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Police collect hundreds of pieces of evidence from Grim Sleeper suspect's home

Investigators hope firearms, ammunition and other materials confiscated from Lonnie David Franklin Jr.'s South L.A. home will help them build their case in the deaths of 10 women.

July 16, 2010|By Andrew Blankstein and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles police confiscated hundreds of items from the suspected Grim Sleeper serial killer's South L.A. house and vehicles after his arrest last week, including firearms and ammunition, car seats possibly stained with bodily fluids, and pornographic photos and videos, according to court records.

Police said Thursday they are continuing to build a case against Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 57, who has been charged with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said Det. Paul Coulter, one of the leading investigators on the case. "Phase one is over. Now it's on to phase two, learning everything we can about him." Coulter said more than 650 items have been booked into evidence.

The items taken range from the mundane to the unusual. Along with a few hundred dollars, identification cards and a brown paper bag, police also found an LAPD officer's notepad on top of a cabinet in Franklin's house, as well as a flier about a person who had gone missing in the area, according to search warrant documents that investigators filed with court officials Thursday. Police also took a set of handcuffs, a ski mask that had been hanging on the wall of the garage, mattress covers, a pair of gloves and pornographic videos and photographs. None of the items immediately tied Franklin to the killings, police have said, although they emphasized that DNA tests, ballistic tests and other examination of the items was ongoing.

Police took samples of fabric from the front passenger seats of at least two of the four vehicles belonging to Franklin and family members, according to the court filing. Police suspect Franklin shot and then sexually assaulted several of his victims while they sat in the front seat of his car.

Coulter declined to comment on specific items, citing the ongoing investigation.

Police believe that Franklin's alleged crimes spanned more than two decades. He has been held without bail since his arrest July 7, which came after undercover officers surreptitiously collected a sample of his DNA that authorities say matched evidence found at several of the crime scenes. If convicted, Franklin could face the death penalty.

The former city sanitation worker and Los Angeles Police Department garage attendant allegedly murdered seven young African American women between 1985 and 1988 in South L.A. The killer resurfaced in the same area 14 years later, striking three times between 2002 and 2007, according to police.

Authorities said they linked Franklin to the killings through a combination of DNA and ballistics evidence. Investigators are reviewing dozens of other unsolved murder cases, many from the long period during which the Grim Sleeper was apparently inactive, for indications that Franklin was the killer. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has said that he expects Franklin will eventually be tied to more victims.

With no DNA evidence in the other cases police are examining, Coulter said ballistic tests on several small-caliber pistols and revolvers taken from Franklin's house and a motor home could provide crucial evidence linking Franklin to other killings.

Since 2007, a task force of detectives has worked exclusively on identifying and catching the killer. After chasing countless dead-end leads, modern technology gave the team their break. A search of the DNA database the state maintains on felons and people arrested for serious crimes identified a man whose genetic blueprint indicated he was a child of the suspect. The man was Franklin's son, and police quickly realized that the elder Franklin's age and home address in the vicinity of the killings made him a logical suspect.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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