With the arrest of Lonnie David Franklin Jr., a former Los Angeles Police Department garage attendant and onetime garbage collector, a murder spree spanning more than two decades may be at an end. The investigation required extraordinary and painstaking police work, as well as community and political pressure and a unique use of DNA evidence. But before all that happened, Christine Pelisek, the LA Weekly reporter who dubbed California's most enduring serial killer the Grim Sleeper, forced the city to care about a group of victims who had been largely forgotten by all but their families and a few LAPD detectives.
The murders, when they occurred between 1985 and 2003, barely garnered public notice. Wednesday, however, a news conference drew a throng to police headquarters: elected officials, local and national media, community activists and relatives of the 10 murdered women and one man, some clutching framed photos of their daughters, mothers and sisters.
The case involved efforts and innovations that stretch back years. City Councilman Bernard C. Parks opened what is believed to be the nation's first cold case unit when he was the department's chief. In 2007, then-Chief William J. Bratton established a task force devoted solely to catching the killer, and his successor, Chief Charlie Beck, made it his top priority. The City Council offered the largest reward in Los Angeles history — $500,000 — for information leading to an arrest. An innovative program launched by state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown allowed for the "familial" DNA testing that ultimately led to Franklin.