True evil has no color boundaries, but it sometimes does have a name. Today that name is Lonnie Franklin Jr., a former garbage man with the official police nickname of the “Grim Sleeper.” A Los Angeles jury found Franklin guilty after a two-month long trial, for the murder of 10 Black women over a 20-year period. Franklin killed from 1985 thru 2007 and he was found guilty in 10 deaths, but may have killed many more. His victims were all mainly poor Black females already victimized by the poverty of their circumstances during the 1980s crack epidemic. Some of the victims have been described as prostitutes and crack addicts and because of this, a low priority was given for the solving of their deaths. Also helping Franklin was his job as a trash collector and garage attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Community activism and grieving family led to the police forming a task force that noticed a pattern to the killings. A break came in 2007 when police came across the case of a then 15-year-old girl named Enietra Washington in 1988 who was shot by Franklin. Washington survived that gunshot wound and the bullet was recovered. When police pieced it all together, they realized the house she visited on the night she was shot belonged to Franklin. When police served a search warrant on Franklin in 2008, they recovered ammo that ballistics tests linked back to the bullet recovered from Washington. However, more disturbing were 1,000 Polaroid pictures and numerous videotapes of Black women who appeared unconscious or possibly even dead. Among the pictures recovered was one of Washington appearing unconscious and with her breasts exposed slouched over in Franklin’s car. Franklin kept the photo hidden behind a wall in his garage. The overwhelming majority of the pictures and videotape matched the interior and surroundings of Franklin’s home. The bodies of these women were later found in back alleys and on lonely streets; some in trash bags. Police also used DNA evidence directly linking them back to Franklin.
Some of the crime scene images were displayed in the court room earlier this week during closing arguments, causing distress among the family of victims in the packed courtroom as Franklin was found guilty of 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. The jury will return on May 12 for the penalty phase of the trial where Franklin is facing death by lethal injection.