Monday, 22 June 2015

Ronnie Franklin: The Grim Sleeper


There is a serial killer in the United States who was referred to as the Grim Sleeper. His name is Ronnie Franklin Jr.  He was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" because he appears to have taken a 14-year slumber from his crimes, from 1988 to 2002. He should have been called the Grim Reaper who is the black-cloaked, scythe-wielding personification of death. He comes for every person, hourglass in hand, waiting for us to die.  He is a heavy set black man who was born in Los Angeles on August 30, 1954. That would make him almost 62 years of age at the time of this writing. He was seen as a friendly mechanic who often stopped to chat as he tinkered with cars in the front driveway of his mint-green house on 81st Street in Los Angeles. But after police identified him as "The Grim Sleeper," the notorious serial killer, other neighbors recalled traits that suddenly seemed chilling.

He is accused of murdering at least 10 women and the attempted murder of the 11th woman.  They were all black women. He worked as a garbage man during this period, suggesting he may have taken advantage of his employment and hidden his victims in a landfill.

On July 7, 2010, Franklin was arrested for the ten murders and the one attempted murder. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged him with ten counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, and special circumstance allegations of multiple murders in the case.  If convicted of more than one murder, they will be referred to as special circumstance murders. A grand jury indictment was issued on March 23, 2011. Franklin has been in jail since his arrest awaiting trial. Because of the large quantity of evidence in this case, some dating back thirty years, there had been a lengthy pretrial discovery. His trial is scheduled to begin on June 30, 2015.                                                                                                            

During the 1980s, following the deaths of several women in South Los Angeles, community members formed an organization called the “Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders”. The group pressured police into setting up a task force and to acknowledge the deaths as serial killings. The Coalition launched a media campaign and set a monetary award aiming to capture the killer.

A joint investigation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department coupled with the Los Angeles Police Department determined that the murders were committed by a single person labelled at that time as the “Southside Slayer”. Their results of their investigation were announced to the public on September 23, 1985. According to investigators, evidence was found suggesting that several serial killers were murdering women in South Los Angeles. The said that Louis Craine committed at least two of the “Southside Slayer” murders, and Michael Hughes, Daniel Lee Siebert, and Ivan Hill murdered at least one each. Their announcement was misleading. It wasn’t until two decades later that they realized that it reality, it was only one person who committed the murders, it being Ronnie Franklin Jr.

In May 2007, the murder of Janecia Peters, 25, was linked through DNA analysis of one person to at least eleven unsolved murders in Los Angeles, the first of which occurred in 1985. The “800 Task Force” was formed in secret, consisting of seven detectives. After a four-month investigation, the LA Weekly investigative reporter Christine Pelisek broke the news of the task force's existence and their linking of Peters' killing to the earlier murders. That is when they realized that the murders were committed by a serial killer. The victims were shot, strangled or both, usually after some kind of sexual contact.

The mayor and police chief never issued a press release nor warned the community of the existence of a serial killer in their midst. That stupidity was not unlike what happened in Toronto, Canada years ago when the police didn’t warn the public of a bedroom rapist in their midst. As a result, a woman was raped after the rapist slipped into her room via her opened window and raped her. She sued the police and they paid a great deal of money to her for their stupidity. In some cases, LA Weekly was the first to inform the parents that their daughters were the victims of a serial killer.

In March 2009, Journalist Pelisek did an extensive interview with Enietra Washington, the sole survivor of the Grim Sleeper's attacks. She described him as a black man in his early 30s.  He looked neat. Tidy. She also said that he was kind of geeky. He wore a black polo shirt tucked into khaki trousers. She further described the interior and exterior of his vehicle. After the Weekly published the story on Enietra Washington, an aide to Police Chief William Bratton said he was too busy to comment on the case. That is when he should have spoken about the need to be vigilant. Let`s face it. He isn’t the only stupid chief of police in North America.

In early September 2008, Los Angeles officials announced that they were offering a $500,000 reward to help catch the killer. On November 1, the case was detailed on the Fox program America's Most Wanted. On February 25, 2009, Chief Bratton addressed the press for the first time regarding the case (his brain finally kicked in) at which time he formally gave the killer the “Grim Sleeper” nickname chosen by the L.A. Weekly. Bratton also released a 911 call from the 1980s in which a man reported seeing a body being dumped by the Grim Sleeper, giving a detailed description and license plate number of a van connected with the now-closed Cosmopolitan Church.

