13-year break in the murders.

Franklin was convicted of killing:

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

• Henrietta Wright, a 34-year-old mother of five who was shot twice in the chest and found in an alley with a cloth gag stuffed in her mouth on Aug. 12, 1986.

• Barbara Ware, 23, shot once in the chest and found under a pile of debris and garbage in an alley on Jan. 10, 1987.

• Bernita Sparks, 26, shot once in the chest and found in a trash bin with her shirt and pants unbuttoned on April 16, 1987.

• Mary Lowe, 26, shot in the chest and found in an alley with her pants unzipped behind a large shrub on Nov. 1, 1987.

• Lachrica Jefferson, 22, found dead from two gunshot wounds to the chest — with a napkin over her face with the handwritten word “AIDS” on it — in an alley on Jan. 30, 1988.

• Alicia Alexander, 18, killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and found naked under a blue foam mattress in an alley on Sept. 11, 1988.

• Princess Berthomieux, 15, strangled and discovered naked and hidden in shrubbery in an alley in Inglewood on March 9, 2002.

• Valerie McCorvey, 35, strangled and found dead with her clothes pulled down at the entrance to a locked alley on July 11, 2003.

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