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Grim Sleeper suspect pleads not guilty to charges of killing 10

Lonnie David Franklin, in jail since his July 7 arrest, could face the death penalty if convicted in the 1980s slayings of young black women in South Los Angeles.

August 24, 2010|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

The South Los Angeles man whom authorities allege is the " Grim Sleeper" serial killer pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of killing 10 women and attempting to kill one other.

Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, was apprehended in July after police said they matched his DNA to evidence left at several crime scenes over the last 2 1/2 decades.

All of the former city sanitation worker's alleged victims were young African American women, many of whom were sexually assaulted before being killed. Seven of the slayings occurred between 1985 and 1988 in South Los Angeles. Fourteen years passed before the killer started up again, slaying three more women, authorities contend. The Grim Sleeper moniker refers to the long delay between the two sets of killings.

Neighbors described the onetime Los Angeles Police Department garage attendant as a sometimes vulgar man who operated a small-time chop shop from his home. But he was also known to be social and quick to offer a helping hand, particularly to the neighborhood's elderly residents.

Nearly all of the victims were killed along a South L.A. corridor just 200 feet from Franklin's home, police say.

Authorities have said the same handgun was used in many of the killings. In one slaying, the suspect allegedly shot a 29-year-old waitress in the chest and left her body in an alleyway.

Franklin was initially being represented by public defenders but recently took on a private attorney, Louisa Pensanti, who offered her services for free.

Pensanti could not be reached for comment Monday.

Franklin, in jail since his July 7 arrest, was connected to the killings after his son was arrested in 2008 on firearm and drug charges. He was required to submit a DNA sample — which was linked to the alleged Grim Sleeper's DNA in a technique called "familial search."

If convicted, Franklin could face the death penalty. The district attorney's office has not yet decided whether it will pursue the death penalty, a spokeswoman said Monday.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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