In December 2009, following pressure by community leaders, the LAPD finally re-released the 1988 police sketch of the Grim Sleeper, based on Washington’s description. The department also released three age-enhanced composite drawings showing the markedly different faces of three middle aged black males that would fit the description of this serial killer.

On July 7, 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that an arrest had been made. District Attorney Steve Cooley identified the suspect as 57-year-old Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a mechanic who worked between 1981 and 1988 for the City of Los Angeles in the sanitation department and (brace yourself) briefly for the police department. The arrest of Franklin reportedly was due, at least in part, to the use of analysis of DNA found at the scene of some of the murders.

The break in the case came after Franklin's son was arrested and swabbed for DNA. Using a controversial technique known as a familial DNA search, the sample was flagged as similar to evidence in the serial killings, leading police to investigate relatives of Franklin's son that finally tipped them off that it was Lonnie Franklin, the boy’s father who was the serial killer they were looking for. Detectives later swabbed a cup for saliva of Lonnie Franklin Jr. at a restaurant he had just left and confirmed that his DNA matched that in the serial killings. This is proof that it is very difficult to commit a murder and literally get away with it. The unexpected can suddenly appear and result in the killer being nabbed. The defence argued that Franklin had a reasonable expectation that his food would be thrown in the garbage, and so his saliva would never undergo lab testing. Wow! That is really reaching for straws while drowning in a hurricane. Judge Kennedy called the defense's argument "specious and ridiculous." He ruled that the DNA evidence that led to Franklin's arrest was lawfully obtained by a police officer who posed as a restaurant busboy in July 2010.

He was tripped up by his decision to grab a pizza in Buena Park, where an undercover officer, masquerading as a busboy, waited for LAPD's No. 1 suspect to leave behind food particles for DNA testing. The officer came away with a slice of pizza Franklin had chewed on and utensils he'd used. After years of dead-end failures, investigators matched his saliva to the semen and saliva found on the ten murder victims. The police captured Franklin three days later, in an arrest that involved dozens of cops and drew global media coverage. 

A map of the crime scenes later showed that Franklin's home, where he and his wife raised their son and daughter, was nearly dead-center in the middle of his killing area.

Once Franklin was taken into custody, the victim's families thought the worst was over. They somewhat optimistically believed Franklin's trial would be finished by now, and that he would be sitting on death row. As we all know, generally trials of murderers don’t take place soon after the murderers are caught. In this particular case, the victim’s families have had to wait for five years for this killer’s trial to take place and even then, the trial will probably take many months to complete.

The grand jury indictment was supposed to speed the time to his trial. It didn't. Instead, from his solitary cell at Men's Central Jail, Franklin had mounted an aggressive defense heavy on delaying tactics. He has managed to draw his loyal wife, Sylvia Franklin, a school employee in Inglewood into his life behind bars and has attracted visits from a blonde bombshell actress/author who befriends serial killers. He has continued to draw his lifelong L.A. city medical pension of about $1,700 a month, and pushed the buttons of the dead women's appalled families.

Franklin's defense team, led by Seymour Amster, had thrown up a series of procedural hurdles and stall tactics. It was still unclear why the defense team hadn’t finished its testing on the DNA evidence found on the victims, despite having the results of the evidence for months. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy has been unable to speed things along. Well, his trial will begin on June 30, 2015, It will be a very, very long trial.

Police now suspect that Franklin killed at least six additional women, making the loss of life at 16—a number that is expected to grow. But even if  there is strong evidence that he has murdered other women, it is highly unlikely that he will be put on trial for those murders. The reason is obvious. By then, he will already be on death row so it would become superfluous to put him on trial again at the taxpayer’s expense. In Canada, there was a serial killer who was tried for 6 murders of women He was convicted and sentenced to prison for life. There was conclusive evidence that he also murdered 20 other women. The government didn’t want to submit the taxpayers to unnecessary expense since the killer will be spending the rest of his life in prison without any more convictions.  The taxpayers had already been dinged for $70 million dollars with respect to that killer’s case. Enough is enough. Incidentally, I will be writing about that case in my blog sometime in the near future. 

The Los Angeles Police won't put a number on Franklin’s possible body count, but the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office has close to 100 unsolved Jane Doe homicide cases spanning the years of the Grim Sleeper's dark activities, not to mention dozens of missing-persons cases. It is conceivable that he killed some of those victims also. However, he won’t be killing anyone any more. He will be sitting and napping in his death row cell for many years before he finally lies down on the gurney for the lethal drips that will make his nappy permanent.  

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