Fears 160 women killed by 'Grim Sleeper'
Alleged serial killer kept over 1000 photographs
Published 17/12/2010 | 05:00
DETECTIVES investigating the case of an alleged serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper, who has already been charged with 10 murders, plan to publish 160 photographs of unidentified women who are also feared to be dead.
Lonnie Franklin Jr (58) a former mechanic and city rubbish collector in Los Angeles, has been accused of murdering 10 women between 1985 and 2007. He has pleaded not guilty. When police searched his apartment following his arrest in July they found more than 1,000 photographs and hours of videos of women, many of them nude and in graphic sexual poses, stretching back 30 years.
After five months, officers have been unable to track down the women who appeared in the images and fear some of them could be dead.
They are publishing some of the pictures and appealing for the women to come forward if they are alive.
The Grim Sleeper was given the name because of a 14-year gap between murders. Seven victims were found between 1985 and 1988, and the other three between 2002 and 2007. Detectives believe there may have been other undiscovered killings during the lull. Many of the victims, all young black women, were prostitutes and the bodies were all found near downtown Los Angeles, often hidden in bins or alleyways having been strangled or shot with a .25 calibre pistol.
Mr Franklin, who once worked as an attendant at a police department garage, was arrested after detectives used a controversial "familial DNA" search technique.
In a separate case, a relation of his was convicted on a weapons charge earlier this year. The relation's DNA was entered on a California-wide database. It was found to be a familial match to that of a suspect whose DNA had been found on the Grim Sleeper victims.
Mr Franklin was then targeted and an undercover officer posed as a waiter in a restaurant, retrieving utensils and a pizza crust, from which a sample of his DNA was obtained. He was arrested and charged with 10 murders and one attempted murder.
Franklin entered not guilty pleas to all charges during a court appearance in August. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether they will seek the death penalty in the case and court proceedings could last years.
Police are already investigating 30 unsolved cases that bear similarities to the ones in which Franklin is accused.
His former job as a rubbish collector has led them to reinvestigate cases in which bodies have been found at landfill sites.
The only known survivor of an attack by the Grim Sleeper was Enietra Washington, who was shot and left for dead in 1988. A bullet retrieved from her chest was linked to those used to kill other victims. The 14-year gap followed that attack. At the time, Miss Washington gave police an address which later turned out to be three doors away from Franklin's.
Gary Leon Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, is believed to be America's most prolific serial killer, pleading guilty to murdering at least 48 women.